Mickey Burstein, a native New Yorker who has lived in La Jolla since 1977, died peacefully at home on July 28, 2014, after a year-long struggle with congestive heart failure. She was 96.|
She was a woman who loved reading, running, folk-dancing, high-impact aerobics, and people. Long-time La Jollans will remember her jogging, and later "wogging" through the Village and Bird Rock on her daily 10-mile run, stopping to talk with anyone she met enroute. She was a mainstay of the Library Book Club, often leading meetings at the library or in the rec room at 400 Prospect, the building she lived in for over 30 years.
Mickey was everyone's Jewish grandmother, a woman who listened as well as she talked. They called her "a kick," "a pistol," "a grand dame," "an inspirational dynamo," and "a role model for all of us – sharp, creative, daring and special."
At 87, wearing a racer's number 87, she went to lunch with her daughters and discovered her birthday surprise – a bench in her honor in front of the Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory on Prospect, across from La Valencia Hotel. The plaque on the bench reads: Dedicated to the indomitable Mickey Burstein, our Red-Hot Mama.
That year and the next, she was the oldest performer in "Tales from the Far Side of Fifty," a popular stage show in which her feisty, funny stories always brought down the house. In 2008, she thoroughly enjoyed a three-day celebration of her 90th birthday that included personalized classes in calligraphy and ballroom dancing.
Mickey spent almost all her La Jolla years with her long-time partner, Hank Kaban, who died in 2012. But the love of her life was her husband, Ed Burstein, whom she met as a teenager and lost 50 years ago. It was with him, on a cross-country trip in 1957, that she first discovered La Jolla, which she loved ever since.
This last year was difficult for her, as she lost her sight and mobility, and stayed mostly in her apartment, listening to NPR and Books on Tape, welcoming friends of all ages who dropped by when they could.
She leaves many admirers behind her, not least of all her daughters, Lonnie Hewitt and Pat Launer, both Del Mar residents, who were with her at the end. She is also survived by her middle daughter, Judith Fein of Santa Fe, and numerous surrogate children and grandchildren around the country.
A small gathering paid tribute to her at her graveside in El Camino Memorial Park on July 31, 2014. All those who knew her are invited to stop by her bench and sit for awhile, remembering Mickey, who was truly one of a kind.
To honor her love of books, donations in her name can be made to Friends of the La Jolla Branch Library, 7555 Draper Ave., La Jolla, CA 92037. For more information, contact Jim Stewart at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Published in La Jolla Light on Aug. 7, 2014