Lucille Schulberg Warner was in love with New York. After all, it encompassed some of her favorite things: the theater, writing, and her husband, Henry.
From scaling trees as a girl with her friend Grace (pencils and pads in their teeth), to writing poems and reading books, to acting in every play at Mount Vernon High School in New York before her family moved during the Depression to Richmond, Va., Lucille never strayed from artistry. Her youth, filled with expression, cemented in her a passion for consuming and creating art, a relative says.
She used the absence of theater in Richmond to become a regular performer on one of the city’s radio stations, then joined Carnegie Tech’s drama program. While at that university, Lucille was accepted into the Red Cross’ overseas recreation program and grabbed the opportunity to live and work in Paris, Germany and London.
In Germany, Lucille hosted a live radio show, “Innocents Abroad,” which was picked up by the American Forces Network for its European audience.
Lucille’s radio experience was pivotal in developing her lively, conversational voice, according to Marc Warner, her stepson. In many aspects of Warner’s own writing, as a professor now, he sees Lucille.
“Marc, stop using passive verbs!” she would tell him.
New York called Lucille back upon her return to the U.S. in 1948. She listened, becoming an advertising copywriter at Young & Rubicam while continuing to write. After a literature and poetry fellowship at New Hampshire’s MacDowell Colony, Lucille authored “Historic India” in 1969 for Time-Life’s “Great Ages of Man” series. She conducted research in New Delhi and met her late husband, Henry, and his two children, Marc and Alison. She and Henry would share 40 years of marriage.
Lucille became more prolific as she aged. She went on to publish several young adult novels in the 1970s and 1980s, extending her voice to a new generation. At 70, she returned to college, receiving a bachelor’s degree in English from City University of New York.
Perhaps nothing represents Lucille’s way of looking at the world, Warner says, as well as the old letters he uncovered in her New York apartment — written while abroad with the Red Cross. They were left behind in New York when Lucille made what was to be a short-term move to Northampton, then Williamstown Commons Nursing and Rehabilitation Center, where she died of COVID-19 on April 19.
Warner knew her as more than a self-assured woman, and more than a stepmother.
“She was a confidant. So good at conversation, not just a relative, but a close friend, too. I had a million conversations with her, a billion words over the years,” he said. “She provided a great deal of guidance in terms of the value of friendship, and warmth and family.”
During a visit a few years back, a question she asked Warner sticks with him: “Really, Marc, who wants to be average?”
Everyone knew she was anything but.