Longtime Senior Planet contributor Erica Manfred passed away Thursday September 21 in hospice in Florida.
Erica Manfred was not one to mince words.
“That first page is a mess,” she told me about a piece of writing I sent her. “And the ending needs work.” She was a great editor who gave me fast feedback on my essays and she totally supported my writing career. I will miss her friendship and her fearless writing which appeared in her sub stack newsletter, “Snarky Senior.”
Erica never held back her opinions or her feelings and she dealt with aging and illness with incredible boldness and candor. In her last newsletter she wrote, “I’m now 80 but I feel 90. I have a couple of deadly diseases and will be lucky to get to 81. It really pisses me off that living to 90 or even 100 isn’t big deal anymore. Why don’t I get those extra years? … I reassure myself that at least I will avoid the slide into senility.”
On September 21, Erica Manfred died in Hospice by the Sea in Boca Raton, Florida . She was 80. Her daughter Tina was with her.
The Friend and Writer
Erica was my good friend for many decades. We first met when I worked as the office manager for the NY Local of the National Writers Union. A fellow member, she helped with events I had to organize. Erica volunteered to “schlepp” the wine and snacks in her car, making my job much easier.
Erica loved to gossip and give advice and recently wrote about her compulsion to offer unsolicited advice, while she admitted she was bad at it. Erica saw herself clearly with all her faults, a trait she used well in her humorous personal essays.
Whether she was writing about her lifelong struggles with weight or being a Jew going overboard decorating a Christmas tree with friends, she was funny.
In a recent essay about paranormal phenomenon, Erica wrote: “Mediums communicate with the dead, maybe because no one else will have anything to do with them. They want to let their loved ones know they’re OK. OK? How OK can you be when you’re dead.”
We last spoke on the phone on September 10. By then, she’d been in hospice care at home for several months due to advanced lung cancer. I noted that I’d see her in our writing group on September 20. During the pandemic, Erica had founded a workshop on zoom and we met every two weeks. Erica said, “Oh I’ll talk to you before then.”
Right after our call, she texted me a suggestion about how to mend a falling out I had with a gay male friend. I shot back that her idea would make things worse. She admitted, “Bad suggestion. G’nite.” I shook my head and sensed we were both laughing as we put down our phones. That was our final interaction and typical Erica.
A few days later, I learned that Erica had fallen and broken her hip, and she was admitted to a hospice facility. I thought it was eerie that her last Snarky Senior essay talked about when she fell and broke her hip years ago when she was living in upstate New York. It was almost like her last piece was a foreshadowing. She also predicted (correctly) that she would not make it to her next birthday, in December.
Life and History
Erica grew up in New Jersey, but moved to New York City right after high school and always considered herself a New Yorker. She graduated from City College and loved living in Manhattan . But after she married, she gave up her walk up apartment on the Upper East Side and moved upstate. After her divorce, she remained upstate in the Woodstock area. Erica always used her life as fodder for her writing and penned a self-help book called He’s History, You’re Not; Surviving Divorce After 40.
When she could no longer take the cold winters, Erica moved to Florida. She loved living there and swimming in the pool, but she hated the red state politics and railed against the picky rules in her apartment complex. Many of these essays are in her anthology, I’m Old So Why Aren’t I Wise?: Snarky Senior in the Sunshine State.
Erica was not just a personal essayist and humorist, she was an accomplished journalist who wrote about a wide variety of subjects- from technology to health care for a variety of magazines and newspapers and websites. Her essays and articles appeared in the Washington Post and USA Today and the New York Times. She was a technology columnist at Senior Planet for many years.
Erica kept writing up until the very end. In the last few months of her life, she published articles in Next Avenue about hiring a death doula and signing up for hospice care at home. Even as she was dying, she offered solid advice based upon research and her own personal experiences.
Erica Manfred was an original and authentic voice and she will be missed.
Kate Walter is the author of two memoirs: Behind the Mask: Living Alone in the Epicenter; and Looking for a Kiss: A Chronicle of Downtown Heartbreak and Healing. Her essays and opinion pieces have appeared in The New York Times, Newsday, New York Daily News, AM-NY, Next Avenue, The Advocate, The Village Sun and other outlets. She taught writing at CUNY and NYU for three decades and now works as a writing coach.