Erin Leslie Whitney

November 22, 1983 - May 31, 2023

“The mystery of life isn’t a problem to solve, but a reality to experience.” – Dune (Erin’s favorite book)


If a person’s lifespan were determined by the experiences they relished, their character, or the number of hearts they touched, then Erin Leslie Whitney would have outlived us all. Sadly, Erin passed away due to recurrent lymphoma on Wednesday, May 31st 2023 at the age of 39. Although she spent the last year of her life in and out of treatment, her optimism was unshakable, she never despaired, and those of us that loved Erin are forever grateful for her inspiring example. Indeed, many of us recall that even during the worst of it, Erin was only worried about her friends, and making sure she was still there for us all. As we all knew, Erin adored reading and writing. Books were often her love language, and something she connected with many people on. She once wrote of the book Timequake by Kurt Vonnegut, “He has a whole lot of awful stuff happen to him and his family and yet he takes it in stride, transmuting it from something tragic into something resonant and universal. I love him, and I love this book. If I start reading Vonnegut quotes, I’ll start crying.” I can’t help but feel that she took inspiration from that story during her time battling cancer, and now we can take her example and continue to inspire others.

Erin was born November 22, 1983 to Gail Bowen and Michael Whitney in Corpus Christi, Texas. She attended Flour Bluff High school and later graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Anthropology from Texas A&M University in 2006. After graduation, Erin made her way to Austin, Texas where she lived for a short time before heading to Seattle, Washington for graduate school. There she received a master’s degree in Museology in 2009. In 2016, Erin moved from Seattle to Los Angeles, California where she found new career inspiration and attended UCLA to pursue a certificate in interior design in 2021. Also while in Los Angeles Erin met Zenji Oguri with whom she found a true partner and true love. She is survived by her mother, Gail, her father, Mike, her partner, Zenji, as well as her brother Ryan Whitney, her grandfather Weldon Bowen, her aunts, uncles, and cousins. Throughout her life Erin’s thoughtful, elegant, and genuine nature earned her many close friends who consider her to be the best friend many of them have ever had, and they will also carry on her memory and legacy.

Erin could find and capture beauty with words and pictures, as well as with her surroundings and appearance, having been a gifted writer, photographer, decorator, and fashionista. She will live on and be remembered through these mediums. In her search for beauty she also searched for spiritual meaning. At times she felt much like the main character in one of her favorite books, Biting the Sun by Tanith Lee, when the character explains… “I began to feel lighthearted. Don’t ever do that; it tempts some dark and evil force abroad in the universe.” Those that were with her near the end know and take comfort in the fact that she did find peace and serenity before her death, having described herself as feeling “held in God’s hand”.

Erin, ever environmentally conscious, wished for her remains to be composted and the soil used to plant several memorial trees in the locations that meant the most to her, including Texas, Washington, and California. Erin loved novels and hoped that loved ones and strangers could rest under her tree and take a peaceful moment to read. Those of us who loved Erin will always be grateful for the time we spent together and will take some consolation that we may see her again one day. We can only hope to move into eternity with the perspective, as we feel she had, that “everything was beautiful and nothing hurt (Kurt Vonnegut, Slaughterhouse-Five).”

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