Jan Remembered

I am just catching up on all the comments, tributes and blog posts about my mother Jan Curran, who died last week.  Desert Sun reporter Bruce Fessier, who wrote my mother's obituary, also wrote this touching blog post:

Jan Curran, my dear friend and an enormously popular society editor for The Desert Sun and Palm Springs Life in the 1980s and ''90s, died Tuesday night at her “active senior living” home in Calabasas. Her four adult kids were at her bedside.

She survived Lupus for more than 35 years and was given so many terminal diagnoses for cancer, we stopped believing she was mortal.

Late last year, they ran out of chemotherapy drugs to give her. She had used everything they had to offer and grown immune to each and every one. But she not only survived with a smile on her face, she published a novel after she was supposed to have been dead.

It was based on her life after being forced to move from La Quinta to be closer to her daughters and eldest son. It was called “Active Senior Living.”

I have the unpleasant task of writing an obituary about this woman who made society writing an art form.

In many ways, I like this post even more than the obituary that he wrote for her.  My cousin Danny Barer shared some thoughts about my Mom on his blog. He wrote, in part:

I've been watching the Japanese animated series "Tegami Bachi," in which one of the underlying conceits is that a person's humanity, or "heart," is a quantifiable and finite energy, and that letters or other writings are like batteries that store within them the "heart" of the person who writes them — an energy into which the reader taps. Jan undoubtedly poured a lot of her heart into her writings. And her writings remain — on her blog, in her Facebook posts, in the two books she wrote, and in her children's writings. The ability to preserve the energy of humanity through writing is one that should never be taken lightly. It allows portions wonderful people like Jan to remain after they themselves have left us.

Mom's old friend Ann Erdman blogged about her as well. She remembered Mom's campaign to make sure chemotherapy patients had plenty to read as they underwent treatment:

Aside from the obvious, one of the things that annoyed Jan about chemotherapy treatments was the lack of enough current magazines and books to go around. So she began taking her own magazines to the hospital to share with fellow chemotherapy patients, and the Jan Curran Fan Club was born.

A few years ago I headed to the desert for the inaugural gathering of the Jan Curran Fan Club. I stayed at her house (she lived in La Quinta then) and we drove to the Palm Springs Tennis Club for a wonderful luncheon where 50 or 60 people gathered in an outdoor pavilion. Magazines and paperbacks were everybody's ticket in. It was a long but productive day, and Jan was exhausted by the time we got back to La Quinta. We had a fun yet low-key slumber party, just the two of us, and lingered over breakfast and a long visit the next morning.

Everyone who was there that day took a vow to donate magazines and paperbacks to chemotherapy units, and the word spread to as far away as England and Germany.

Recently Mike Barer established a Facebook page for the Jan Curran Fan Club. How about joining it in Jan's memory?

My Mom's cousin David Zarkin blogged about her, too. He said, in part:

More than a cousin, she was my friend. She was an amazing journalist and storyteller with a great sense of humor. She will be well remembered by many wonderful people in Palm Springs where she has supportive friends and was a reporter with the Sun for many years. Jan could count among her friends the late President Ford, Sonny Bono, Artie Shaw and the actor Mel Ferrer. The collection of photos in her home of fabulous people she knew in her Palm Springs life is fresh in my memory.

Some of the most touching and moving comments about my Mom came from complete strangers…people who got to know her through her book, "Active Senior Living." Here are the ones that I shared in my eulogy. K . Jacobson said:

After reading your mom's book, she and I exchanged several emails and I treasure them. She changed my life and my attitude towards senior living and the obstacles that I faced. I can only imagine what it would have been like to know her in person. Please share that my thoughts and prayers will be with the family and her friends.

Elaine Benizzi said:

Lee, your Mom's book "Active Senior Living", was read by me during a unsettling time in my life and gave me great hope for my husbands health. I was prompted to write her a note which she responded to so gracefully. I am truly sorry for your loss, she was a kind and wonderful woman.

Sheri Bell said:

Oh, Lee, I am heartbroken to hear this news. Your mother's book was the very first book I purchased and read on my Kindle. As others have mentioned, we feel almost as if we knew your mother through her writing… and as such, she (and her marvelous sense of humor) will be sorely missed. My thoughts and prayers are with you and your family at this time of loss and sadness. May your mother's courage, sense of humor and enduring spirit live on through the writing — and the intimate part of her life — that she shared with us all.

Irene Shaw said:

I'm crying as I write this, because I felt as I know many people did, that I knew Jan. Her book was the first download on my new Kindle back in February. I so wish I could have met her. She fought the damn big C for so long, with such grace and humor. RIP, girl! And prayers for you and your family, Lee.

These are just a few of the hundreds of comments, emails and condolences that me, my brother Tod, and my sisters Linda and Karen have received over the last week. We have shared and read them all. On behalf of my family, I want to thank you for your kind words and good wishes. They have meant a lot to us.

5 thoughts on “Jan Remembered”

  1. Lee, Tod, Linda & Karen, I’m so sorry for your loss. Your mother sounds like an amazing person who left her imprint on the world through all of you. To think of her reach as including her readers and yours by proxy, is to imagine her heart’s* even greater reach. (*Danny’s definition above). Much love to all of you.

  2. Lee,
    My father, Sam Rykus and your Papa Dave were the dearest of old friends as were my mother Ruth and your Grandma Dora. I loved you mother. She was all that is written and more. She and I were childhood friends in the days of Spirit Lake and Libery Lake.
    Claudia and David were my Spokane friends as I grew up. And, I hear of Claudia, Louie and children often. My son Joe Lawson was going to meet you with your mom and me and we never could make the timing work. Joe is with Dreamworks. Please take good care of you and I am hoping you all 4 will continue with wonderful work to share with the world as your mother did. Blessings to you all.
    Robin Lawson, Portland, Oregon

  3. Ms. Curran’s famous book on assisted living changed people’s perceptions on how they work and how people live inside. She makes readers more aware of their elderly. I wish her legacy lasts for a long time.

  4. Lee:
    I miss your mom so much can’t begin to say. I watch from afar how well you are doing and know she would be so very proud.
    Long time away from dinners at Denny’s…


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