Remembering Kelly Jacobs: teacher, dog lover, activist, world traveler, Giants and Warriors fan

Kelly made every experience and every person feel special and important. He made every moment count.

Kelly Jacobs
Kelly Jacob: a kind and caring person with empathy for others. Photo: Courtesy family

Kelly Jacobs, June 8, 1970 – July 3, 2020

Kelly Jacobs, teacher, dog lover, scuba diver, activist, cyclist, water skier, Boy Scout, gambler, world traveler, gourmand, Giants and Warriors fan, passed away July 3, 2020 of an apparent heart attack.

Kelly was born June 8, 1970 at St. Mary’s hospital in San Francisco. He attended Emerson Elementary School, Malcom X Elementary and Willard Junior High in Berkeley. He was diagnosed with Systemic Lupus Erythematosus when he was 9 and the diagnosis followed him all of his life and shaped who he was — a kind and caring person with empathy for others.

Kelly graduated from Berkeley High in 1988. As a high school junior, he went on a life-changing Boy Scout trip to Japan where he fell in love with the Japanese culture. As a Boy Scout he achieved the rank of Eagle Scout and went on to become an Assistant Scout Master.


After graduating BHS he attended College of Marin, living with his Grandma Bonnie for five semesters. He then spent his sixth semester in Japan studying Japanese. He transferred to UC Davis where he graduated with a B.S in Biology in 1993. While at UC Davis he was a Coxswain for UC Davis Crew team. After graduation he coached little league baseball and was a shill at a card room, one of the best times of his life.

After graduation from Davis, he had an opportunity leave the US to teach English in Japan for three years, during which time he became fluent in the Japanese language and culture. Upon returning to the Bay Area he attended Cal State East Bay where he received his multiple subject teaching credential.

Teaching turned out to be the love of his life. He was well-loved by his students and colleagues. He taught at RISE Elementary and Korematsu Discovery Academy in Oakland for 18 years where he was a union representative for OEA and teacher advocate. For the past two years, he taught at Willow Cove Elementary in Pittsburg.

Kelly Jacobs
Going out to dinner with Kelly was always a special event. Photo: Courtesy family

Kelly had a magical and charismatic personality. Going out to dinner was always a special event and wherever you went he generally knew the manager and made you feel like a VIP. He knew how to order. Nothing was more fun than going for sushi with Kelly, sidling up to the bar and hearing the beautiful Japanese flow from his lips. He was such an improbable looking source.

Road trips were also epic. If you ever got in a car with Kelly, you would find that he knew all the words to all the songs on the radio and you had better be prepared to sing along. The road trip could end at Clear Lake for water-skiing with the family or at a Sunglasses Hut, but wherever you found yourself it was always fun and special.

He was a world traveler and visited Malasia, Singapore, Costa Rica, Puerto Rico, Belize, Roatan, Peru, Galapagos, Brazil, Thailand, Hong Kong, Korea, and Japan. He was expert at securing flights and Airbnbs for budget travel.

Kelly made every experience and every person feel special and important. He made every moment count. He was not afraid to stand up for his beliefs and was always the better man. His last months were spent fostering dogs for a dog shelter.

Kelly is survived by his parents, Kenna Richards and Bert Jacobs, his brother Kirt Richards and wife Giselia Richards, step-mom Willa Jacobs and Aunt Kris Tanabe. He was preceded in death by his grandparents Kenneth and Bonnie Richards, Ignace Jacobs and Judith Bober, Sid Bober and uncle Jon Richards.

In lieu of flowers, please send donations to Berkeley Humane, 2700 Ninth St, Berkeley, CA 94710.