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Morton Alex Baum
General Information
Morton Alex Baum
Full Name: Morton Alex Baum
Date of Birth: September 9, 1937
Date of Death: November 16, 2022

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Life Story

Morton A. Baum, U.S. Navy veteran and former Seal Beach mayor, has died
SEAL BEACH, CALIFORNIA—Morton Alex Baum, the activist former mayor of Seal Beach who fought to preserve his beloved hometown, has died. He was surrounded by family when he succumbed on Wednesday, November 16, to complications from his decade-long battle with Parkinson’s Disease. He was 85.
A husband and father of four, Baum was a U.S. Navy veteran, pharmacist, union leader, and Holocaust refugee. He moved to Seal Beach in 1961 with his wife Sherry and their sons.
While raising their family, the Baums became active in local politics, advocating for environmental protection, opposing the war in Vietnam, and fighting overdevelopment that threatened the small-town character of Seal Beach. He also helped lead Robert F. Kennedy's 1968 presidential campaign as chair for West Orange County.
Alarmed by the devastating Santa Barbara oil spill in 1969 and the release of plans for high-density development in Seal Beach's Old Town, Baum sought election to the Seal Beach City Council in 1970. With an energetic grassroots campaign, he unseated the incumbent. He took office and was elected mayor by his fellow councilmembers in July 1970.
During his tenure, Baum led an unprecedented effort by a municipality to prevent new oil drilling off the California coast by extending recreational zoning three miles out to sea. In addition, under his leadership, Seal Beach began to acquire public property that created the green belt along Electric Avenue and also the property that became Gum Grove Park; it enacted new regulations to prevent high-density development; it established the Environmental Quality Control Board; and it began the renovation of the Seal Beach pier and construction of the Leisure World Library. For these and other accomplishments, the Seal Beach City Council honored him with a resolution in 1980.
Baum was born in Vienna, Austria, in 1937 to Ethel and Gottfried Baum. The family escaped after Nazi Germany annexed Austria in 1938 in what became known as the Anschluss. They embarked on a harrowing journey over the Alps to France, where they secured passage on the RMS Aquitania bound for New York. None of the family members who remained in Austria survived the Holocaust. After arriving in New York, the young family settled in Brooklyn's Brighton Beach, where Mort's grandmother, Gussie Lautzker, owned and operated a restaurant with her husband, Sam.
Growing up in New York, Baum became a lifelong fan of the New York Yankees, the Metropolitan Opera, and the Notre Dame Fighting Irish, whose games were broadcast on local stations. He graduated from Brooklyn Technical High School and earned a degree in Pharmacy from Long Island University's Brooklyn College of Pharmacy.
He moved to Chicago in 1959 to work as a pharmacist for Walgreens. It was there where he met Sherry, who became the love of his life. They were married at the Great Lakes Naval Station in 1961 following his commission as an officer in the U.S. Navy.
The Navy sent the family to Southern California, where Baum served on the USS Princeton. They rented a small apartment near the beach in Old Town to begin their new life in Seal Beach. They moved to their current home in the Marina Hill neighborhood of Seal Beach in 1964.
Following his honorable discharge in 1963, Baum worked as a pharmacist in Seal Beach, Long Beach, Rossmoor, and Cypress. As a pharmacist for Thrifty drugstores, he became a member of the Retail Clerks Union, now known as the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW).

An executive board member of the union, he was recruited to become a full-time field representative in 1978. He devoted himself to improving working conditions and securing better pay and benefits for all employees. He rose quickly and became Field Director for UFCW’s powerful Local 324. He remained a key leader in labor negotiations and chaired the union's political efforts until his retirement in 1997.
Although he left elective office in 1971, Baum remained active in civic life. Together with his wife Sherry, they were co-founders of the Seal Beach Historical Society, Amigos de Bolsa Chica, and other organizations. He also was an enthusiastic supporter and partner in Sherry's public service, including her election to the boards of the Huntington Beach Union High School District and the Coast Community College District.
Through his own experience and from observing global affairs, in recent years he grew increasingly concerned about the state of political discourse in our nation. He called for dialogue and reconciliation, writing in The New York Times in 2003:
"Wasn't politics the art and craft of the possible where one forged alliances and worked to overcome difficult issues with reasonable compromise? It seems that today…politics is now no longer the art of the possible but rather the weapon of mass destruction we have been looking for: a lethal version of ''Last Comic Standing,'' where a political point of view must have unconditional surrender of all other points of view. I hope that this trend does not become the political destiny of our Republic."
Morton A. Baum is survived by his wife, Sherry L. Baum, sons Randall Liss and Geoffrey Baum, grandchildren Sarah Liss, Anna Liss, Sam Liss, and Amy Baum, daughters in law Annelle Baum, Lisa Gallaway, Isabel Liss, and Barbara Risman. He was predeceased by sons Kris Baum and Jason Liss.
A memorial celebration will be announced at a later date.
In lieu of flowers, the family requests gifts in his memory be made to The Metropolitan Opera of New York, Jewish Family & Children's Service of Long Beach and West Orange County, or the Helen Sanders Cat Protection and Welfare Society in Seal Beach.

One response to “Morton Alex Baum

  1. Patricia Sterke says:

    my sincere condolences on the loss of all of us dear Morton Baum, my stepfather in law. He was a wonderful wise and respectful person, with a depth in silence, memories overwhelmm and I am very thanksful knowing you and sad to let go. we love you for who you were….🙏🏼🌟💜🌟🙏🏼
    From Amsterdam, The Netherlands

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Service Information
Date: Tuesday November 22, 2022
Time: 1:00PM
Beth David Cemetery
Beth David Cemetery, 300 Elmont Rd., Elmont, NY
Interment Information
Beth David Cemetery, 300 Elmont Rd, Elmont, NY