Moshe Tzaig was a child of history, according to his wife, Barbara Branagan of Santa Rosa.

Exiled from his birth country of Iraq when he was 4 years old, Tzaig and his family relocated to the newly established Israel. The eighth of nine children, Tzaig was unsure of his true birth date.

"It was written in the back of a prayer book and when his family was exiled, the prayer book was left behind," Branagan said. "When they came to Israel, there were 11 of them; father, mother and nine children. They lived in a two-room tent."

He fought in the Six-Day War and lived on a kibbutz, before immigrating to the United States where he studied civil engineering at the University of California at Berkeley.

"He was a child of history," Branagan said.

Tzaig died Nov. 15 at his Santa Rosa home after a long battle with complications suffered in 2010 when he was crushed by a massive cement block he was handling at work.

Born in Diwania in late 1947, Tzaig was raised mostly in Israel. He served two years in the Israeli army but was called back when war broke out and ended up serving about six additional months.

He moved to the United States and in 1973 married a Marin County native he'd met on the kibbutz, Branagan said. The couple divorced in 1985, she said.

Tzaig and Branagan were married first in 2000 before divorcing. They were remarried in 2011.

Tzaig was an accomplished engineer who did work on the Golden Gate Bridge, according to Branagan.

In 2002, he opened his own firm, Precast Vault in Napa. Tzaig previously worked at Santa Rosa Caste, which was sold and became Central Precast.

"He was totally a self-made man," Branagan said.

An avid tennis player, Tzaig was known for both his skill and his intensity on the court.

"He was an excellent tennis player," she said. "He had the &‘primordial scream.' When he hit a bad ball, people on other courts would actually ask him to stop it. He was completely unself-conscious."

Tzaig had an intense will, according to Branagan.

After his devastating injuries which crushed his lungs and left him on a ventilator for 11 months, Tzaig rehabilitated himself to the point of being able to dance with his step-daughter at her wedding. The day before he died, he held his 6-day old granddaughter, Emma, in his arms, Branagan said.

"He willed himself to see his granddaughter," she said. "He loved life, he was was at peace."

In addition to Branagan, Tzaig is survived by daughters Jordana Tavakoli of Houston and Ellie Italiano of Novato; son Izzy Tzaig of Sausalito; stepson Chris Polaski of Seattle; stepdaughters Morna Herzberg of Cotati and Abby Herzberg of Oakland; and six grandchildren.

Family and friends are invited to visit for memorial prayers at 6 p.m. Saturday and Sunday at 1555 Ronne Dr., Santa Rosa.

Contributions maybe made in Tzaig's name to Yartzeit Board, Congregation Beth Ami, 4676 Mayette Ave., Santa Rosa, Ca., 95404 or Sutter VNA Hospice.

— Kerry Benefield