LAUREL CANYON—For those of you who may not already know, we recently lost our long-time Laurel Hills resident, neighbor and friend, Drew Bernstein. His body was discovered on a path in Laurel Canyon, which he had frequented for so many years. The police determined that he had taken his own life. He was fifty-one years old.
Drew’s passing is too difficult for us to accept. He had grown up in Laurel Hills with his family, and attended Wonderland Avenue School. Although he had moved away from the area for part of his life, including a move to San Francisco, he came back to Laurel Canyon many years ago as not only someone dedicated to canyon life, but also as a caring resident of our Laurel Hills community.
Drew’s life had many facets. He had become a very successful alternative style fashion designer. He proudly wore the styles of the clothing lines he created, complete with images of skulls, torn tight jeans and chains, with his full display of tattoes up and down his arms. If you’re not familiar with Laurel Hills, let’s just say that his outfits weren’t typical of those of all the other residents. We loved him for that – he stood out from all of us. He was also a member and supporter of punk rock groups.
As liberal as he was with his fashion lines and music, he was a very committed resident in our community. He wanted to preserve its beauty and have everyone enjoy it. When we first met him, he told us that he had been upset with broken and unmaintained Laurel Hills signs at the entrances to our community. He had taken it upon himself to get them repaired, painted, and re-installed at his own expense (for the record, we reimbursed him). He felt that the signs presented a negative image, and he loved the community too much to project this lack of concern. He wanted us to re-unite as an active community dealing with the various issues we faced, whether it was broken signs, burned-out light bulbs, beautifying the neighborhood, having block parties, and just making a difference.
Drew was elected as our vice president and board member, who, along with Joann Deutch and myself, met regularly so we could be proactive. When we decided to publish newsletters, Drew took over with the design, lay-out, printing and mailing. He took photos to appear in the newsletters, so everyone could see the positive changes and improvements. The newsletters were among his “labors of love.”
Whenever we had homeowners meetings, Drew always got the signs made, bought the wood, and assembled/posted them all over the neighborhood so everyone would be aware of the meetings. He even replaced signs that had disappeared, blown over, and became damaged. He would do this early in the morning before leaving for work, or late at night when he came home. He would do it in the rain or when it was windy and cold. It didn’t matter to him. He never complained. That was his job.
It should be mentioned, however, that Drew did not like attending meetings. When we had board meetings, he would walk in and tell us that he was only going to stay for 30 or 45 minutes max. All he wanted to do was express his opinions, find out what we needed him to do, and he would do it – to perfection. No less. And, as promised, he was out the door as soon as the time was up, even if we were mid-sentence.
Drew also set up and maintained our homeowners data base, with the help of one of his very loyal employees. He collected and recorded the membership dues, and did the mailings. You know the phrase, “Ask a busy person if you want to get something done.” That was Drew, always willing to work.
There was also a very personal and sensitive side to him. One time, my son was going away on a class trip, and we had planned to buy him some new clothes at Drew’s shop on Melrose. Unfortunately, when we arrived, the store was already closed, and my son’s trip was the next morning. When Drew found out, he came down to the shop after hours at night, met us there, and told my son to take his time selecting and trying on whatever he wanted to buy. Needless to say, we were overwhelmed with his kindness and willingness to help. My son was beaming from “ear to ear.”
There are probably so many anecdotes about Drew, as he was very unique and special. Whenever Drew was involved, we knew he was going to make something happen – always in a good way. We are greatly saddened by his loss. We are sorry that we couldn’t have helped him as he was dealing with his issues, which he didn’t share with us. We miss him so much, and can only be consoled by knowing that he ultimately found peace in the canyon that he truly loved.
Drew, we will always remember you. Rest in Peace.