Shirley Moroh Braunstein passed away August 18, 2010, two months after her 84th birthday, on June 5th.

Shirley grew up in the Bronx, the daughter of Benjamin Moroh and Rebecca Bronstein, immigrants who left the Russia-Poland border for the promise of America at the turn of the century. Her mother worked in factories; her beloved "Pop," who died when she was in her teens, was in the dairy business. It's probable, says her daughter, that Shirley's relentless generosity and desire to help others came from her father, who gave away milk and eggs during the Depression.

She was graduated from Morris High School, the first high school built in the Bronx, in 1944, and went straight into two years of training under the U.S. Cadet Nurse program at Beth Israel Hospital. She was on staff at Lebanon Hospital in the Bronx from 1946 to ’47, was a private duty nurse for a year, then a floating nurse at Lebanon Hospital again, including the emergency room. She worked briefly at a doctors’ clinic, then a blood bank for two years.

In 1948, on her 22nd birthday, Shirley married a neighborhood boy and promising scientist, Morris Braunstein. In 1953, with one child in tow and another on the way, they set out across country in a green Studebaker Commander, and did not stop until they hit the Pacific. The family settled in Mar Vista on the west side of Los Angeles, then still liberally composed of bean fields and farms. Shirley resumed her nursing career at Mt. Sinai Hospital, 1956-58, then worked in the psychiatric ward of Los Angeles County General Hospital in 1959.  She took the 1960’s off to raise her son, Ben, and daughter, Betty. 

She resumed nursing from 1970 through ’75 for Beverly Hills allergist Dr. Elizabeth Sirmay, before joining Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in 1976, where she remained until her retirement in 1994 at age 69. 

Her longtime friend and Cedars-Sinai nursing colleague, Martha Pardo, described her impact as a nurse:
"She taught her patients to ask questions. When she gave them medication, she told them what it was for, told them to ask about it. She was a nurse educator, I think, by teaching the patients to stand up for themselves. She was loving and care-giving. She stayed overtime that wasn't paid for, to finish all her charts, after taking care of the patients. The charts were not as important as doing nursing care. She was ethical and caring and gave a great deal of herself.”

Over the decades, while many other nurses rushed to move up the pay-scale ladder into hospital management, Shirley deliberately stayed behind, doing everything required of entry-level nurses, including changing bedpans and sweeping floors. She knew the value of old-fashioned bedside nursing; she respected it as a craft, a service, did not view it as a steppingstone. Doctors routinely wondered why she wasn't head nurse of the hospital. Answer: she didn’t want to be.

Heavily counted on for her opinion and thorough professionalism, Shirley was twice named Cedars-Sinai “Employee of the Month.” Surgeon Stephen Shapiro, a longtime colleague and friend, said this on her retirement:
"Patients who are optimistic and like the people who are caring for them at least appear to get better considerably faster. So much of our job is making patients feel good about what's happening to them, and she did that very well. Shirley is good medicine. There are other wonderful nurses, other wonderful doctors, but her loss will always be there."

In her later years, Shirley traveled a good deal, usually with daughter, Betty, and Betty’s partner, Brian. Together, they climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro, “flew” through tropical forests in Mexico on zip-lines, walked through mountain meadows in Switzerland, cruised the Pacific, and slid through ice caves on Lake Superior. Shirley spent extended stays with Betty and Brian in Ashland, Wisconsin, and once traveled with a small group to the Galapagos Islands, which she considered a great highlight of her life. Back home, she was known to join in Obon Festival dancing at local Buddhist temples in summer, roller skate on the Venice Boardwalk (until her knee gave out), ride Venice beach waves on a boogie-board, and later, as her health problems increased, just to go for walks, or sit with friends or alone at the Marina del Rey jetty, watching the sea and sky. She was a regular and loved participant in her Culver City condo peer group, “Neighbors Helping Neighbors.” 

Shirley had an abundant sense of humor that tended toward the absurd, wacky, earthy (she was a great fan of The Marx Brothers and Three Stooges), and it remained present through many health challenges of her final years.  She always downplayed the considerable impact of such trials. She was seldom “in pain,” she was just sometimes “uncomfortable.” The greatest truth about her is that she helped everyone she met in ways small and large, all her life. She seemed to have endless amounts of generosity, compassion, and certainly a deep commitment to human service. She was unfailing in taking interest in others’ lives, and their children’s lives, their work, their illnesses, their hobbies, their gripes. She was always present, very in the moment, and when she talked to you, you knew that you had her full attention and love. She never once failed to help friends in need, even if it meant getting up when she had little strength. When saddled with travails that would have literally killed most people, Shirley went out and saw dear friends through illnesses, surgeries, even dying. She was always there for so many.

She remained independent and sharp-minded, with her twinkling eye and realistic view of the world intact, despite health setbacks. As she would say, she "stayed in the solution, not the problem." She left peacefully and quietly, while asleep, which was a gift. She cared for countless people in countless ways, and she was, and is, enormously loved.