Written by Colleen Farrell
Photographed by Kristin Anderson
Barbara was one of 23 runners featured on an iconic work by famed urban
muralist Kent Twitchell, which spanned a wall adjacent to the Century
Freeway off-ramp for years. “I’m one of the runners, but I
don’t run. In fact my hero is Calvin Coolidge, who once said, ‘I
do not choose to run,’” she deadpans.
“The artist was looking for volunteers,” she recalls, providing
few details on how the opportunity came about. But such is a day in the
life of Barbara Lurie—a life that personifies the quote from Roman
philosopher Seneca: “Luck is what happens when preparation meets
The mural appearance seems slightly less serendipitous in light of another
of her passions—freehand portrait painting.
“If I have a friend whose parent or spouse has passed away, I generally
do a portrait and give it to them,” she says. “I also look
in the newspaper, and if I see a young person has died and I can figure
out where their parents live, I do a portrait and give it to them. Sometimes
I think I freak people out, but I’ve gotten some lovely responses.”
Among her favorite portrait subjects is her husband, Torrance Memorial
cardiologist Dr. Mark Lurie. Despite having attended K through 12 together
in Cleveland, Ohio, the couple didn’t meet until college at Ohio
State. When a mutual friend introduced the pair, it took three asks before
Barbara finally accepted a date.
“It wasn’t that I wasn’t interested. I was just busy,”
she says. Her busyness included graduating Summa Cum Laude with distinction
in psychology and being a member of Phi Beta Kappa honor society. After
earning her bachelor of science in psychology, she earned a master of
science in clinical psychology from the University of Wisconsin.
Despite Mark being “very supportive and a great guy,” Barbara
resisted giving up her freedom for what she calls the “M”
word. She finally gave in because her mother had begun to spread the word
that the couple was planning nuptials. “So I figured OK, I have
to bite the bullet,” she says.
Forty-six years later, it appears everything has worked out. But the couple
still celebrate the anniversary of their first date, instead of the “M” word.
The Road to Torrance Memorial
After Ohio State, Mark attended medical school at Rush University in Chicago.
A residency at County USC Medical Center prompted the couple’s move
to Los Angeles, which led to his board certification in cardiovascular
disease and a fellowship at UC Irvine Medical Center. His first private
practice job would follow in Torrance, where he was instrumental in building
Torrance Memorial’s heart program and eventually became its co-medical
director. He also serves as a team doctor for the University of Southern
California football team.
Meanwhile, Barbara followed her passion. For more than two decades, she
was a bureau director for the Los Angeles County Department of Mental
Health. “After 24 years I thought it’s time to turn the page,” she says.
She landed a position as the entertainment industry’s liaison for
the Voice Awards, a federal government-funded enterprise that recognizes
the entertainment industry for positive depictions of substance abuse
and mental health. She also served as assistant director of a program
that awarded grants to community care clinics to integrate mental and
One day on a whim, Barbara responded to an ad seeking a food critic. She
landed the job and spent the next 20 years writing restaurant reviews
for The Easy Reader and later the Daily Breeze. A mention of the gig during
a vacation in Florida led to another invitation. Now each year the couple
serve as judges in the American Pie Council’s National Pie Championship
Contest in Orlando, televised on the Food Network.
To give back to the medical center, Mark and Barbara are actively involved
in the Torrance Memorial Foundation—Mark, as president, and together,
as members of the Ambassadors, the premier support program for Torrance
Memorial, which raises funds for the burn center, Turpanjian Rehabilitation
Services, Hunt Cancer Institute and the health education program.
“For 45 years Ambassadors have been a vital link to the community”
she says. “Torrance Memorial has given us so much in terms of Mark’s
job, but we’re also appreciative for what they do for the community.
They rebuild lives, help people regain independence, and protect and enhance
the health of South Bay residents.”
To express gratitude for Mark’s work in building Torrance Memorial’s
cardiovascular program, Melanie and Richard Lundquist surprised the couple
in 2017 by announcing it would be renamed the Lundquist Lurie Cardiovascular
In addition to their involvement at the medical center, the couple also
volunteer for the Partnership Scholars mentoring program, where they introduce
academically motivated, but economically disadvantaged students to educational
and cultural experiences, to promote future success. “I get a kick
out of it. I’m kind of a camp counselor at heart, so it’s
very fulfilling to me,” Barbara says. She also volunteers to teach
a weekly art class for the blind. What’s next for Barbara is anyone’s guess.
“At this age I’m a winter chicken, so I’m thinking what
boards can I be on, what more volunteer work can I do to give me more
purpose? How can I make my life more worthwhile?” she explains.
“I would like to be busier. I want to be a verb, not a noun.”
For more information on the Ambassadors annual giving program, visit
torrancememorial.org/ambassadors or call Judith Gassner at 310-517-4704.