Diane Gershuny, In Memoriam: The Loss of a Long Beach Champion


I can’t say I really knew Diane Gershuny. I didn’t even know that cancer was a part of her life. So I was a bit stunned to walk into Portfolio Coffeehouse on Sunday night and see the newspaper notice of her death, right below a picture of her, smiling in that quiet way of hers.

My acquaintance with Diane was limited, centering on her seemingly tireless efforts (through her marketing/PR business and otherwise) to promote all things 4th Street. Although I had received press releases from her now and again, my first real contact with her came in late 2011. She knew I had written a novel and done a reading at {open} bookstore/performance space (I doubt such an event could have taken place on Retro Row without her knowing about it), and she sent me an e-mail inviting me to do a reading at Portfolio as part of the coffeehouse’s new Local Writers Series. She printed up these beautiful promotional postcards for the event, displaying an amiable deference to my neurotic need for everything on them to be just so.

From then on we had what I’d call a friendly acquaintance, running into each other from time to time at various events or—where else?—4th Street. I never experienced her as anything but pleasant. I’m referring to a sincere pleasantness, not the politesse that you can’t help feeling gets in the way of really seeing the person in front of you. As much as I didn’t know Diane well, I always felt that my limited view of her was nonetheless a clear one.

Not quite a year after my Portfolio reading, I was doing another at Fingerprints. Remembering Diane’s postcards, I e-mailed her to inquire about what service or software she used. I would have been grateful simply for the information, but Diane offered to send me a template for printing up new ones. All I needed to do was supply her with replacement text. I did so, though once again I had to have things just so. As was her way, Diane displayed nothing but alacrity in helping me out.

That always stuck with me about her: how ready she was to be helpful. In the case of my Fingerprints reading, there was nothing in it for her—I wasn’t paying her; she wasn’t promoting the event. And yet she helped beyond what was asked. She loved 4th Street, so I’m sure the fact that the event was happening at Fingerprints was partial motivation. But I have no doubt that had I made the same request for a reading I was doing in Boston, she would have been no less generous. I didn’t know her well, but I think that was her way.

There are people in far better positions to eulogize Diane on a personal level. From my perspective, the best I can do is to meditate on how the loss of someone like Diane diminishes a community. I have never been part of a community remotely like Long Beach, and its glory comes down to the people. Yeah, the weather’s great, and it’s nice to live near the water (despite its surflessness), and there are many cool businesses and so forth, but it’s all meaningless without the people. And if Long Beach is on the rise—as I’d like to think it is—it’s due only to the work of community members.

Diane Gershuny epitomized what I’m talking about. You didn’t have to know her well to know that she loved Long Beach and was doing more than her part to make it that much more loveable. And unlike many of us simultaneously promoting Long Beach and our own individual ends, Diane never seemed interested in making it about her. No doubt she desired a fair wage for her work—we all need to pay the rent, right?—but I get the impression that she would have accepted complete anonymity if somehow that would have increased her effectiveness in promoting her community.

As it happens, Diane was not anonymous. Many people knew her; many people loved her. But even more people in Long Beach will miss her, whether they know it or not. They’ll miss her because their community has lost one of its champions. To whatever heights Long Beach rises, it will be a little harder to get there without Diane. We’ll miss her. I’ll miss her.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.