Carolyn Koestel was born in November 1946 in Mandeville, Louisiana, to Laurence Paul Algeo and Beatrix Glass. She grew up in Mandeville, Miami and Atlanta. In the ‘60s, she worked for civil rights in the South with the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee. After a cross was burned on their lawn, her mother sent her off to continue her education in Colorado.
She had a daughter, Anne, in 1968 in San Francisco. When Anne was a toddler, she and Anne went to Munich, where she and a few friends bought a used ambulance and drove it to India. She and Anne lived in Asia for four or five years.
She had a son, Max, in 1975. She raised Max and Anne mostly by herself, living in Bolinas in Marin County. She went to College of Marin, then earned a nursing degree from San Francisco State in June 1984. She worked first as a visiting nurse, then for Kaiser, and eventually got a job in the mother-baby unit at Kaiser Walnut Creek, where she worked until she retired. She also became a Certified Legal Nurse Consultant and, at Kaiser, worked as both a Registered Nurse and a Quality Liaison.
She was active in the California Nurses Association. She was part of the union bargaining team, working for the best conditions for nurses and to improve care for patients.
Carolyn and I met originally at Ashkenaz in Berkeley on Israeli Folk Dancing night in the ’80s. Max was then about 8 and ran around, crawling under tables, etc. while she danced. I danced a couples dance with her that night. I met her a second time at the Jewish High Holiday services put on by Hillel at the Newman center at UC Berkeley. She didn’t remember me at all. But we talked and started seeing each other. Later, she, Max, and Anne moved into my house in the Elmwood.
She was active in the community. When Max joined the boy scouts, she helped by managing the Christmas Tree lot for Boy Scout Troop 6. Many years later she organized a girl scout troop for her granddaughters. When the troop held a weeklong camp in Tilden’s Wildcat View campground near the Little Farm, she acted as medical officer. That was an extremely hot week, with an endless line of girls needing medical attention, and some being sent home for heat exhaustion.
She was a member of Congregation Beth El, where Max had his Bar Mitzvah, and then members of Congregation Netivot Shalom, where she helped with the program to feed the homeless at the men’s shelter.
She was also an enthusiastic Cal Bears supporter with season tickets to football and basketball for about 30 years, and went to bowl games including the Citrus Bowl, and the Holiday Bowl.
Carolyn enjoyed the outdoors: hiking, camping, backpacking in the Sierra and skiing. Sometimes, this led to remarkable adventures. On one hike in Yosemite Valley in July, Carolyn was caught in a snowstorm that dumped inches of snow on the trails! In late July! The Ansel Adams store in the valley played “Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow.”
She loved Yosemite, especially the high country, and each year camped at White Wolf campground, off Highway 120, and enjoyed hiking in the area.
She loved Israel, and spent much of her energy in Israeli folk dancing, studying Hebrew and visiting Israel. In 2014, she spent six weeks in Jerusalem at the conservative Yeshiva’s Ulpan.
At the time Israel was being shelled by rockets from Gaza. Once, when walking to the central Shuk in Jerusalem, air raid sirens sounded and she had to find shelter. She followed the crowd down into a basement – it was the basement of a bank and she was next to the vault! After a few minutes she came out and saw smoke in the air above us where the Iron Dome had just destroyed a rocket from Gaza.
She visited Israel several times. On the way to/from Israel, she sometimes stopped in New York to see Broadway plays, e.g. Sutton Foster in “Anything Goes” and Audra McDonald in “Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar and Grill.”
The center of her life was her family and friends. We will miss her. We did a lot together, and it will be just not as much fun doing things without her.
She passed away on Wednesday, Sept. 28, 2022, after battling cancer (multiple myeloma) for several years.
Carolyn leaves behind her daughter, Anne Forrest; Anne’s children, Sarah, Sophia, and Joseph; her son, Max Webber; Max’s children, Anton, 6, and Leonie, 2; her husband, Jerry Berkman; her sister, Kathy Phillips; and her Yorkie, Charlie. One of Carolyn’s greatest regrets was she was not well enough to travel and never met her granddaughter Leonie in person.
Carolyn was buried Oct. 5, 2022, in Home of Eternity Jewish Cemetery, 5000 Piedmont Ave., Oakland. Donations in her memory may be made to Congregation Netivot Shalom in Berkeley, to Planned Parenthood or to your favorite charity.