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Danila Oder

March 13, 1959 - July 20, 2023

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Danila Belle Oder, 64, passed away peacefully at her home in Los Angeles on July 20 after enduring ovarian cancer for three years. She was active and functional almost to the last.

An independent woman with eclectic intellectual curiosity as well as a playful side, Danila pursued her interests and passions, including photography, religious history, and gardening. She was loyal, responsible, and always willing to help others.

Danila was born in Brooklyn on March 13, 1959. She was the older child of Irwin Oder and Phyllis Weinus, with younger brother Norman, Ashkenazi Jews descended from Eastern Europe.

Danila lived in Flatbush, Brooklyn, until a move to Bay Shore, Long Island in 1967 (her father taught at Dowling College). In 1976, she began history studies at the Univ. of Chicago; she took a year off to pursue photography. In 1991 she moved to Los Angeles, where she became a mainstay for her beloved aunt Sylvia Fischer (d., 2007). She loved living in the big city.

Danila had a varied career: legal and academic secretary, clinical trials manager, waitress, house painter, vegetarian line cook and sous chef, background actor, humor writer (https://tinyurl.com/DanilaHumor), copy editor, proofreader, ESL teacher, and gardener. Her former employer at USC Medical Center described her as a crucial editor, program manager, and academic resource. She loved to teach, particularly children, and be a lay therapist for some friends.

Danila was an activist for vegetarianism and pure food throughout the 1990s with EarthSave and the Organic Consumers Association. In 2000, she was awarded the 24 Carrot Award (https://tinyurl.com/24CarrotDanila) from Vegetarians in Paradise for her activism. She was an accomplished vegetarian cook. She lived simply, without television or, later, a cell phone or social media.

Danila regretted that she’d not formed a conventional partnership or hosted family gatherings–she realized late in life that she’d always been asexual–but recognized that her independence gave her opportunity to develop her interests, build her friendships, and be of service to friends, relatives, organizations, and colleagues.

In 2010, Danila joined the Crenshaw Community Garden, the city’s oldest community garden, where she soon became volunteer manager (and remained so for 13 years) of a diverse group of gardeners. This job engaged her management skills and gave her pride that she was facilitating a “third place” in the midst of the city.

Always physically active, Danila joined the YMCA in 2003 and attended regularly. In 2010, she gave up automobiles for a bicycle and public transport. She was a longtime advocate for Los Angeles’ Griffith Park, helping push back on encroaching commercialism.

Since childhood, Danila documented her time and place in photographs. She shot, edited and uploaded more than 2,200 photographs to Wikimedia Commons (https://tinyurl.com/DowntownGal) including black and white photos from 1978-79, capturing images of Bay Shore and Chicago. She also contributed to Wikipedia and enjoyed categorizing historical photographs on Commons.

Throughout her life, Danila intensively engaged with Jewish identity and practice. In recent years, she enjoyed attending Jewish and Catholic services as well as appreciating other spiritual traditions. In 2010, Danila began investigating why Christianity was the last successful alternative to Pharisaism among the Judean people. In 2019, she published her insights into the Gospel of Mark in a speculative but historically grounded book.

In that book, Danila proposed that Mark wrote a performed play starring the Jesus figure for his Judean congregation in Rome, then revised the play into a narrative. She added observations on her website and blog (https://tinyurl.com/DanilaTGOM). Her book, The Two Gospels of Mark: Performance and Text, is available at the Internet Archive (https://tinyurl.com/TwoGospelsDanila) and at online bookstores. A chapter summarizing her proposals appears in the 2021 anthology, Varieties of Jesus Mythicism.

Danila then took on new projects. In addition to her blog, she studied French and dabbled in Korean. She ran for her local Neighborhood Council. She did much spiritual work and was looking forward to renovating her life for “Danila 2.0.”

Danila was grateful to have achieved the three goals she set as a teenager. One was to get good and sufficient psychotherapy. The second was to write and publish an original book. The third was to mentor a child: she was fortunate to be “Auntie Danila” for 25 years to Anthony and Joseph Eide. She hoped she achieved her Bat Mitzvah goal: to be wise.

Some of her guiding principles were: “First, assume good faith;” “We all prejudge, because our brains cannot help generating patterns. But we should get more data before we act;” and “As all illiterate people know, God is in everything, and therefore can be worshiped through anything.”
Danila leaves her devoted brother, Norman Oder, and his caring partner, Maryanne Veshecco, both of NYC. She leaves her beloved honorary nephews, Anthony Eide of San Francisco (partner Josh Navarro) and Joseph Eide of Burbank. Thank you for contributing to my life, and for letting me affect yours.
Danila also leaves several cherished friends, and many warm associations with Crenshaw Community Garden members, past and present. Also, affection for the members of the Los Feliz Writers Block, writing together since 2014, where Danila is remembered for the stimulating conversation, curiosity, and laughs she contributed.

Danila thanks all those who helped her with recommendations, and physical and emotional support during her cancer treatment, especially Irene Creighton, Leigh Fortier, Susan Nickels, Peter Defty, & her clients Dr. Robindra Paul and Dr. Noelia Silva del Rio. Much appreciation to her Hollywood & Anderson-Munger YMCA instructors. And Merci beaucoup to her French teachers.

Thanks to the doctors and nurses at Kaiser Sunset LA, who pursued every treatment possible and, as part of Danila’s care, facilitated her taking advantage of California’s End of Life Option Act, allowing for Medical Aid in Dying and avoiding hospitalization.

Danila’s body was cremated and her ashes will be scattered in a Brooklyn park. She will return to merge with her original big-city home. A memorial service was held July 29 at the Crenshaw Community Garden. In lieu of flowers, please consider a donation to your favorite religious organization or the Los Angeles Community Garden Council.

This obituary was drafted by Danila Oder and edited by Norman Oder, with some friends’ input.