Photo of June Omura Goldberg
June Omura Goldberg

Obituary of June Omura Goldberg

September 15, 2020

June Omura Goldberg, 85, longtime Chief of Reporters at LIFE magazine, died at home on September 15, 2020. A lifelong New Yorker and devoted patron of the arts, she was the beloved aunt of June Omura Wheeler (William), Susan Omura, Ann Omura, and George Omura (Miriam); great-aunt to June, Wes, Emi, Kira, and Henry; sister-in-law to Emily Omura; and dear friend to many. She was predeceased by parents Bunji and Martha Pilger Omura, brother George A. Omura, and former husband Joel Goldberg. Her survivors include the legion of friends she remained close to over many decades as well as new friends she made even in her last few weeks, after her metastatic cancer diagnosis. She was beloved by all for her gentle ways, her cheerful pragmatism, her keen discernment, her musical laugh, her thoughtfulness, and her delight in the artistic and intellectual life of New York City.

A proud graduate of Hunter College High School and Queens College, she had a long career in publishing, starting in the mail room at Time Inc. when she was 15 and then moving up into reporting and research. By 1964, she was a chief of research at Time-Life Books, then worked at General Learning Corporation and Silver Burdett developing educational materials before returning to Time-Life Books to lead research on "The Old West" and other projects. When LIFE magazine was reincarnated as a monthly in 1978, June became its Chief of Reporters, guiding, mentoring, and befriending the staff through seven changes of editorial leadership. Her invaluable skills were extolled in a publisher's note in the July 1988 issue that said, in part, "Chief of reporters June Omura Goldberg is a one-woman traffic control tower--operating from a cluttered office columnist Loudon Wainwright describes as 'the most incredible den in history.' She coordinates the comings and goings of 16 staffers, and it is up to her to make sure that there are enough hands available to verify the facts in every story under consideration….Says assistant managing editor Mary Steinbauer, 'She's the ultimate problem solver.'...June's remarkable memory and resourcefulness have left their mark on each issue."

After retirement, she earned a master's degree in Costume Preservation from the Fashion Institute of Technology and also studied Japanese, while continuing to recruit friends for frequent trips to museum exhibits, plays, music concerts, operas, and dance performances (New York City Ballet and the Mark Morris Dance Group were special favorites). She attended the Japanese American United Church faithfully and for many years spent happy summer weekends in Phillipsport, New York. Her brilliant mind and generous heart will be greatly missed by her family and many cherished friends.

A memorial celebration of her wonderful life well-lived will be planned for a future date.

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