Monthly Archives: June 2011
I am an author who writes about law. I have been a member of the California State Bar since 1979, but most of my work has been writing books, chapters, articles, and appellate briefs. In 1979 I went to work for the legendary San Francisco attorney Melvin Belli helping him to revise his book Modern Trials into a five-volume set titled Modern Trials Second Edition.
In 1986, I was the coauthor with Mr. Belli of the bestselling consumer’s book, “Everybody’s Guide to the Law.” Mr. Belli died in 1996 and I prepared a second edition of the book in 2003, which was published by Quill (an imprint of HarperCollins).
I met Evelyn Einstein in the early 2000s. I was writing an article on the stigma attached to persons with mental illnesses. In my research, I had read an article that one of Albert Einstein’s two children suffered from schizophrenia. This intrigued me, that arguably the brightest scientist ever to have lived could have a son with such a devastating mental disorder.
I wanted to learn more about the son, Eduard, and did some research and found Evelyn in Albany. I wrote her a letter with a copy of “Everybody’s Guide to the Law” (a bestselling consumers’ guide to the law I wrote with Mr. Belli) to let her know I was not some crackpot trying to ingratiate himself into the Einstein clan. Evelyn and I soon talked on the telephone and I went up to Albany to see her (I lived in Los Angeles County at the time). Evelyn and I hit it off immediately, as though we had known each other all of our lives.
Thus began a 10-year relationship with Evelyn which consisted of two- to three-hour telephone conversations every Wednesday and Saturday and occasional trips up to the San Francisco Bay Area. Evelyn and I were kindred spirits and had a long distance relationship with occasional trips on my part up to Albany. I loved Evelyn as much as it is possible for one human being to love another and know she felt the same way about me, as we occasionally talked about our relationship. We also talked about variety things, including her medical condition, her friends, science, what it was like growing up Einstein, etc.
Our conversations usually started with Evelyn out of breath and feeling a little grumpy because of her serious medical conditions. But after listening to her vent about her doctors and how she was feeling for 30 minutes, we enjoyed wonderful conversations and playful banter for an hour and a half or longer. Although she suffered from some significant physical conditions, Evelyn’s mind was as sharp as a tack.
Evelyn had a wealth of stories to tell, from her adoption and whether she was really a “love child” of Albert Einstein to her days of school in Switzerland to her time as a dog catcher, volunteer police officer, and 20 years as a cult deprogrammer. Evelyn was never at a loss for words or fascinating stories.
I remember one of the last times we spoke, shortly before her death. Evelyn had been battling angina for a number of years and the nitroglycerin capsules helped her tremendously. We were talking on the phone and she had a severe attack of angina. She excused herself for a couple of minutes so she could take her nitroglycerin, which seemed to work wonders for her.
I loved Evelyn because she was a bright woman with a keen (some would say wicked) sense of humor. We were each other’s best therapists. I remember the day Evelyn passed away. I received a call from the Albany police department asking me if I knew Evelyn Einstein. I answered that I did and asked whether anything had happened to her, but the police officer wouldn’t say anything more. Two hours later I received a call from the Alameda County Coroner’s office asking if I knew Evelyn Einstein. I remember saying, “You’re calling to tell me that Evelyn Einstein is dead, right?” The deputy Coroner affirmed that was the reason for his call. I didn’t get much other information out of him, as to the circumstances surrounding her death.
A day or two later I received a call from Kennan Salinero that she and Lou MacMillan, Evelyn’s dear friend for 40 years, had found a short handwritten will giving all of her estate to me. Lou later e-mailed me that Evelyn gave me her entire estate and that Evelyn liked me because I was the only honest lawyer which for her seemed a contradiction. Although I am a lawyer, I am mainly a legal writer, writing books, chapters, and articles for both legal professionals and the general public.
Evelyn left her worldly possessions to me because she cared about me. She told me who was to get certain things and I intend to honor her wishes. I would trade my inheritance in a second for a few more years talking with Evelyn. I have a big hole in my heart and void in my life with Evelyn’s passing. As I said, I loved Evelyn as much as it is possible for one person to love another. I will do my best to honor her memory and wishes and see that the estate is distributed according to Evelyn’s wishes.
Evelyn trusted me in life and I in turn vow to honor her memory in death.
Allen P. Wilkinson
The Albany Patch published a nice article with photos of the June 18, 2011 Memorial for Evelyn Einstein, where many of her friends gathered to pay their respects.
I first met Evelyn Christmastime 1985. I was looking for correspondence between her paternal grandparents and on a hunch I contacted Evelyn. The friendship that developed from that chance meeting was far more satisfying for me than my eventual rediscovery of the Love Letters between Albert Einstein and Mileva Marić.
I don’t have many anecdotes to tell nor do I remember Evelyn’s many witticisms. I leave that to others who knew her better than I did. What remains crystal clear in my memory of her is a delicious mix of fatalism and free-spirited exuberance. Her telephone conversations with me seemed to mirror this effect: Evelyn would start off in a hoarse, halting voice, somewhat grumpy, but half an hour into the conversation she had hit her stride and was skipping along rhetorically: a deft wisecrack at the expense of one of the insurance companies with which she was wrestling, here; a hearty laugh about some political hypocrite, there: Like Grandfather Albert, she was after all contemptuous of those in authority. Our talks would often end with her request that on my next trip to Switzerland, I buy her beef bouillon cubes from Maggi, a subsidiary of the Swiss food processing giant, Nestlé. I was never able to convince her that the cubes could be bought just as readily in Albany, let alone Berkeley.
I mention the Maggi cubes for another reason. They provide access to a deeper tangle in my friend’s personality. I always had the feeling that her free spirit was hedged in by an almost bittersweet hankering for things Swiss, things that reminded her of the neatness and orderliness of her childhood. This contrasted with Evelyn’s identification with the freewheeling lifestyle in the Bay Area, where she spent a significant part of her youth and adult years. Superficially, the laissez-faire, laid-back culture was a better fit, but this overlooks Evelyn’s attachment to prim and proper Switzerland, personified above all by her mother Frieda, whom she deeply loved. The inherent contradiction condemned her to outsider status in both European and American societies, a status that I think she embraced willingly, even though it caused her much pain. Fitting in was not in Evelyn’s DNA. The price she paid for this was being thought eccentric by many, not necessarily a virtue in our conformist culture. I may be particularly sensitive to this particular aspect of her personality as I worked my own way through similar polarities. Needless to say, this feature of her background provided a real bond between us.
Another aspect, which resonated deeply with me, was her radical free-thinking, a trait which she also shared with grandfather Albert. It definitely ensured her unpopularity with certain members of her family, but she was always more interested in being straightforward than in toeing a line. Her protest fifty years ago of the House Un-American Activities’ Committee’s un-American activities was but a rare public demonstration of that which privately burned within her. She was a staunch supporter of social justice without being dogmatic about it. It was her playful sense of humor that protected her from taking any position or herself too seriously. Imbedded in this natural modesty was a wicked ability to ridicule pomposity in others, often assigning unflattering nicknames to those she felt had taken advantage of her, particularly those who wanted to rub shoulders with her merely because she was an Einstein. This most probably added emphasis to her search for authenticity in others, what in German is called Echtheit, genuineness.
As for all gathered here today, it was a great privilege for me to have known Evelyn. She had a quality of funkiness, which is sadly lacking today. Her opinions, though often unconventional, were well thought-out. She was a quiet drummer who marched to her own beat. Would there were more like her.