Pets Unlimited celebrates 60 years

One fateful day in 1947, a scruffy dog wandered into the yard of a Pacific Heights home. Mrs. Carter Downing took the dog to the city pound, where she learned his prospects for survival were slim. Wayward pets were put to sleep unless adopted quickly.

Bobby, a Jack Russell terrier rescued from a burning building, was adopted by Janette Gerl.


Horrified by the thought, she decided to take the dog back home — and to adopt all the other dogs at the pound and start an impromptu adoption service.

Other animal lovers joined the cause, including her friend and Pacific Heights neighbor Alice Coldwell. Fueled by tenacity and gumption, they worked to raise awareness of pets who needed loving homes.

Thus began Pets Unlimited, the San Francisco institution at Fillmore and Washington, which celebrates its 60th anniversary in May 2007.
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Arts & Crafts movement started here

Photograph of the Swedenborgian Church by Jim Karageorge

By Leslie M. Freudenheim

From 1876 to 1910, a group of creative and pioneering men and women in Northern California sought an architectural expression appropriate to the region. They rejected Victorian excess, preferring simple homes of natural materials. Their aspirations went beyond architecture to advocate a sensibility and a way of life.

The cradle of the movement was the Swedenborgian Church at Washington and Lyon Streets. Its leader was the modest but charistmatic Swedenborgian minister, Joseph Worcester, a serious student of architecture who inspired a quiet revolution as he turned Californians, and eventually Americans, toward the ideals of the Arts & Crafts movement and a return to a simpler life in harmony with nature.
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‘To fly with the angels’

Classic Torso With Hands, 1952

Legendary photographer Ruth Bernhard, who lived up a narrow stair in a Victorian flat on Clay Street from 1953 until she died in December 2006 at age 101, was released to “fly with the angels” — her term for death — at a memorial service March 31 at Calvary Presbyterian Church.

Bernhard was remembered by scores of friends, former students and admirers as far more than one of the greatest photographers of all time.

She was a magical person, “like the Dalai Lama with a camera, spreading enlightenment,” said Los Angeles gallerist Peter Fetterman. He brought words of praise from director Steven Spielberg, who said he and his wife have Bernhard’s photographs in their bedroom, “so we sleep with her every night.”

Noted photographer Michael Kenna, one of Bernhard’s proteges, recalled working with her in the darkroom just off her kitchen, where they would sometimes stop to search for sustenance and drink plum wine and strong coffee. “Then, slightly intoxicated, jittery from caffiene, we’d go into the darkroom to make magic,” he said.

Joining her photographic family at the memorial was her brother, Alexander, who came from London. “Ruth was very, very happy to live in San Francisco and loved this place,” he said.

A friend remembered having sushi with her on Fillmore — “she favored Ten-Ichi” — and discussing other great photographers, including Berneice Abbott, who also lived long. “She’s too mean to die,” he recalled Bernhard saying.

No one felt that way about Ruth Bernhard. Many spoke to say she had opened their eyes and changed their lives.

“She may have lived long,” said another friend, “but she died young.”