By Karl Abrams
Venetians gathered together at Beyond Baroque for a joyous memorial on February 13 to honor the wit and wisdom and amazing life of Carol Fondiller Berman who died on January 9. In a program moderated by Jim Smith of the Beachhead, speaker after speaker spoke of their deep friendship and loving respect for Carol, while others read brilliant and funny excerpts from some of her 41 years of writings for the Beachhead she helped to found.
Maryjane presented a video she made of Carol and Linda Lucks spoke first about her many years of friendship with Carol. Karl Abrams read one of Carol’s numerous articles in the Beachhead about living in Venice in the 1970s.
Carol’s sister, Judi Richards, talked lovingly about spending her 21st birthday with Carol. Tomito, an old friend read a poem he had written about the “early years” with Carol in the 1960’s where Carol was described as “spewing volcanic truths and blazing new trails…” Moe Stravener, another old friend who wrote with Carol on the Beachhead, reminded us that “she was a light to the community” and how “no one could write like Carol.”
Ruth Galanter, former L.A. councilmember spoke of how she met Carol at a Venice canal festival and has, ever since, been “honored to have known Carol.”
Debra Bowen, our California Secretary of State, remembered Carol as a much respected (and sometimes feared) Venice activist with an “incredible laugh”. Bowen referred to Carol as a “pure individualist” who was such a natural leader that sometimes she just walked to the front of a community meeting and “just started to chair.”
Carol would later be honored in 2006 as the “Queen of Venice” by the L.A. City Council.
Pam Emerson read a Beachhead story describing how for Carol, “…living in Venice was a form of immortality.” Carol will always be remembered as a humorous story teller, political guru and conscience of the community who dedicated her life – moment by moment it seemed – to the “preservation and betterment” of Venice.
Composer and pianist Brad Kaye played an original classic piece entitled “Funeral March” written for and dedicated to Carol. Venice singer Suzy Williams, accompanied by Eric Ahlberg and Sam Clay, sang “Moon Over Venice”. And then, towards the end of the memorial, Suzy led the audience in singing lyrics about Venice written by Carol entitled, “Too Poor to Live Here”.
Carol Copatch, Emily Winters and Larry Gross spoke of their friendship with Carol, Carol Tantau read from the Beachhead. Chuck Bloomquist read one of Carol’s poems followed by Lynne Bronstein,
Don Geagan, Steve Goldman and Phyllis Korn speaking of their memorable moments with Carol.
Carol was a long time advocate of keeping benches on Ocean Front Walk. She ran against Tom Hayden for State Assembly on the Peace and Freedom Party ticket she also co-founded.
Carol was a leader who inspired. Whether it was a featured Beachhead article that would get the whole community talking – or her fearless and publicly outspoken advocacy of affordable housing and protection of the homeless and the poor. This was evident in the adoring and sad faces of the many who came to honor her.
After the memorial program, a dozen or so close friends walked past Carol’s house on 5 Rose Ave and scattered her ashes on the beach. Some placed white roses in the Venice Sea.
Carol was so full of life it seemed as if everyone could feel her presence that afternoon.