Long-time Laguna activist honored at peace rally

Jean Bernstein, 88, was known for her commitment to peace as a protester who would wave signs at Main Beach on Saturdays.

November 03, 2011|By Barbara Diamond
  • Rian Dobbs, daughter of Jean Bernstein's longtime friend Anita, holds a poster of Bernstein with her son, James Dobbs-Hildreth, as she talks with Herb Rabe at a peace vigil at Main Beach on Saturday. Friends and family members showed up Saturday in honor of Bernstein, who was one of the original founders of the vigil back in the late '60s.
Rian Dobbs, daughter of Jean Bernstein's longtime… (Courtesy Mark Chamberlain,…)

Jean Bernstein never gave up a fight for a cause in which she believed, and her dedication was honored Saturday at Main Beach when admirers and friends joined the peace vigil to which she was committed.

Bernstein, who had been ailing for months, died of congestive heart failure Oct. 22 with all her children and her caregiver at her bedside in her South Laguna home. She was 88.

"It was a great blessing that all four of us were there," said daughter Leyna Bernstein, who described her mother as the quintessential cup-half-full person as she coped with illness and the death of loved ones.

"She died like she lived. She did a really good job," Leyna Bernstein said.

The family thanked caretaker Angie Rivera, who was also at Bernstein's bedside, and Bernstein's three daughters expressed gratitude to their brother, who was their mother's primary caregiver for the last three years of her life, enabling her to live at home until she died.


Bernstein had outlived doctor's expectations by 18 months.

"She was sent home to hospice a year and half ago," said longtime friend Anita Dobbs. "There was a hospital bed, and we were told to whisper. They gave her a week or two. But she just wasn't ready to go."

Dobbs had shared a commitment with Bernstein to alternative learning programs that led to the formation of the Community Learning Center at Top of the World Elementary School for students in first through fourth grades.

But Laguna is most familiar with Bernstein's commitment to peace.

As long as she could, Bernstein was among the handful of protesters waving peace signs on Saturday mornings at Main Beach.

"I would imagine the end of the Iraq war was of great relief and celebration for Jeanie," Jinger Wallace wrote in an email. "She is considered by many to be the 'mother' of the peace movement in Orange County, working for nuclear disarmament and a ban on nuclear power plants.

"In 1968, Jeanie and friends began the longest running peace vigil in the United States," she wrote.

Wallace encouraged participation in Saturday's vigil as a memorial to Bernstein's lifetime commitment to peace.

Bernstein was also committed to a clean environment.

"I knew her as one who seemed to show a limitless wonder of nature, was able to articulate so clearly why we should act to protect it and had an uncanny ability in conflict situations to express a solution that could garner agreement from those of many perspectives," said South Laguna resident Ginger Osborne. "She is a jewel who will be sorely missed."

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