Emily Rose Marcus 1969-2023
I am posting this because people have asked me to.
Emily Rose Marcus was born on December 10, 1969, in Alta Bates Hospital in Berkeley. It was a forceps delivery, and she came out with bruises on her face, yet she lived her life as a woman who prized beauty—in fashion, her own sense of style, furniture, art. Following her beloved uncle Dr. William E. Bernstein, she chose a death with dignity, and died on January 31, 2023, in her apartment in Oakland, where she had lived since 2007, after more than two years fighting against a terminal diagnosis of appendiceal cancer she had received in September 2020. Our hearts are broken.
Emily showed extraordinary fortitude, bravery, and realism in her struggle for her life. She was never less than forthright, to herself and others, in her confrontation with what she knew would be a death that would come far earlier than she, or those who loved her, had any reason to expect. Through many courses of chemotherapy and other interventions, she endured extreme pain and trauma on a daily basis, but never lost her desire to bring adventure and beauty into her life and to share it with others. In her last months she traveled to Hawaii with her cousin Lisa Hanauer and her dear friends Izzy Caplan and John Elrod, and to New York City with her sister Cecily.
Emily made her last trip to New York because she was determined not to die without seeing the new Edward Hopper exhibition at the Whitney Museum of American Art, where she herself had worked years before. A deep affinity and love for visual art was a defining characteristic of Emily’s life from the beginning; her happy years at the Berkeley Child Art Studio, established by Miriam de Uriarte in 1970, were a foundation stone for her. She had a keen and engaged eye for painting, movies, design, and architecture—which led her, in her last two years, to dedicate herself to the deep and consuming project of redesigning and redecorating her Oakland apartment. With imaginative flair and a truly moral commitment to living to her fullest, she put everything she had into creating a visually striking yet warming environment in which she could live her life as she was able and as she wished.
Emily’s curious and inquisitive mind made her a constant reader. Her love of fiction was an ever-deepening source of knowledge and pleasure. Audiobooks especially enriched her life in her last years. Her love of music was just as rich and, for her, as sustaining. As a toddler, she was entranced by what she called, and constantly called out for, “The Train Song”—Elvis Presley’s “Mystery Train.” As an eight-year-old she made an instant connection with the abrasive and liberating sound of Blondie, promised herself that she would someday live in the place wherever Blondie came from, discovered it was New York City, and moved there when she was eighteen years old. In 1981 she all but single-handedly converted her school to the Go-Gos. Later in life she found herself reflected back in Johnny Cash. There were never any boundaries in her cultural life. Her delight in fashion and dress was never-ending; the pleasure she could take from food—especially white truffles, in her adult life always a birthday celebration, was inspiring
Emily graduated from Head-Royce School in Oakland in 1988 and from New York University in 1992, and lived and worked in New York until 2004, when she moved back to the Bay Area. Her professional life was always connected in some key way to art, literature, design, food: she worked in product development at the Whitney Museum of American Art and DC Comics, as a literary agent, and for more than ten years as a reservationist and communications manager at Chez Panisse in Berkeley, before COVID-19 and then her illness and treatment forced her to depart. The many friends she made there and throughout her life, going back to day-care when she was not yet two, treasure the life she lived and the memory she leaves behind.
In her last months Emily’s life was sustained and warmed by the presence of her beloved cat, Pippa. She benefitted deeply and essentially from the attention and devotion of John Elrod and Izzy Caplan; by the dedicated attendants from New Hope Health Care; by the staff of Kaiser Hospice Care, and La Famille Panisse. She is survived by her parents, Greil and Jenny Marcus, of Oakland, and by her sister, Cecily Marcus, her brother-in-law Steve Perry, and her nieces Pearl Mildred Perry and Rose James Perry, of Minneapolis. Her aunt Paula Bernstein, of Denver, and Lisa Hanauer, of Oakland, were in their way with her every day of her last years.