June 17, 1948 - July 15, 2020 Mo was one of the forgotten ones. My sister Maureen Altman-"The Mighty Mo"-was born June 17, 1948-the same birth date as my life partner Linda Huf-who was born on June 17 in 1943. They passed away just 8 days apart-Linda on July 7, and Mo on July 15, just one day after the service at Hillside for Linda on Woody Guthrie's birthday and Bastille Day, July 14. Mo let me have that day for Linda, just as our father waited one day after her birthday in 1975 so as not to ruin her birthday. Dad passed away June 18. We can't take such things for granted-divine providence steps in and lends a hand. Maureen was the most adorable baby you ever saw-I brought her baby picture to Hillside-conducted as was Linda's by Rabbi Jeff Marx, on June 21. 7, 14, & 21: all on Ruby Tuesday. Divine providence again stepped in and leant a hand. Her friend Michele Hutchins said. "Linda was a lovely woman, with her own quirky style, and a brilliant mind." Mentored by physicist Bernard Leikind-who exposed Tony Robbins' fire-walking hoax-Linda joined Skeptic Society, Skeptic Magazine-and Beyond Baroque. Maureen was diagnosed at the age of two with "prenatal brain damage." This was in 1950. And the diagnosis-which turned out to be a misdiagnosis-colored her entire life. There were no expectations for her ever to achieve anything of value or importance. Accordingly, everything she ever accomplished-like a steady job-was against all odds. She was a painter and a cartoonist. She moved to San Diego to study computing. She helped her brother care for Mom when she had Alzheimer's. She once had a boyfriend: Doug. Mo had a unique, original and extraordinarily difficult, challenging and heroic life. She never gave up on herself. Mo's former cousin was UCLA History Professor Juan Gomez-Quinones-who made it his mission to attend her service in person: "I always thought the world of her," said he. From a world-class historian that says quite a lot. And from Dorene Desenberg-her co-worker at the Social Security Administration Office of Hearings and Appeals- "She was such a kind and gentle soul-I treasured our friendship." My friend Rena also attended and knew Maureen from her years baking for the Santa Monica Traditional Folk Music Club-for Mo would spend the whole day in the kitchen to bake a Pineapple Upside Down Cake or Red Devil Chocolate Cake. And from Mo's best friend-Nancy Kawata, our dentist Dr. Kawata's wife: "Maureen had a strong sensitivity to what was going on in her life. She learned how to appreciate happy experiences and how to shield herself from sadnesses…Maureen had a spiritual strength-and a vulnerable heart. I will miss her: Rest in Peace, dear friend." Mo's favorite folksingers were John Denver and Tom Paxton. After Mom passed away in 2008 I took Mo to UCLA's Department of Neurology to see if her original diagnosis was accurate. I suspected it wasn't-on the basis of a number of things she had done. She had transitioned from special schools and graduated from a regular high school; and she earned an A.A. degree from Santa Monica College. She worked two regular jobs-the US Post Office and the SSA job where she met Dorene. UCLA said she had Asberger's Syndrome on the Autism Spectrum of Disorders –ASD. This was first diagnosed in 1994-long after Mom suspected something was wrong with her daughter. So everything Mo accomplished was heroic-the work of a champion. Mo was my hero-the kindest, gentlest soul I have ever known. She died from endocarditis. Mo is survived by her brother Ross Altman. Mo fought battles no one else had to fight. "How do you want to be remembered?" Ronda asked her once. "I learned to drive. I didn't die a virgin. I voted. Put that on my tombstone." Neither Mo nor Linda died alone.
Published in Los Angeles Times on Aug. 23, 2020.