Genie Sapienza, Sweet Heart of Ocean Beach, Passes

by on January 2, 2020 · 13 comments

in Ocean Beach

Genie Sapienza – July 28, 1943 – 12/ 31/19

On the last day of 2019, Genie Sapienza, a sweet heart of Ocean Beach, passed away in her sleep on Tuesday, December 31. She had had some medical problems of late, and had suffered congestive heart failure about a month ago. She had been hospitalized for two weeks but had returned home two weeks ago and seemed on the mend.

Genie lived in many places over her 76 years, but her heart was always in Ocean Beach. Genie had been residing in the Orchard Apartments in the Midway District with her partner Charlie Johnson for several years.

Active in the community movement in Ocean Beach during the 1970’s, Genie raised her son David in OB – and although she moved around over the years to different locales, she always returned here.  Genie was one of those precious people who’s able to stay connected with countless people and make each one of them feel like they’re special. She had a tremendous heart – room for everybody. She will be greatly missed and OB has lost one of its greatest advocates.

Genie also went by Philips and also by Zucchini.

Genie is survived by her partner Charlie, her son David and his family and by many loving friends in OB and across the country.

{ 13 comments… read them below or add one }

Susan Schiele January 2, 2020 at 2:16 pm

I had known Genie since 1972 when she moved into the casita behind mine in City Heights. Her son , David, grew up with my kids and we went through our transition to Hippyhood together. When Genie moved to OB she became entrenched in the wonderful grassroots culture of the early seventies. Genie lived that life before that lifestyle was even noticed or appreciated. Genie told me not long ago, after being in the hospital, that when she passed it was so very important to her that she be remembered for always sticking up for the underdog. She was harassed in public school and called a “N-word” lover. She was damn proud of loving people of color. She helped me grow into that. I am honoring her wish to say it out loud. Genie was an irrepressible fighter for justice. She loved life. She felt so blessed. I will always miss her. Always.


Susan Schiele January 2, 2020 at 2:17 pm

Regarding our Genie. She called herself Genie Zucchini Phillips.


Bob Edwards January 2, 2020 at 2:48 pm

Thanks for the kind words about Genie. She was an amazing person and will be missed.


Dennis Doyle January 3, 2020 at 8:46 am

A fierce fighter for social justice, Genie was the heart of the OB movement and her commitment to equity knew no bounds. Genie’s love for all of us weaved bonds that continue to bring us together. I am so deeply saddened by her passing.


CARL ZANOLLI January 3, 2020 at 8:53 am

Genie was like a force of nature when she entered a room. She was always up and never down and she made you feel that way too. I thought she was just wonderful and I will miss her very much. Remember her well


Anna Daniels January 3, 2020 at 12:24 pm

Slipping into Genie Zucchini’s force field was always so effortless and so joyful. When Genie said that she was glad to see you her face lit up because she really was glad to see you. Then you are sitting right next to her picking up a conversation and a friendship that may have been interrupted by a year- long absence. The absence didn’t matter; being together in the moment did.
Genie filled up the moment with a unique kind of generosity. It was expressed in the openness of her face, eyes crinkled with laughter, a non-stop torrent of words about travels and people and ideas that were the bedrock of meaning and love in her life.
It is clear that Genie found life weird, wonderful and full of possibilities. She was fearless, kind and direct in her assessments. I always experienced a contact high in her presence. We would part with big smiles on our faces and say that we needed to get together soon.
I never imagined that Genie, that bright flame, would ever be extinguished. It is up to us, her friends, Charles, David and his family, to maintain that precious flame through our abiding love, our memory.
Long live Genie!


(Little) Austin January 3, 2020 at 4:49 pm

So many of my OB experiences involved Genie Zucchini and David Zebra (and Nancy and Paul Little ( can’t forget 22 (sometimes referred to as Venti-dos))). I also lived at the foot of Cape May; went to the OB Free School and shopped at People’s.

One of my favorite of those experiences was attending the Women’s Festival with my mom, Genie and David.

That OB was a time/era that continues to live on through the people who lived there back then. Eventually, so many people scattered away (a lot ended up back on the East Coast (such as myself)).

It is so rare that I get back to OB. But…just about 6 years ago, just after the birth of my two youngest, Genie, George and Jack “brought” our version of OB to Long Island and paid us a visit. A surprise gift I will always cherish.

Genie in 2013 was the same Genie I met in 1973. Love just pouring out of her pores.

I agree with all the comments regarding her activism and love for the underdog. But one aspect, the biggest and most important, of Genie that I’ve not yet seen mentioned is that:

one would be hard pressed to find a mother who loved her son more than Genie loved David!!!

Much love and comfort to David Zebra ??


Susan Schiele January 4, 2020 at 1:06 pm

Indeed. So very true. Fierce love, tender love. Proud of her David.


Peter Bohmer January 4, 2020 at 10:01 am

A central part of Genie’s life and being was her anti-racism. This is so important and appreciated and necessary and not common in OB. Furthering justice for all was a major motivation of this tough and caring person. Genie was a radical in the best sense of this word. Genie presente.


Sierra January 4, 2020 at 6:59 pm

Genie Zucchini Phillips- our original badass-
I met her back in ‘72 Ocean Beach, where we all were consciously community organizing as radical antiwar activists and she was right there outspoken in the center, at the OB Free School, in the women’s movement fiercely a feminist. She spoke for oppressed people, was staunchly anti- war and anti- racist. We traveled to support the occupation of Wounded Knee in 1973. We shared current activism. Our last conversation she told me she loved Bernie. She stayed true to her values. We will miss her greatly but for me I will continue to work for justice in her honor. Sierra Knight


Larry W. January 6, 2020 at 9:37 am

Genie was the 1st person I met, upon my arrival in OB in 1979. Luckily, we got to spend many, many days together, mostly laughing, at the beach, on the OB wall, at friend’s houses, concerts, Street Fairs, etc…. She was an extraordinarily warm person, who will be greatly missed by many of us in OB & others in the different locations she visited.

Genie – Rest In Peace – I love you forever. Larry


judy graves January 6, 2020 at 4:00 pm

Genie was my oldest, and dearest friend for 63 years..She truly had a heart of gold. I will love and miss her for all of my days…Rest in peace sweet face..”I love you most”


frankie lee January 7, 2020 at 8:59 am

red house , just that name, red house and the memories come rolling in of that funky beach block where cape may met the ocean . I lived there off and on for a lot of the 70s and as I recall red house [and genie z] was the center of the action. the place felt like a home away from home for a far flung gr0up of characters that could only exist right there , right then . ideas , ideals , music , laughter , heartfelt arguments , resistance strategies , deeply held beliefs , good cookin and more laughter came pourin out the windows on a daily basis as a world class cast of characters came and went. OB was so welcoming to me and to so many others and genie was a real reason with a big wide heart and a lotta soul. I already have missed her [and those days] for quite a while but I guess I could always miss her a little more. ORGANIZE! love from frankie lee[zariel]


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