Longtime disc jockey, theatre director dies

Helen Borgers was known as an ambitious woman with strong work ethic

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Helen Borgers, longtime Long Beach disc jockey and Shakesperian director, died Sunday, Nov. 12, after a months-long bout with numerous medical issues, per a family statement on her Facebook page.

Helen Borgers, who introduced many Long Beach residents to jazz songs for nearly four decades as a disc jockey for KKJZ (KJAZZ), died on Sunday, Nov. 12, after numerous medical issues kept her in intensive care since July, according to a family statement on her Facebook page.

“Helen, the woman who inspired and enriched the lives of thousands of people in art, literature, music, theatre and so much more, who followed her passion in spite of what anyone thought, took her last breath today, at high noon, after a long, brave fight with the many health issues she faced,” the statement reads.

Cannon Coccellato, her longtime partner, confirmed the news with the Signal Tribune in a phone interview on Wednesday and shared a prepared statement that he intended to read at a screening event, which was originally a fundraiser for Borgers’s medical expenses, earlier this week at the Art Theatre.

“While in the hospital, under intense situations, you get to reflect on what really matters and what’s really important,” Coccellato said. “And, after climbing the stairs thousands of times, there’s a plaque on the wall with a quote by Elbert Hubbard– ‘We work to become, not to acquire.’ And after seeing it […] I realized that that sign, in just a few words, said so much about Helen. She spent a lifetime becoming [and] doing all the things she ever wanted to do– reading everything she could read, becoming, as one English cabby named Knobby once said to her, ‘A fountain of information.’”

He continued, “Helen, the unstoppable Helen Borgers, challenged herself, which ultimately challenged the people around her and challenged not only her hometown, but the globe itself. So, after careful reflection, I understand something about Helen that I never understood before. Where the rest of the world, a good majority of it, is all about ‘acquiring,’ Helen, beautiful Helen Borgers, was about becoming. And I believe in the next world, which is right here next to us in the air we breathe, she is still becoming and growing […]”

The Art Theatre screening-event proceeds contributed to Borgers’s funeral and leftover medical costs. A fundraiser page has also been set up to assist in further medical expenses at youcaring.com/helenborgers-1004353.

In addition to her work at KJAZZ– where she was employed for many years since her days as an intern in high school– Borgers was also artistic director for the nonprofit Long Beach Shakespeare Company since the late ‘90s.

Coccellato praised his partner’s personality, mentality and passion when it came to everything she aspired to work on and accomplish. He believes that her presence is still prevalent even in death.

“We’re all sad, but one thing I told a family member is that Helen is a teacher, and she left a lot of instruction, and it’s really up to us to look at that [if we want to be inspired],” he said. “Her work ethic is just incredible. She was unstoppable. […] I don’t believe in ‘rest in peace’ kind of stuff […] she’s still working, and she’s still going on.”

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