May 1, 2020
For more than a decade, if “Fiddler on the Roof” was playing in Sonoma County, chances are Alby Kass was the lead. Virtually every local production of the musical recruited him because of his uncanny resemblance to Tevye, the milkman.
“It’s hard to say whether Alby resembled Tevye, or if Tevye resembled Alby,” his son, Larry, said. “Whenever he performed, he felt the music all the way to the core.”
Mr. Kass died of Covid-19 on March 31 at a hospital in San Leandro. He was 89. He was one of at least 40 patients infected by the coronavirus at the Gateway Care & Rehabilitation facility in Hayward, where he was recovering from a hip injury. Eleven people from the facility had died as of April 15.
Born in the Bronx to Romanian Jewish immigrant parents, Mr. Kass learned Yiddish folk songs from his mother before he learned English.
He and his wife, Wallie, were pillars in the town of Guerneville. They owned the Riverlane Resort, founded the Russian River Jewish Community group and co-founded the Russian River Jazz Festival — the proceeds of which funded music education at local schools.
“Art, photography, nature, music — his enthusiasm was so infectious,” Sonia Tubridy, a close friend and director of the Russian River Jewish Community, said. “You were swept up in a world of beauty.”
Last September, the group held its first Yom Kippur without Mr. Kass as he recovered from heart surgery. Gathering on the riverbank, they played a recording of him singing the Jewish prayer Kol Nidre.