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Daniel Martin Bernstein
16 Sep 1967 - 14 Oct 2021

Clubs & Associations

El Camino Reelers
Gay Callers Association
Oaktown 8's

GCA Caller School

  • attended 2016, 2018


Aahz is no longer part of our lives.  We recall a wide variety of milestones, activities and aspects of his life. It is tempting to title this remembrance Aahz Awes Aahs.

Aahz was born in Hawthorne, California; his given name was Dan Martin Bernstein.  Parents were Aviva and Mel Bernstein who met in Jerusalem and married in Israel.  During his life Aahz called his mother and father Ima and Aba, the Hebrew words for Mom and Dad.  He had a younger sister named Sharon.  The family moved to Palo Alto when Aahz was in second grade.

Aahz was adept at using computer; helped his Aba cope with this.  He liked riding a bicycle as does his Aba. Attended college at U. C. Davis and majored in engineering.  

As a teenager Aahz participated in Toastmasters.  He liked cooking, but did NOT share Aba's love of fried onions.  

Officially changed his name to Aahz in the 1990s.

Met Stef via messaging over the Internet. Although their backgrounds were quite different, they became great mates. She was also very knowledgable with computers.  Book titled Python for Dummies was authored by Stef Maruch and Aahz Maruch.  The book was first published in 2006 and has undergone several revisions.

Aba introduced Aahz to folk dancing.  Aahz later became an avid square dancer; this led to him becoming a popular square dance caller.  Aahz brought pleasure to his Aunt Sheila through his visits to her in Southern California.
— Stef Maruch[1]

Aahz Maruch (1967–2021) Aahz Maruch, aged 54, passed away on October 14, 2021 after a long illness. He was diagnosed in December 2020 with an extremely rare degenerative brain disease.

Aahz, né Dan Martin Bernstein, was born in 1967 in Hawthorne, California, to Mel and Aviva Bernstein. The family moved to Palo Alto in 1976. At the age of 5, Aahz was diagnosed with hearing loss, and wore hearing aids until 2002.

Aahz began attending science fiction conventions when he was in high school. This was the beginning of a lifelong love of the science fiction fandom community, especially the activity of writing and singing parody lyrics to popular songs, known as “filking.” Throughout his life, he attended conventions all over the West Coast and occasionally further afield. He particularly enjoyed the PotLatch, FogCon, and WisCon conventions.

Aahz sometimes joked that he was a computer programmer since before he was born, because Aviva was taking programming classes while carrying him. He studied computer science at University of California at Davis for several years, choosing not to receive a degree, and then began his career at Borland Software. Prior to starting the Borland job, he had commuted everywhere by bicycle, so he learned how to drive via his daily commute from San Jose to Santa Cruz over the daunting Route 17. Subsequently he worked at several software startups in Silicon Valley and on the Peninsula.

In the 1990s, Aahz spent time on Usenet, an early form of online social media. There he encountered polyamory (which, he insisted, was not a lifestyle, but a way of living one’s life), and met his primary partner, Stef, and his sweeties. Aahz and Stef lived together in San Jose starting in 1993. Their “outlaw marriage” took place in 1998, after moving to San Carlos. Aahz also maintained long-term relationships with his sweeties Paula and Kai.

Aahz was a passionate evangelist for the programming language Python. He participated in the activities of the Python Software Foundation and taught at Python conferences. In 2006, he and Stef published Python for Dummies, the first book about Python in the long-running series.

Aahz’s hearing grew worse throughout his life, and in 2002, he received his first cochlear implant. Although it helped him hear better, he quickly realized that it did not reproduce the full range of sound. He could not hear anything lower than A below middle C on a piano. This meant he could not enjoy the music he loved, and he searched for a better solution, taking the unusual step of choosing a second cochlear implant, for his other ear, from a different company. He received this in 2014.

Aahz had a lifelong love of singing, folk dance, contra dance, and square dance. In 2012, he became the world’s first deaf square dance caller. He belonged to local club Bows and Beaus and the international groups CALLERLAB and the Gay Callers Association.

In recent years Aahz and Stef enjoyed taking cruises, particularly to Alaska. Aahz chose photography as a cruise activity and enjoyed making his way to the Lido deck at dawn and snapping literally thousands of photos of the sunrise.

— Stef Maruch, 20 October 2021

Stef also included a number of poems (song parodies actually) celebrating birthdays that Aba Mel had created (listed by year) Also mentioned in the service was Aahz bicycling to his work at Borland in Scotts Valley (over highway 17 from his home on the Bay Area side of the Santa Cruz Mountains) and his many tech places of employ over the years, many of which he also commuted to via bicycle.  His involvement from an early age in science fiction conventions and song parody writing in that community was noted.  His progression from hearing aids at age 5 to his cochlear implant, and then implants (two different ones) and what drove his practice of using two different implants (quite unusual approach) and related programming which had to do, in part, with him trying to augment how much of the musical register he could hear.  His first implant only allowed him the notes on the piano down to the A below middle C.  His photography graced the cover of the bulletin, and his cruises with Stef leaves the family with quite a chronicle of sunrise photographs from those travels.  Some things we knew from our shared friendship with Aahz, and some were new to us.  More was said than I will remember, and more yet will be shared on the Zoom session sponsored by Sha'ar Zahav synagogue (SF).  

May his memory be a blessing.
— Hank & Sheri Winkenwerder[2]

I am forwarding this email from last night (didn't pick it up until this morning as we were dancing) that is from Aahz's sister Sharon.  Hank and I had been up to visit Aahz twice in the last month, most recently on Monday last.  Dan, I know you and Charlene visited this last weekend and know what comfort that was to Sharon.  The care home was peaceful, his sister very attentive, and while sad, Aahz was not agitated or in distress.  We are very sad as we held him dear and will miss his tenacious, precocious self.  Memory eternal dear friend.

We are grateful for the newer caller workshops where we got to know him better (kudos to Rich, Diana, James and Mike), and for the opportunities Keith Ferguson, Foggy City Dancers, and the interclub social gave Aahz as a developing caller.  There has been no word about services or such as yet.  Hank and I will be contributing to the Gay Callers Association in memory of Aahz.
— Sheri Winkenwerder[3]

So much loss this year. It was my honor yesterday to throw a few shovels full of dirt into the grave of Aahz Caller, an exceptional man, at his graveside service. He was stricken with a very rare form of dementia and left this earth the poorer at the age of 54.

Sheri and I became acquainted with Aahz as the only deaf square dance caller in the world at our club Bows and Beaus around 2013 and we saw his rapid development at Rich Reels new caller workshops into one of the most unique, fun callers around.

His engineering mind (co-writer with his primary partner Stef of the book Python for Dummies) came up with the most intriguing square dance formations especially in the left-handed mirror figures that few dare to imagine, much less call. He was totally incapable of getting dizzy due to his auditory anatomy/wiring - and he loved to get me so (knowing I have Meniere's disease and I get easily off-kilter). As I watched the floor once spinning in front of me dancing to another caller and being forced to quickly sit out while someone stepped up to dance with Sheri, I was struck at the thought of how blessings can seem like curses and visa versa. Aahz was one of the few who had two cochlear implants to get more input into his amazing wetware and he once told me about having to filter out the mix of input from the side of the skull that could pick up dog-whistle tones with the other "bass ear".

I hear him today, after a day of some frustration at work - calling in his rap-like tone (since even with the best technology hearing through the skull is difficult)- as he resolved a broken square - "keep dancing, keep dancing, heads, wheel around!"

We hear you, Aahz.
— Hank Winkenwerder, [4]

Dear Kurt, and Community,

Thank you for sharing Stef's account of Aahz's rich life. Aahz had so many square dance badges, as well as contra dance community. I met him at Queer Contra Dance Camp in 2013, and he was wearing a Stanford Quads badge. I knew I needed to know him better! (We dated about 3 years, until right before the Toronto convention.)

Aahz was committed to the queer community, and to being visible as a person who was deaf/hard of hearing. He openly asked for accomodations to improve access for folks, simple things like clear views of a speaker's face. At the 2016 Toronto IAGSDC, Aahz started calling Advanced, and I believe he also started dancing Advanced then, a real treat for me (was nice to finally get to dance the fancier stuff with him!) He attended caller school at Toronto, I think that was his first IAGSDC caller school! He was always up for trying something new out.

Aahz's love of color and flair, his high kicks for weave the ring, and his willingness to help Oaktown with practice sessions for their beginning dancers (and the help he gave me as a beginning caller) stay in mind. His bold singing call choices (will always think of his "Let it Go"!) are burned in as reminders that square dance is about fun and about pushing limits, moving beyond the standard possibilities.

In Scottish Country Dance, we make memorial dances in honor of our fallen dancers. I would love to have an All Hands Foundation fundraiser in memory of Aahz. We would all wear purple / sci-fi T-shirts / Hawaiian shirts, and dance to some of his chosen singers. Not sure about the when...but that's my thought.
Bex Clark

Memorial Panel



  1. Memorial service for Aahz
  2. email to several El Camino Reelers members
  3. email to several El Camino Reelers members
  4. Email, 22 Oct 2021