June Osterberg
1929 - 2016
June Osterberg

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.
Published by San Francisco Chronicle from Aug. 5 to Aug. 7, 2016.
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11 Entries
I miss Jonnie (June) so much! I keep thinking that if she were here now,
we'd be going back and forth in virtual mode, each in our social isolation. I'd love to hear what she would have to say about our turbulent times....
Joyce Kennedy
July 31, 2020
Carol J Markillie
August 22, 2016
June and I were friends for 65 years and I
loved her dearly. She and I 'parted' when
she told me she wss going into Kindred -
I live in Washington State.
Carol J Markillie
August 21, 2016
Jonnie and I were life-long friends. I've known her ever since we were students at the University of North Dakota. We bonded then and have remained in touch ever since. She has enriched my life immeasurably-dear friend and fellow traveler through life!
Joyce Kennedy
August 13, 2016
A lively mind and an unceasing interest in all things political entertained June all the years I knew her. Her body may have failed her, but she never lost her sense of humor, nor her innate need to cheer up those who needed it - and even those that didn't. A highly literate, intelligent, humorous, and fun loving person, June was a part of the North Beach institution and will always be missed by those who had the fortune of knowing her.
Jan Blum
August 8, 2016
We were so sorry to hear about June. We will miss her stories of North Beach history, talking about the good and bad changes in San Francisco over the years, her wit, humor and great smile over a glass of wine and dinner at Original Joes. Walking in with her was like walking in with a celebrity - everyone seemed to know her! She shared many happy memories of Bob, and always talked fondly of her nieces and family in North Dakota.
Betsy & Jack Doyle
August 8, 2016
I, and the other staff at the Mechanics' Institute, will sorely miss June. She was a regular user of our research services and her pluck and wit made working with her a pleasure. She certainly kept us laughing and treated us to small tidbits of local history and color (never too much!). We all admired her independent spirit and drive to keep San Francisco great.
Taryn Edwards
August 7, 2016
I, and the rest of the staff at the Mechanics' Institute will miss June. She often used our reference services for help with this or that civic project. Her determination to improve our community was admirable and so was her knowledge of local history. Her pluck and wit will be sorely missed.
Taryn Edwards
August 7, 2016
My favorite story from June was from when she started working downtown and would bounce (sic) up the Kearny steps to Vallejo.

One day, from a window, an Italian man called out to her to stop. As June said, in those days young people paid attention to their elders, so she stopped. I cannot do justice to her imitation of his accent - but he said: Every day I see you come up these steps. You never stop. You never turn around and look at this beautiful city. June said that everday after that she did.

You are remembered, June.
Tom Noyes
August 7, 2016
I sure will miss her...We always stopped to talk for a minute and just a little while ago we shared the 39 Coit home from shopping...Awwww,it's truly a loss for our neighborhood.
I send you a hug June.
Mary Matvy
August 7, 2016
Whenever she traveled north to the Seattle area to our extended family reunions, June was a shining storyteller whose stories of her earlier life in North Dakota and pithy commentaries of current life on Planet Earth always gave us food for thought, along with much laughter. She and I had a tradition of reciting a mutually-loved Victor Hugo poem together, and now I envision her experiencing its words: "Be like the bird that pausing awhile on boughs too slight, feels them give way beneath her and yet sings, knowing she wings." Soar, dear cousin June! You are dearly loved and missed! Jackie Leksen
Jackie Leksen
August 5, 2016
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