June Osterberg, a local journalist and beloved fixture in the North Beach firmament since the early 1950s, died Aug. 1 after a short battle with cancer. She was 87.
Proud of her Nordic roots, June was always ready with some obscure Norwegian drinking toast to amuse her friends. Some of that celebrated Scandinavian doggedness served her well as a reporter, too.
Born June 8, 1929, she grew up in rural North LaMoure, North Dakota, living above the family-run Osterberg Country Store that supplied the surrounding county with everything from gasoline to eggs. She often spoke fondly of the ancestral pile and returned to visit periodically throughout her life. San Francisco, though, and especially North Beach, was home. June arrived here almost by accident in 1952. Fresh out of the University of North Dakota, where she had been the editor of her campus newspaper, she was doing some traveling before heading off to New York and a job at Life magazine. A friend suggested she pay a visit to San Francisco. She saw it. She liked what she saw. She never left.
Gravitating to North Beach by way of the old Montgomery Block (now buried under 48 stories of the Pyramid building at Montgomery and Washington streets), June fitted herself into the bohemian enclave of artists and writers that called the Monkey Block home. She was in her milieu. June pulled a brief stint at the San Francisco Examiner before turning to freelance reporting. She focused mainly on the waterfront, starting when San Francisco was still a great seaport. She continued writing about port issues and waterfront development for various trade publications and organizations, including the Barbary Coast Neighborhood Association, right up until this year.
When June wasn't writing she was editing. She had a hand in shaping Sterling Hayden's candid autobiography, "Wanderer," when the iconoclastic actor was living on a houseboat in Sausalito, far from the Hollywood that he detested. She was also active in neighborhood journalism, writing a column and reporting for the North Beach Journal, a monthly newspaper, before taking her byline to the rival North Beach Beat in 2004. Both papers have since folded but June defiantly remained a print reporter to the end.
Last year, making her final visit to North Dakota, June was presented an Excellence in Journalism award by her alma mater.
Politically, June was a left-winger of the old school who threw herself tirelessly into various causes around North Beach. She was an early member of the Telegraph Hill Dwellers, as well as the first treasurer of the District 3 Democratic Club.
June was married very briefly, although both parties recognized pretty quickly that they were ill suited for each other. The parting was amicable. Later, she enjoyed a long and happy relationship with Robert Chamberlain, who she always described as the love of her life.
Like a lot of longtime San Franciscans, June had trouble adjusting to some of the changes that she believed made her city less hospitable than the town she loved. But as the sand slipped through the hourglass she thanked her lucky star for having been young here when she was.
June is survived by her nieces, Laurel Katsamberis (Dimitris) and Tammi Kenney, her nephews Thomas and Bruce Haugen (Grace) along with many other family members and North Beach friends. A grand neighborhood wake will be held in North Beach after Labor Day.