Half a life-time ago, I had moved into the in-house advertising department at my company. My position was “Production assistant”. Advertising happens in teams, divided into particular tasks. There’s the account manager who talks to the client, the art director, the copy writer, traffic, that coordinates everything, and Production that buys services from outside vendors and make sure that everything goes right – in our case, the printing, stuffing and mailing of materials. I worked with a Production Supervisor who had the main responsibility.
Although I was known as competent, and able to work with somewhat difficult people, there was one supervisor that did me in. She was secretive, and obsessive. One of the few people I have not been able to work with or work with well.
We did have an absolutely fantastic manager though. He was able to match people well, you knew he had your back, and he got the best out of most of his staff.
At this time, Valerie came in as a freelance production supervisor. Our manager moved me to work with her instead, after a work review I had gotten that even he questioned (I was too timid to be upset about it).
Valerie had worked free-lance in the advertising industry in LA for quite a while – it is actually a small kind of incestuous group, where people move from agency to agency. But, she had started out as a pianist, with a BA in music from USC.
With my love of classical music, we got along very well. She was kind and personable. Nine years older than me, but approaching 30, that gap was unimportant.
At the time, there was a new tradition for co-workers to surprise decorate the cubicle or office for someone’s birthday. There was one where the office was filled with colored dots. The owner of the Dalmatians got hers decorated with black dots. A woman got hers decorated with hunks, and a man his decorated with babes – all tying in with what they so very expressly liked.
For my birthday, Valerie and friends decorated my cubicle with dinosaurs. When it was her turn, I cut out 8’th notes, and made a poster where I wrote out the melody for happy birthday in musical notation.
Somewhere, as I was shifting towards more studying, we started to go to concerts and operas together. She knew some of the musicians. She had played in trios with them, so I got to go back-stage a lot to talk to them, which was a lot of fun. Particularly, she was good friends with a tall cellist, and the conductor of the opera orchestra.
One of the bennies I got as a UCLA student was cheap tickets to the opera (She had a subscription). What was so wonderful with Valerie was that she thought of the opera as her home, so when we got there, and had our middling seats, she’d scout out open seats close to the scene, and just move us there, and in the breaks she would chat with Randy, the conductor.
But, as I got more involved with my studies, and met a new boyfriend (now husband), we met more seldom, and the friendship kind of faded. Not for any particular reason. Lives are lived, and things change, and then I moved to Indiana to pursue my doctorate.
Occasionally I would look her up on the net, but she didn’t have the same kind of presence as I did.
I did it again, the other day, and now I found her obituary. She had passed away this summer, 70 years old. She was a kind, generous person. I have a lot of great memories with her. And, even though 70 is respectable, much too young.