The Woodland Hills home and hospital run by the Motion Picture & Television Fund (MPTF) reported its first case of the coronavirus on March 31, with another six positive tests on Friday. In an emailed letter to The Hollywood Reporter, MPTF CEO and president Bob Beitcher writes about the first resident to die of complications related to the virus.
On April 6, we lost our first resident at MPTF to COVID-19 — John Breier. He died at West Hills Hospital.
John’s wife, Mona, was a longtime member of Local 174. He lived with an MS diagnosis for over 25 years and when in 2014 his family could no longer care for him at home, he joined our family on the Wasserman campus in Woodland Hills in our skilled nursing unit, Mary Pickford House.
John had a son and a daughter and three grandchildren. While he struggled at times to say it, he loved all of them dearly and spoke about them all the time. He died a day before the start of the Jewish celebration of Passover.
John was the child of Holocaust survivors and attributed his own personal resiliency to watching their own suffering. He wore a Jewish star earring. John was a real character!
He had a very special relationship with the Mary Pickford social worker Tiffany Lawrence. She wrote yesterday: “I was his best friend. He always called me that. He was known as Cookie John in my family. He was always so sweet to my boys when they visited.”
We all knew John for his persistence. If he had a problem or was facing a challenge, he could be relentless. Tiffany wrote: “He always found me, whether in my office or walking down the hall, he knew how to run into me. His random butt dials at odd hours and long messages may not be missed, but his smile and his care for me was special.”
MPTF chaplain Dina Kuperstock spoke to John on Saturday. She wrote afterward, “I asked if he wanted the Jewish prayer for healing, the Mi Sheberach, or the prayer for when one may be facing one’s mortality. He chose the Mi Sheberach, which invokes Jewish ancestors, saying it was more hopeful and that he didn’t want to give up. But he took comfort knowing that if this was his time, he would be reunited with his parents. He was eager to tell them about his grandchildren. Then he said he had only one more thing to say: ‘Please tell everyone at the home that I love them, that I’m strong, and that I’m not giving up yet.”
John was 64 years old. We send our thoughts and prayers to his family. May his memory be a blessing to all of us always.
—Bob Beitcher, President & CEO, MPTF