The Daily Camera
Former CU instructor dies

By Elizabeth Winsted, For the Camera
November 17, 2004

Lucia Berlin, an accomplished author and former creative writing teacher at the University of Colorado, died Saturday after a long struggle with health problems at her home in California. It was her 68th birthday.

Berlin's former colleagues remembered her Tuesday as an accomplished writer and mentor, whose elegance overshadowed the pain caused by her illness.

Berlin was well known within the writing community and published many short stories and a distinguished list of books, including "Angels Laundromat" in 1983, "Homesick" in 1991 and "Where I Live Now" in 1999.

She taught at CU from 1994 to 2000.

Katherine Eggert, who heads CU's English department, called Berlin a dedicated and caring teacher.

"She mentored more students in six years than most do in a lifetime," Eggert said.

In 1996, after only two years of teaching at CU, Berlin received the Student Organization for Alumni Relations Award for Teaching Excellence. Teachers are nominated for the award by the students.

"To win a teaching award after two years is unheard of," Eggert said.

Eggert remembers Berlin once saying she felt embarrassed to say that she was a writer and teacher because both seemed more like pleasure than work.

Peter Michelson, who teaches English and creative writing at CU, said Berlin was candid, critical and encouraging with her students.

"She enjoyed seeing the virtues of their work shining through the vices of their work," he said.

Berlin was forced to leave the high altitude because of her health problems and returned to California to be with her sons, said her friend Ivan Suvanjieff, a Boulder writer.

He said Berlin suffered from double scoliosis and was left with only one working lung because her spine was crooked and punctured the other one. By the time she died, Berlin had one-quarter of her lung capacity, Suvanjieff said.

He said Berlin could turn a grocery list into an interesting story.

"That slow dazzle of brilliance could be seen from a thousand miles away," Suvanjieff said.

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