MINNEAPOLIS (AP) -- Geri Joseph said she pleaded with her daughter, Shelley Joseph-Kordell, to keep her distance from her cousin, Susan Berkovitz.
"I said, 'You have to be very careful,"' Joseph said. "She said, 'Well, Mother, this is family and maybe I can help."'
Instead, over the past year, Joseph said, Berkovitz had stalked, threatened, hit and pushed Joseph-Kordell. The family warned authorities that Berkovitz was dangerous, only to be told, they said, that officials could do nothing until she actually hurt someone.
On Monday, officials say, Berkovitz followed Joseph-Kordell into a bathroom at the Hennepin County Government Center and fatally shot her.
"This woman had never had the kind of assistance she needed," Joseph told the Star Tribune on Tuesday evening. "People stayed away from her, even her own family. She never got any kind of psychiatric care or counseling or institutionalization, which she needed. Shelley felt very sorry for her."
Joseph said she wants the public to know about the risks of untreated mental illness and about a very special daughter who conducted her business as a conservator in such a personal way that clients called her a Rent-a-Daughter.
"She devoted her life to the care of older people," said Joseph, 80.
Joseph spent 50 years in the public eye as a U.S. ambassador to the Netherlands, Minneapolis Tribune reporter and DFL Party leader. But nothing could prepare her for the loss of her oldest child and only daughter.
"I lost my best friend," Joseph said, holding hands in her bedroom with her granddaughter and Joseph-Kordell's only child, Jennifer Kordell, 29, of Boston.
"Just like she was your best friend," Jennifer said, "she was my best friend, too."
Joseph-Kordell started Estates in Transition, an estate management and services business, in 1982 after helping her grandmother through a thicket of estate issues.
Out-of-town families got help with funeral arrangements. She helped elderly clients move and sell their homes. She went over night after night to feed one client's cat. There were elderly clients whom she invited to family dinners because they had nowhere else to go.
There was the Russian woman who, when her visa expired and she had to return temporarily to Russia, left her 9-year-old daughter in Joseph-Kordell's care for months.
Joseph-Kordell never told her mother who her clients were. That would have been unprofessional. But their children would come up, embrace Joseph and say, "Your daughter is an angel. She's been so wonderful to my mom and dad."
Joseph-Kordell met Woody Grandstaff when she was caring for his parents. Four years ago they were married.
"This Jewish value of welcoming the stranger was really important to her," Jennifer Kordell said. "Every holiday, every Passover, every Thanksgiving the house was full."
When Berkovitz's parents were frail and her father, Hyman Berkovitz, was struggling with Alzheimer's disease, the entire family -- Susan included -- trusted Joseph-Kordell to step in. She had the expertise. And some of the Berkovitzes weren't speaking.
Grandstaff remembered Susan Berkovitz leaping out of her chair at her father's funeral -- standing in attack mode in front of Joseph-Kordell. Nose-to-nose she screamed and shook her fist until Grandstaff stepped between them.
But in spite of more than a dozen frivolous lawsuits and her mounting fear, Joseph- Kordell's sympathy kicked in at the sight of Berkovitz waiting to catch a bus after her father was buried. She stood at the edge of the cemetery -- alone, friendless and forlorn.
"Maybe we should give her a ride," she said. Grandstaff gently shook his head to say no and drove away.
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