Sister remembers Laura Jadwin, horticulturist and landscaper who died, homeless, in a lot on MLK

Laura Jadwin was an accomplished landscaper but could not escape the clutches of alcoholism, her sister says.

Laura Jadwin was a horticulturist and landscaper whose alcohol problems may have contributed to her death in a lot on Friday. Photo: Laura Jadwin Facebook

Lisa Jadwin, the sister of Laura Jadwin, 55, who died in a lot on MLK on Friday night, wrote to Berkeleyside about Laura’s life. Her comments are below:

Thanks for the two pieces Berkeleyside wrote about Laura. It’s heartening to the family that her death and life are being recognized, by your articles and by the vigil held in her honor.

I thought I’d share some email thoughts about Laura’s story.

Laura was a 1983 graduate of UC Davis and worked for many years as a horticulturist and landscaper at various establishments including the Orchid Garden in Carmel Valley and a big nursery in Laguna Beach. She lived for nearly twenty years in Pacific Grove. She loved plants and had a strong design sense that her clients loved and was an accomplished mosaicist. She was married from 1997 to 2009 to an artisanal ironworker who still lives in the Monterey area.


Her alcoholism first became apparent to our family in the early 1990s and she spent many years and much effort trying to recover from it. She had eight stints in rehab and several long periods of sobriety when the family hoped that she had finally turned the corner on her disease.   She has left us many diaries and pieces of artwork she created as she worked through her 12-step program. One of her best rehab experiences was with Options Recovery Services in Oakland, where she had nine months of sobriety and a very good support system. (The people who run that place are AMAZING.) In the last six years, she was hospitalized in the ICU and was near death twice, first in the Community Hospital of the Monterey Peninsula in 2011 and in 2016 by Alta Bates hospital in Berkeley. The medical staff at both hospitals treated her with exceptional care and compassion.

What is really hard to say is that our family knew that she had chosen to be homeless. My father continually wrote her checks, hoping that she would spend the money on a motel room, which she sometimes did. But we rarely knew where she was. In November, she chose to leave a shelter where she could get her needs for shelter, food, and medical help met but would not be allowed to drink.

Her homelessness seems to have been part of a downward spiral of hopes raised and dashed, and she seemed to know and accept that her plan to drink towards oblivion would eventually kill her.

There are so many things about this story that are hard to hear about and hard to accept, but our family has come to understand that her disease was stronger than anything she or her large group of family and friends could help her with. Many, many people helped her work toward recovery; she was not ignored or cast aside or turned away against her will. Ultimately she chose her own way of ending her ordeal of consciousness.

A shrine at the Tuesday vigil for Laura Jadwin. Photo: Frances Dinkelspiel

Our family is heartbroken; her path downward has been very steep since my mother’s death in 2010.

I wish I could say that I know what could have saved Laura, what else could have been done, how things should or could have been different. I have no answers to those questions.