Robert Epstein; Ex-Times Arts Editor, Columnist


Robert Epstein, former executive arts editor and columnist of The Times and a news executive with the now defunct Los Angeles Herald Examiner, died Thursday at age 67.

He died at his home in Carlsbad after a brief battle with cancer, his son Andrew said.

A columnist in recent years, Epstein had throughout his 16 years with The Times contributed first-person articles about a special vacation or an emotional visit with his daughter serving in the Peace Corps in West Africa.

"Bob brought cool professionalism and great good humor to his editing," said Shelby Coffey III, Times editor and executive vice president. "Like the legendary editors of 'The Front Page' era, he always had a handy quip in a tense moment. He had a fine sense of how to steer a story and how to help a reporter. He was a great man who did much for journalism in Los Angeles."

Epstein came to The Times in 1977 as editor of View, the features section now called Life & Style. He became executive arts editor of the Calendar section in 1981 and served in that capacity for a decade.

In 1990, Epstein switched to writing a column on cultural subjects, titled simply "Robert Epstein." He retired from The Times in 1993.

Epstein previously had worked 21 years at the Herald Examiner, leaving 12 years before its demise. He began as editorial director of its Sunday magazine called California Living, and moved up to assistant Sunday editor, Sunday editor and assistant managing editor.

Epstein taught college courses concurrently with his work at the two newspapers. Over the years, he lectured on journalism at Cal State L.A., Los Angeles Trade Tech, West Los Angeles College and USC.

He won several awards for feature writing, including recognition from the National Education Assn., the California Teachers Assn. and Hearst Newspapers. In 1983 he was given the distinguished alumnus award of the Cal State L.A. School of Arts and Letters.

Born April 10, 1929, in Denver, Epstein moved to Los Angeles as a child. He proudly boasted of growing up in Boyle Heights.

He is survived by his wife of 41 years, Jacqueline Helman Epstein; two sons, Andrew and Matthew Epstein of Los Angeles; two daughters, Elaine Hallett of Los Angeles and Eden Rock of Minneapolis; and six grandchildren.

A memorial service is scheduled for 1 p.m. Jan. 19 at the Stephen S. Wise Temple in Los Angeles. The family has requested that any memorial contributions be made to the American Cancer Society.

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