We recently learned that former neighbor Laurel May passed away on July 5, 2015.
Laurel May was a veteran Bernal neighbor who moved from her Bernal home in October 2013. When it was time for Laurel to move, she wrote a wonderful good-bye note to Bernal Heights, which was published in Bernalwood. An excerpt:
As my heterosexual life partner Brett, our bulldog Manchester and parrot Pixel […] prepare to cash in our chips and ride the Bernal property gold rush right on out of the state of California, I hear saw blades turning all over the neighborhood and wonder if this changing tide will somehow irrevocably alter Bernal’s magical blend. That thought does make me sad. But, moping around is for suckers, so I tear off those fear-of-gentrification pants, slap on my thinking cap and recollect . . .
When the New Wheel first opened, I thought maybe the mustachioed fixie army down in the flats would retrofit themselves with the power assist motors needed to climb Cortland and swarm our peaceful streets. Didn’t happen. When Four Star Video announced they were closing, I was bummed – and then Ken and Amy turned it into just about the greatest plant store, ever! When Sandbox Bakery opened their doors I thought, “Here come the snotty baristas and overpriced pastries” and — well, at least they installed some pretty comfortable benches!
And while its true that the Prize Pocket, library mural, the marmot, hilltop piano and wafting stench of Skip’s Tavern may have faded into the mists of time, you holdouts (and recent arrivals) shouldn’t fret — while there are certainly changes ahead, no matter who or what lives on this hill, that undefinable Bernal magic is forever. Bernal magic — oh, and Hunan Chef.
It was a terrific message, and it inspired Neighbor Steve Sisler to reach out to Laurel to learn more about her experiences here. The result was a powerful video interview with Neighbor Laurel, filmed 24 hours before she moved from her Bernal Heights home. That’s when we learned she was battling Stage IV metastatic breast cancer:
It was a bummer that Neighbor Laurel was leaving town, but she had one parting request, and Neighbor Steve and Bernalwood were glad to grant it. Laurel asked to serve as Chairwoman of the Bernal Heights Alumni Network, so we gave her the job:
After her move , Bernalwood followed Laurel via social media and her blog, Cancer Is the New Black. Eventually, however, these channels fell quiet.
Former Neighbor Laurel May is survived by her husband Brett Bond and her daughter Kirsa, who was born via surrogate on July 27, 2015. A memorial service for her was held atop Bernal Hill on July 18.
Laurel is gone, but her spirit remains in Bernal Heights. If you happen to live in her former home, don’t be surprised if you hear some unusual bumps in the night. Laurel knew this day might come, and she always planned to return to Bernal Heights:
PHOTO: Top, Laurel May, during her last day in Bernal Heights. Screengrab from Steve Sissler’s video.