This weekend the Washington Post ran an article mourning all the celebrities who have passed away during what has been coined The Summer of Death. And while the deaths of people like Ed McMahon, Farrah Fawcett, Michael Jackson, Billy Mays, Eunice Kennedy Shriver, Karl Malden and Les Paul may have had an impact on our national culture, they did not affect me the way the loss of Linda Posell did.
Linda had a personality that seemed larger-than-life, and her personal history was nothing less than cinematic (although for her it would have to be an indie film). She was not a celebrity per se, except that no one who ever met her could forget her. And when I would run into her, on 17th Street perhaps, or coming out of a film or performance, you couldn’t help but feel that for that moment you were in a movie. Her movie. The kind of movie she loved so much, without a Hollywood plot or orthodox three-act structure, but episodic, with characters that felt real and whom you loved being around, and who kept you in rapt attention wanting to know who they would bring into their orbit next and what random experiences they might have.
Let me back up. I met Linda in 1996 when I first started working for the Washington DCJCC (this was before we finished the renovation of our current building at 16th and Q) on the Film Festival. She was a volunteer and the Festival was in one of those classic crises, where we had finally grown beyond our ability to operate an in-house box office off a voice-mail account. We made the desperate decision to transition to an outside ticketing agency in the middle of sales, and Linda came in to help clear-out a maxed-out voice mailbox and then return the phone calls and try to salvage the customer relationships in light of our massive screw-up. It is only thinking back on it now, that I realized that with Linda calling those people to re-route their ticket purchases, not only did they not feel we had screwed-up, Linda probably made them feel like it was us doing them the favor.
When we moved into the building at 16th and Q, Linda joined our staff and it was there that I truly got to know and love her. She was the perfect colleague and a mother-figure on a staff consisting mostly of people her daughter’s age. She was the perfect person to run into in the hallway when you were having a bad day. We would share a smoke together on the 16th Street steps and she would regale me with her stories of Berkeley in the 60s, the wild journey that was her life, the crazy internet boom and how her son Jordan (she was proud to tell you) was at the center of it, her daughter Rachel’s fitness studio which she was dedicated to (and which she managed not to make a conflict with our own fitness center). We would talk about indie and foreign films and what was going to be playing at the free Hirschhorn series or what she had seen at the Key Cinema Club. She would give advice about what you should really be doing with your life. I remember her being especially fond of a New Yorker article about an entrepreneur who believed it was important to change careers every three years or so. She was passionate about finding a bargain and giving to others. She was a great representative for our Community Service programs and she loved talking about them.
Little things about her I loved and will miss: that she had a partnership with her best-friend from Junior High that they called “The Scribble Sisters.” That she could say, “I really hate her!” and smile. And make you smile. That she always called me “Joshy.” That she always looked amazing. That she was a permanent part of the neighborhood and that losing her feels like it should affect the quality of life here, even for people who didn’t know her.
Last Friday, the Aaron and Cecile Goldman Theater at the Washington DCJCC was filled with the over 200 people who did know and love Linda. To remember such an extraordinary woman in the building where I knew her best was her final gift to me, this agency and the community to which she gave so much.
She was a special woman. Our hearts go out to Gerry, her daughter Rachel, her son Jordan and her many, many grandchildren whom she adored.
May her memory be a blessing.