Farewell To The Wolfe Who Lived Next Door

Linda Wolfe went to bed in the wee hours of the morning and preferred not to make appointments before 1 pm. Although her books – fiction and non-fiction – and magazine articles had been published for over half a century, she was working tirelessly on a new novel of which she seemed most proud. 

One of Linda’s best-known books was Wasted: The Preppie Murder, about 19-year old Robert E. Chambers, Jr., who confessed to strangling 18-year-old Jennifer Levin in Central Park after having sex. Both attended elite Manhattan private schools; hence, the term ‘Preppie.’ The book delved into their family backgrounds and uncovered a privileged urban youth subculture consumed with alcohol, drugs and sex. The New York Times named Wasted  a notable book of the year in 1989. 

                    Linda and daughter Jessica

Linda had extraordinary discipline (although she couldn’t quit smoking) and an exceptional work ethic. She was 87. She became my friend about a decade ago. Now she’s gone.

Linda Wolfe died on February 20th following complications after bowel surgery.  She finished the first draft of her novel Unforeseen Circumstances before she left us. I hope her daughter sees it through to publication. 

I admired Linda’s writing long before I met her. Fifteen years my senior, she was a star writer at New York Magazine from the 1970s to the 1990s. ‘If only I could write like her,’ I enviously and often thought as I read her articles. Linda specialized in researching and writing about crime, an affinity she discovered when she covered the case in 1975 of twin Manhattan gynecologists found dead in their trash-filled apartment.

Linda became fascinated by the psychological motivation behind startling crimes and the events leading up to them. “I’m more interested in what went before and what comes after than in the actual crime itself,” she told the Los Angeles Times. 

Linda’s first marriage to an editor ended in divorce, and her second husband, psychologist Max Pollack, died in 2007. She had a daughter, two granddaughters  and two stepdaughters. She remained close to her stepdaughters. Max was the love of her life. 

I met Linda when she became my next door neighbor around 2010. I’ll always remember the doorman telling me a woman writer had just moved in (doormen in Manhattan tend to know everything about every tenant and their extended families!) ‘What’s her name?’ I asked. ‘Linda Wolfe,’ he said. I couldn’t wait to meet her!

We bonded immediately. Linda bought a few pieces of my aunt’s furniture that I was selling after she died. She loved decorating her new apartment. I gave her vintage Limoges trinket boxes that I’d collected but knew she’d enjoy more than I. When we had to vacate the building after it sold and was being converted into multi-million dollar condos, Linda and I would commiserate how much we’d miss living steps away from each other. 

                        Linda, Carol and Geri

Linda volunteered to write book reviews for FabOverFifty. An avid reader, she received countless books from publicists and wanted to share her love of the written word.  

We last saw each other in late July last year, when we had lunch with Carol, another former neighbor on our floor. Although Linda was finding it harder to get around – and relied on a walker – she never for a moment felt sorry for herself. She told me she was planning to sell the apartment she had bought after moving out of the building where we were neighbors. Linda hoped to move into an exclusive independent living residence on the west side, where my former husband happens to lecture a couple of times a month. Living alone was becoming less and less tenable as she increasingly limited her outside activities. 

Linda and I had a date to visit Carol a few months ago, who moved from Manhattan to Connecticut.  The weather forced us to cancel. I hadn’t reached out to Linda since then so I didn’t know she was ill. It wouldn’t have been like her to overshare her health problems with her friends. 

Rest in peace, Linda. And try to take it easy on yourself, for heaven’s sake! It was a blessing to call you a friend.

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