(July 24, 1980 – February 24, 2016)
Laurie’s due date to be born fell in the middle of the vacation that Terry’s doctor had scheduled to take in Florida, so he told Terry to come in to New York Hospital in New York City two weeks before her due date so he could induce her. So it came to pass that Laurie was born into this world a little earlier than she should have on July 24th, 1980 weighing 5 pounds 12 ounces. She could have used the extra two weeks of nurture in Terry’s womb. She was born with no eye brows or eye lashes and had jaundice. Terry had to leave Laurie in the hospital under the bilirubin lights for 3 days until the jaundice cleared up.
The family lived in Demarest, New Jersey in Bergen County and it was there that Laurie was welcomed home by her brother Robert, who was five years old, and her sister Julie, who was two. Julie mistook her baby sister for a doll that her mother had brought home for her to play with and said, “Give me, mine!” trying to take hold of her.
Laurie had gotten her days and nights mixed up and so she would be up most of the night and would sleep during the day. It took a while to get her to learn to sleep at night.
As Laurie got a bit older, she especially liked to play with Julie, always looking up to her big sister. They would play house together, with Julie being the mommy and Laurie being the baby. Julie called her ‘baby Laurie”. When they played school, Julie was always the teacher and Laurie the student. Laurie liked it when Julie’s friends would come over to play.
When she entered school, Laurie had to see a speech therapist because she would mispronounce words, for instance calling her brother “Roburd.” Once when she had a sore in her mouth Laurie said to her mother, “My mouse hurts.”
Laurie learned to swim first at summer camp and then later at the Demarest swim club and over time became a very good swimmer. Throughout her life, Laurie would be drawn to the water.
In contrast to her sister and brother, Laurie was a rather quiet shy child, always preferring to have one close friend. When she was young, a sweet little girl named Melanie fulfilled that role for Laurie.
Throughout her life, Laurie found comfort in watching beloved movies over and over. As a little girl she watched “The Wizard of Oz” everyday when she came home from school for about a year until her brother Rob, understandably sick of the movie decided it was time to tape over it.
Laurie’s grandmother – Terry’s mother – lived in Queens where she worked as a seamstress. She was very kind and loving to all her grandchildren who called her Softa – Hebrew for “grandmother”. She would often come out to the house on weekends to help out in any way she could. Softa taught Laurie the basics of sewing. They would snuggle together on the couch watching TV. (Laurie was a big snuggler.) Softa departed this world when Laurie was ten.
Sadly, Laurie’s father suffered from severe depression for most of his life and at times could become abusive to Laurie’s mother Terry. When Laurie was just eight years old her parents separated, with Terry taking the kids from the house in Demarest to a new home in Mahwah, New Jersey. Introverted as she was, this change of schools and others yet to come were difficult for Laurie. Continued conflict with Laurie’s father eventually led to another move, this time all the way to Orlando, Florida.
Julie remembers how during their time in Orlando she and Laurie had to walk 1.9 miles each day to get to their elementary school – that is until they figured out that if they trespassed through a golf course, the trip was significantly shorter. One time Laurie thought it would be fun to pocket somebody’s golf ball, leading the girls to flee giggling from the irate golfer. This story demonstrates a certain quality of free-spiritedness and a rather loose relationship to rules in general that at times would characterize Laurie throughout her life.
In Florida, Terry had an old car with no AC, and Rob and Julie would fight over who got to sit in the front. Laurie was more laid back, content to sit in the back. Unlike her siblings, Laurie was always skinny, and didn’t seem to mind when her siblings fought over her French fries.
The family was homesick for New Jersey, and so after just one year in Florida they were happy to return to the Garden State. They lived in Byram for a year before moving to Randolph.
Laurie’s father ended up in Florida, where tragically he died when Laurie was just ten.
It was a particular blessing therefore when a year later Laurie’s mother met Oscar, the man who would become Laurie’s step-father. From the start Oscar adored all three of Terry’s children, happy to play with them the board games they enjoyed for hours at a time. Early on Oscar began to help out with driving the kids to their various activities. He was so very happy to finally have a family and took pride in referring to “my three kids.” Once when Rob was introducing a new friend, he referred to both Terry and Oscar as ‘his parents’, which left Oscar just beaming. When Oscar received his first Father’s Day card from the kids he was so happy he cried.
Because Laurie was younger and more of a homebody than Julie and Rob, Oscar ended up spending more time with Laurie and their bond grew particularly strong. When Terry had to work late and Julie and Rob were off with friends, Oscar would cook supper for the two of them and they would watch television together.
One time Laurie needed to do a special project for school. She had to make a model of the Eiffel Tower. So Oscar took her to the art supply store and they got a thousand pop sickle sticks and glue and spray paint and got a hold of big, detailed picture of the tower, and for several nights they worked together on their masterpiece — a stunning facsimile of the Eiffel Tower that won Laurie an A, of which both she and Oscar were rightly quite proud.
A few years later when Oscar had knee surgery, it was Laurie who would keep him company in the days of his recuperation, warming up soup for him – a rare venture into cooking for Laurie — and driving him to doctor’s appointments.
It was in Randolph that Laurie made three close friends: Shawna, Sakura and Liz. They would sleep over and Oscar would make them the greatest breakfasts. Liz had a swimming pool where Laurie would spend countless hours swimming away the summer.
During this period of time Laurie wrote in her journal a rather long list of “Things that make me happy,” conveying the impression that she was a girl who found a good deal of pleasure in life: This was what she listed:
Talking with Sakura
Eating yummy foods like ice cream
Talking with my mother
Seeing and petting horses.
Going on vacation
Doing well in school.
Going food shopping with my mom.
Taking pictures on my digital camera
Combing little girl kitty (their cat known as “Frass”)
Watching Law and Order
Shopping for boots or sandals.
Holding a little, little baby.
Holding Donald. (a three year old boy she babysat for regularly)
Laurie always liked children and old people. She worked for several years as a babysitter for an agency called “In a Pinch” that included extended employment with a family in MorrisPlains that had three children with the grandmother living next door. Laurie would visit with the grandmother and became very close to her.
When Laurie was 16 years old, her mother helped her get a summer job as a junior counselor at Meadowbrook Day Camp in Long Valley, which she enjoyed very much. It was there that she met her first boyfriend — a fellow counselor who was also working there as a counselor, who Laurie would date for five years.
After high school, Laurie attended Morris County College for two years. It was during this time that Terry and Oscar moved to Hopatcong, and when Laurie would come home in the evening they would watch Jeopardy together. Laurie could get quite competitive about the game, and usually won, except when the sports questions came up, which Oscar’s always got. Laurie loved movies, and for a long time Laurie and her mother would go together almost every Sunday night to the movies. If you quizzed Laurie on the name of any movie, what year the movie came out and the actors that were in it, she could come up with all the answers.
Laurie scrimped and saved the money she earned from her various jobs. She was not wasteful, but she could be exceedingly generous. When her sister Julie was a senior in college Laurie loaned her $2000 so she could buy a car.
After graduating from Morris County College, Laurie attended William Paterson University for two years living on campus. Homesick, she would come home on weekends to see her Mom and Oscar. She earned a degree in art, for which she had a passion. Throughout her life Laurie was constantly sketching. She knew a great deal about art history, and for a brief period of time after her graduation she worked at a museum in Montclair.
It was towards the end of her time at William Paterson that Laurie’s relationship with her boyfriend came to an end, causing Laurie to sink into a deep depression. Her mother would listen to Laurie every night as she poured out her sadness.
Laurie and her friend Sakura got an apartment together in Morristown and then years later, they both moved to an apartment in Philadelphia. Every time they moved, Oscar and Terry were there to help.
Laurie decided she really liked living in Pennsylvania. She worked for a time as a sales person for a newspaper and then later as a sales person at Comcast. On weekends however she would often come back home to Hopatcong to be with her mom and Oscar.
At the age of 28, at her sister Julie’s engagement party in Jersey City, Laurie was introduced to Chris, a friend of Julie’s fiancée Leighton. They instantly took a liking to each other and started dating. Chris came to see the beautiful, sensitive kind-hearted Laurie as his soul mate. They were totally in love with each other and cared for each other deeply.
Chris accepted Laurie’s struggle with depression and anxiety as a part of who she was, and admired the courage she displayed fighting it over so many years. From time to time the depression would take hold of Laurie with a grip that was so strong and powerful, but for most of the time Chris experienced Laurie as a person with a deep capacity for joy. Even on her worst days, he said, she would find something time to smile and laugh about.
Laurie and Chris had a lot of fun during their seven years together. Laurie enjoyed telling dumb jokes that made Chris laugh. When Laurie and Chris would go swimming, Laurie would pile her wet hair up on top of her head and call herself “George Washington,” which would send them both into a spell of raucous laughter.
Laurie took pleasure in simple things: spending a quiet Friday night home together watching a movie; staying home on Friday nights to watch a movie together; eating a waffle with chocolate chips (preferably cooked inside, not melted on top.) She loved animals and the company of little children.
Laurie and Chris loved Halloween. She would dress up every year and hand out candy to the kids who would come to the door. Once she dressed up as Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz, complete with Toto.
As mentioned earlier with the golf course incident, at times Laurie could be such a carefree spirit. Chris remembers when he and Laurie were in Jamaica on vacation, they dressed up to eat dinner at the hotel’s fancy restaurant. Afterwards, dressed in her elegant dress, Laurie took off her shoes and ran through the fountains in front of the hotel. These were not the sort of fountains people were supposed to run through, but Laurie did not care. She was fully in the moment.
Laurie could be so playful, adopting the persona of Chris’ affectionate kitten, letting him know by the quality of her purrs whether something pleased or displeased her.
When she was going to bed Chris would sing songs like “Puff, the Magic Dragon”, changing the words to make her laugh. At the end he would kiss Laurie on the forehead, and she would drift off to sleep.
During these years Laurie worked as a nanny and for a time and as a companion for elderly people. There was this cantankerous lady named Anne who was in her late 80?s. At first Anne was mean to Laurie but within a few days they were best friends and Anne truly loved Laurie. That’s how Laurie was; once people got to know Laurie, they would love her.
Two years ago Chris and Laurie purchased a townhouse together in Plymouth Meeting, Pennsylvania. Laurie enjoyed decorating their townhouse, having various rooms painted and then re-painted when she changed her mind about the colors. Laurie was very good at buying things, always negotiating the price down with sales people, whether it was buying a car or buying furniture. She loved the negotiating, telling Chris, “Laurie Kurdes does not pay retail!” And she never did.
She could be as persistent as a dog with a bone. Once when a Proctor and Gamble cleaning product Laurie used on a new couch left an intolerable odor she kept calling Proctor and Gamble until they agreed to buy her a brand new couch.
Laurie had a very savvy business sense, selling items on EBay, mostly David Yurman jewelry. She knew to put items online before Valentine’s Day when a good profit could be made because men were desperate for a gift for their wives or girlfriends. And then when Valentine’s Day was over, Laurie recognized the time was ripe for buying jewelry cheap because women who had received a gift they didn’t care for would be looking to unload it.
When Julie and Leighton’s infant son Crosby spent forty days in Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, Laurie did what she could to keep her sister’s spirits up. She bought Julie a TV to watch in the little apartment she was stuck in, and took her to Whole Foods and to the movies to get her mind off her worries over Crosby. She even brought their dog Argie to her townhouse from Jersey City so that Julie could spend some time with him.
Laurie didn’t feel comfortable in groups of people, and didn’t care much for small talk. But one-on-one Laurie could talk to anyone, and would often delve deeply into conversation about subjects that truly meant something to her.
She was truly interested in people. In Jamaica when a drug dealer approached Laurie and Chris to try and sell them some weed, they weren’t interested in what he was selling, but Laurie was interested in the man, and proceeded to ask him a series of questions about what his life was like. On a trip to Las Vegas, Chris remembers Laurie taking the time to talk to a homeless man. She always gave what she could to people who were down and out, saying, “Their day will be a little easier now.”
Laurie always rooted for the underdog, always wanting to help people in need.
She and Chris supported various charities. They supported a child in Ecuador named Eddie through the Children’s Fund. Laurie chose Eddie because his picture made him look kind of homely and she was afraid nobody else would choose him, but over the years Eddie grew to be handsome. They gave money to the Children’s Hospital in Philadelphia that had helped Laurie’s nephew. They gave money to our church.
Terry’s older brother Yitz lived alone in Queens. One time back when she lived in New Jersey Laurie and her mother drove out to Yitz’s house for the Passover Seder, where they were met by Terry’s sister Susan, her husband Steve, and their daughter Debbie. After the Seder was over, Laurie asked her uncle what he would be doing the following night for the second night of Passover, and he said that he would be having the Seder alone.
Laurie felt bad for her uncle and on their drive back home to New Jersey, she suggested to her mom “why don’t we go back tomorrow night so Yitz won’t be all alone?” And that’s what they did; they drove back to Queens the next day so Uncle Yitz wouldn’t be alone for the Passover Seder.
In Rob’s words, Laurie was “emotionally intelligent.” She had a very big heart with remarkable sensitivity and compassion, and because she felt things so strongly, Laurie found it hard at times to live in this broken world. She cared for others better than she cared for herself.
Laurie suffered from mental illness, an affliction so easily misunderstood by others. The pain of deep depression is very hard for people to understand who have never experienced it; the pain is worse than any kind of physical pain. Laurie had obsessions she was powerless to let go of. Her depression led her to isolate herself from people she loved and cared about. Laurie went to great lengths to try and get better — visiting different doctors and hospitals, trying a multitude of medications and therapy. Chris calls Laurie “the bravest, strongest soul” he has ever known.
Depression took Laurie down, but Laurie was far more than her depression. She was a passionate woman who felt joy intensely and loved deeply.