Myrna Saxe died in her sleep on the evening of June first, 2019. She was at peace.
She was born on September 19, 1934, in Chicago. The family moved to San Francisco during WWII, where her father, a printer, worked for the government.
Myrna was tall; a high school classmate described her as “prettier than Snow White”, and her math teacher pronounced her a “genius at mathematics.” She was nonetheless rebellious, and left home and school at fourteen, doing the odd jobs a fourteen-year-old pretending to be eighteen could get. She ironed clothes in a Chinese laundry and cleaned toilets in cabins in Yellowstone National Park.
At sixteen she lied about being a high school graduate and enrolled in Los Angeles City College. By the time she was caught she was a sophomore and an honor student. It was also during this period that she saw Topanga Canyon for the first time and vowed to someday live there.
She ran out of money and vacillated between taking a solo motorcycle trip across America and joining the Air Force. She chose the Air Force for the GI bill, and was honor graduate of her class in electronics school. Nonetheless, with the end of the Korean War, the Air Force decided not to use women in electronics and she became a clerk-typist in the Wing Commanders office at Hickam AFB, Hawaii, where her skills as a blazing fast error-free typist were appreciated. She was so good that her work was usually done by 9:30 a.m., so she developed skills as a scrounger. She has been described during this period this way. “Imagine a MASH episode in which the part of Radar O’Reilly is played by Liv Tyler.”
After the Air Force she worked briefly for the Democratic National Committee in Los Angeles, then in the advertising department of the Los Angeles Times. Then she gave a friend a ride to Ramo-Woolrich (later TRW) in Manhattan Beach, then an aerospace company, to apply for a job. She went in with him, wearing a bikini and a beach top. He did not get the job. She did.
Over the next two years she rose to Space Physics Engineer, and was, among many other accomplishments, the launch officer on Pioneer V, which is still sending data from beyond Pluto, even though she was still working on her degree in math at City College.
During this period she met a group of very tall, gorgeous women who took it upon themselves to teach her nerdish self to dazzle, a skill she never lost, but used sparingly. At one point there was a maitre’ d on Sunset who was sure she was Ava Gardner, traveling incognito, and immediately shuffled her into a private room. “It was ridiculous,” she said later. “I’m a head taller than Ava Gardner.”
Offered a vice presidency at TRW, and not wanting to go into administration she resigned, and moved to Italy for the next nine years, where she worked as a tour guide, business consultant, runway model, and occasional consultant to the European Space Agency. She apprenticed as a restorer of art and architecture.
Returning to the US, she started a restoration company in Sherman Oaks, where she worked on, among other things, Watts Tower, the LA Main Library, San Simeon, the Griffith Park Observatory Dome, the Hermitage in Nashville, and the pool at Caesar’s Palace. After a decade of hundred-hour plus weeks she contracted Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and slept 22 hours a day for the next two years. Her business was destroyed and she never completely recovered.
It was during this period that she met her future husband, a retired-of-wounds former Green Beret major, author, and screenwriter named Jim Morris. She was not impressed by his accomplishments, but they bonded over a mutual interest in Kundalini yoga, Tantra, and the works of W. Somerset Maugham, among others.
Her home in Sherman Oaks was destroyed in the Northridge Quake and after a trip to Thailand for the film adaptation of one of Morris’ stories she settled at last in Topanga, where she lived for the next twenty years.
Their relationship was volatile and they split for six years, but reunited in 2002 and married on December 11, 2008.
In July of 2016 she contracted transverse myelitis, an inflammation of the nerves which left her paralyzed from the solar plexus on down. Her home in Topanga was sold to provide for her care and she was moved to Woodland Hills. In spite of her paralysis and a dementia that came and went, she remained courageous, sometimes brilliant, and frequently bitingly witty until the last week of her life.
She died secure in the love of all who knew her. She is survived by her husband, Jim, and her sister, Susan.
She is not gone. She is complete.
I’m really upset to hear this news. Myrna & I met in Italy and stayed friends for many years. We had enourmous fun on all the trips we took together.
I deeply regret not seeing her when I had the opportunity some years back.
I will always love her. Sleep soft my dear friend.