The first funeral services for 36 Oakland warehouse fire victims took place Sunday, one in Berkeley and another in Lafayette.
Jonathan Bernbaum, 34, grew up in Berkeley, the youngest of Diane and Ed Bernbaum’s two sons. He loved "Star Wars" as a boy, and as he grew, he became an advocate for social justice.
"Jonathan loved to debate and argue," Ed Bernbaum said. "He had a brilliant and insightful mind and an aggressive way of arguing."
Friends and his older brother said Bernbaum had found his niche as a VJ, combining the visual arts with music.
"He courted mentors, invested in gear and within a ridiculously short amount of time, was making art at every party he could," David Bernbaum said.
Like many of the warehouse fire’s 36 victims, Bernbaum was an artist who sought independence. He earned a master's degree in film, and even that had not made for an easy career launch in a tough business.
"He rejected the Hollywood gigs and corporate games," said Varya Simpson, Bernbaum’s friend since middle school.
Another friend, Nabila Lester said "he was just audacious about everything, but particularly about his art."
A memorial service also was held in Lafayette for Sara Hoda, who taught young children in Oakland.
At Grace Cathedral in San Francisco, the bells tolled 36 times, once for each victim.
"It reminded me of the AIDS crisis, how we lost so many beautiful creators, designers and thinkers," said the Rev. Malcolm Young, Grace Cathedral's dean.
Meanwhile, the San Francisco Interfaith Council launched a special task force working to encourage churches to make available underused property for affordable housing to provide another option besides warehouses such as the so-called Ghost Ship.