Marissa Rubin, 82, passed away July 28, following the devastating effects of stage four pancreatic cancer. She was a peace activist, a devoted art therapist for emotionally disturbed adolescents at the UCLA Neuropsychiatric Institute and the loving wife of Jerry Rubin, the colorful and occasionally controversial activist.
Tributes to Marissa were still arriving as she lay on her hospice bed, such as a California Legislative Assembly Certificate of Recognition sponsored by Assemblyman Richard Bloom. In addition, Julie Weiss, author of “The Marathon Goddess,” dedicated her latest marathon medal to Marissa to raise funds for pancreatic cancer research, the disease that took Julie’s father’s life. Marissa was so beloved she was viewed as angelic.
Jerry is known for numerous positive attributes such as his perseverance, but I doubt being an angel is one of them. That said, he adored Marissa for the past 40 years. In fact, Jerry says Marissa was the “absolutely perfect wife,” but quipped, “Though, I can’t recall anyone ever saying I was ‘the absolutely perfect husband.’” (Careful laughing at Jerry’s jokes because that only encourages him.)
How Jerry and Marissa first met was a delightful mixture of destiny and humor. In the early 1980s there was a popular dance studio above Radio Shack on Santa Monica Blvd., Dance Home, that welcomed free spirits who loved dancing, even if you danced alone.
So it was Jerry, solo dancing, who inadvertently bumped into Marissa and nearly knocked her down. For Jerry it was love at first sight, which explains how, before the evening was over, he was giving Marissa a soothing foot massage. And the rest, as they say, was the history of a beautiful romance. (And four decades of tireless advocacy for world peace and the environment.)
Independent of each other, Marissa and Jerry changed their birth names. Marissa was born Maxine and changed it while moving from the Bronx to attend UCLA where she earned her Master’s in Art. Jerry, now 78, legally changed his name to Jerry Peace Activist Rubin on his 60th birthday. (In small part to avoid any confusion between himself and the famous, or to some, infamous, Jerry Rubin of the Chicago 8 trial.)
Actually, when Jerry worked his table on the Promenade selling progressive bumper stickers, occasionally he’d get asked “Are you the Jerry Rubin from the 1960s?” With that setup, Jerry couldn’t resist. “No that’s not me,” he’d say tongue in cheek, “but please don’t tell my wife as I’ve kept it secret for decades.”
While Jerry and the activist community have been remarkably successful in peace and earth-friendly causes, less known are Marissa’s crucial contributions. For example, she not only provided posters and artwork, but she was also an integral part of organizing Tree Hugging Friends, which has been holding public events in Santa Monica for 12 years. The same is true of her role with Treesavers, which rescued over 150 ficus trees on 2nd and 4th in downtown Santa Monica that today provides shade, environmental integrity and even home to Christmas lights during the holiday season.
Marissa also helped mightily with saving Chain Reaction, the 26-foot-tall peace monument and public art sculpture of the late Paul Conrad, the three-time Pulitzer Prize-winning L.A. Times political cartoonist. Marissa not only contributed the first $100 of a fund that grew to $100,000, but she also created posters and other memorable art that promoted the monument and helped it remain proudly in the Santa Monica Civic Center.
Among Marissa’s many passions was yoga, which clearly contributed to her undeniable serenity. And maybe it was a factor in how she and Jerry so courageously and openly dealt with her terminal cancer by publicly sharing that, while death is indeed sad, it’s just a part of life.
Marissa was a terrific mother, grandmother, sister, aunt and friend. She was so unconditionally supportive that many viewed her as their best friend. And Marissa proudly honored that responsibility. But, given a story Jerry loves to tell, it’s possible her greatest designation might have been “Santa Monica’s Best Wife Ever.”
First, understand that Jerry is a hard-core sports fan. (And that “fan” is derived from the word “fanatic.”) In 2009, the Yankees were about to meet the Phillies in the World Series, which presented a problem because Jerry was raised in Philadelphia whereas Marissa was raised in the Bronx. But, when Marissa could see how passionately Jerry loved the Phillies, she decided to root for them, too.
Jerry was so appreciative of Marissa’s gracious support he even saw it as a possible good omen. Unfortunately, however, the Yanks won the series 4 games to 2. But, even to this day, Jerry jokingly insists that were it not for Marissa the Phillies might have lost 4 games to 0.
Marissa Rubin, a life so well lived, R.I.P.!
In Marissa’s honor, donations to the Hirshberg Foundation for Pancreatic Cancer Research, pancreatic.org, will be lovingly appreciated. A celebration of Marissa’s remarkable life will take place at 2 p.m. on Oct. 16 at the Children’s Tree of Life located at Ocean Avenue and Colorado in Palisades Park.
Jack is at email@example.com.