Helen Borgers
Helen Borgers. Courtesy Cal State Long Beach

Helen Borgers, a drive-time radio personality who was a leading voice of jazz in L.A., has died following surgery for a tumor. She was 60.

On air, Borgers, who had a booming voice and an easy laugh, explored both legends and up-and-comers, the Los Angeles Times reported Friday.

But her voice vanished from the airwaves in June when she was laid off by K-Jazz after 38 years, halting a career that stretched from the days of vinyl and turntables to the more sterile environment of punching buttons on a console.

On Nov. 12, after months of health problems, she died after surgery for a tumor, according to The Times.

Borgers was born in Kansas City, Missouri, on Aug. 9, 1957, but spent nearly all of her life in Long Beach.

She circulated an underground newspaper in junior high school that advocated greater individual freedoms for students. At Long Beach Polytechnic High, she designed her own curriculum and taught a study class on Shakespeare, according to The Times.

Raised in the era of the Beatles and the Stones, Borgers became a jazz convert when she was a teen, listening to Ella Fitzgerald in a “meditation room” her parents built for her in the garage, according to the newspaper.

“She was into Ella, and I “being more the angry young man, was into John Coltrane,” said her brother Ken, a longtime Southern California broadcaster and a DJ at KSDS Jazz 88.3 in San Diego.

Borgers began doing volunteer work at K-Jazz, then known as KLON, while studying literature at Cal State Long Beach. Her brother, who was program director at the station, said he asked her one day to fill in for a DJ who was ill. The DJ never returned, and she never left.

Outside the studio, Borgers poured her time and resources into the Long Beach Shakespeare Company, an ambitious if financially challenged outfit that performs out of a 37-seat theater, The Times reported. She fell for Shakespeare after seeing Franco Zeffirelli’s “Romeo and Juliet” and memorized all of Shakespeare’s sonnets and most of his plays by the time she was in high school, her brother said.

Borgers is survived by a sister, two brothers and her partner.

—City News Service

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