Geraldine Hurley: a fierce advocate for those in need

| July 29, 2020 | 1 Comment

GERALDINE HURLEY believes change begins with the individual.

As former congressman and seminal civil rights leader John Lewis said, “When you see something that is not right, not just, not fair, you have a moral obligation to say something. … To do something.” That is a guiding principle of many Women of Larchmont – none more so than Geraldine Garrett Hurley.

Humble beginnings

Geraldine Hurley came from humble beginnings – her parents Ella Ree and John Sherman Garrett moved from Texas to Los Angeles during the Great Migration and she and her five siblings spent their early years in the Miravilla projects in East L.A.

“My mother was an orphaned mixed-race Black child,” Hurley begins, fondly recalling her Cherokee-Black mother, “and she brought us up to believe that if we worked hard and achieved an education, we could do anything.” She continues, “We never looked to see how many Black children were in the room – and we were often the only ones. It was [my mother’s] determination that we were going to be in the room.”

Since then she’s been in the room to work for religious tolerance, access to birth control and housing the homeless, among other concerns.

Whirlwind romance

After earning a history undergraduate degree, master’s in secondary education, and certification as a special education teacher, all at USC, Hurley began her teaching career until fate intervened in July 1972. That’s when she met Maurice (“Maury”) Hurley, on a blind date. A Minneapolis advertising executive in L.A. on business, he proposed to her that very night. She turned him down. He persisted. After a brief long-distance courtship, they married that December, and Geraldine Hurley joined him in Minneapolis for five years before returning to California so he could pursue a writing career, which would result in his earning such credits as executive producer and writer on “Star Trek: The Next Generation.”

Maurice Hurley had three children from a previous marriage whom he wasn’t allowed to see. “I didn’t want them to not have a father in their lives, to grow up and then say, ‘Where were you?’ ” Hurley states. “I started a campaign to get custody,” resulting in his two sons Timothy and Patrick joining them permanently; his daughter Seana stayed with her mother.

“I raised those boys like my own,” Hurley states, and she threw herself into stay-at-home motherhood, helping the older boys overcome learning disabilities and dyslexia, and taking care of their son Michael, born in L.A. in 1981. The Hurleys realized they wanted to provide a richer multi-cultural experience than found in Malibu, where they were living. “We came to Larchmont and fell in love with it. We decided to move to the area, to Hancock Park.”

Classrooms and causes

In spite of describing herself as a self-involved woman who spends hours on tennis and yoga, Hurley has always devoted countless selfless hours to our community. As is true for so many parents, Hurley became involved in her children’s schools, becoming chair of the parent association at St. James Episcopal School, joining the board at Harvard-Westlake, and serving on the Vestry of St. James in the ’80s, ’90s and now. As a woman of abiding faith, she also earned a certificate in theology from the University of the South (offered through St. James) after completing a four year study of the old and new testaments. She spent ten years as a docent at LACMA, and held various leadership positions at the Ebell, including multiple board chairmanships: membership, Rest Cottage Association (the charitable arm of the club) and governance, a position she originated.

Supporting family planning

In 1991 Hurley joined the board of Planned Parenthood Los Angeles for 12 years. She visited the organization’s border clinics to observe their successful effort to bring birth control to Mexican women who needed help controlling family size in order to stay in well-paying jobs in the American factories that had moved from the U.S. Inspired, she then served on the Planned Parenthood subgroup that followed the Mexican model and brought mobile clinics into the Latino community in Los Angeles. “We had neighborhood mentors to hold coffee klatches about birth control. … We worked at getting brick and mortar clinics built.” Now, Hurley says proudly, “East LA has some of the best clinics in the city.”

Tragedy strikes

Hurley returned to teaching before Michael left for college to stave off empty nest syndrome, but in 2011 she had to quit. “I was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and they didn’t expect me to live. [Maury and I] weren’t going to complain about it. … We talked about dying.” It took her two and a half years to recover from the operation, but 18 months later, Maury died. Hurley explains, “He had an aneurism on Valentine’s Day 2015.”

Fostering tolerance

A year after that devastating loss, Hurley embraced another societal need. She was disturbed by the rampant intolerance of Muslims in our country, and volunteered with The Institute for Religious Tolerance, Peace and Justice. She helped coordinate communication among the churches and temples along Wilshire Blvd. and the mosque on Vermont in order to foster religious understanding. She also noticed how humanely the mosque dealt with their homeless population and decided to devote herself to that important cause, which she has done for the past two and a half years.

Helping the homeless

Hurley refers to herself as a foot soldier with Stories from the Frontline, an organization that advocates for supportive housing to transition people off the streets. They aim to combat neighborhood resistance by educating the community and also making sure that proper support services are put in place.

On a monthly basis, Hurley visits various local city councils to gather and disseminate information about building supportive housing in their neighborhoods and she facilitates making connections between the concerned parties. “I find out where they’re building for the homeless. What they will look like. How they pick who moves in. … We would take people up to Selma Ave. to see the supportive housing there and explain the programs offered by the city to support these individuals.” Hurley points to one housing success story. “One of our worst cases was Sherman Oaks,” she states, referring to their initial NIMBY reaction to a building proposal. “Within nine months we were coming in enough and introducing enough information that the neighborhood council voted to build low-income housing.”

The power of one

Reflecting on her life, Geraldine Hurley crystalizes her philosophy. “Change happens one person at a time,” she affirms. “Working for the betterment of people begins with the individual saying, ‘Let me find other people like me’ – and you always find them.”

By Helene Seifer

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Category: People

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  1. Phyllis Goodman says:

    Thank for the story of a wonderful woman!

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