In late 2012, I placed an ad on Craigslist. The headline: “Coachella Valley Independent seeks talented, fun freelancers.”
One of the first responses came from Erin Peters. In her email, she talked about her writing and reporting experience, most notably for her own website, called The Beer Goddess. While her experience was impressive, I was especially intrigued by the portion of her email that addressed the “fun” portion of that headline.
“Am I fun? Well, I think so,” Erin wrote. “Here are just a few fun things I’ve done: 1. Attended Burning Man last year and helped build a New Orleans themed jazz bar, which was bigger than the actual bar (Le Bon Temps Roule). 2. Skydiving: I won’t get into the fact that there was a malfunction with the main chute, and we ended up pulling the reserve chute. Okay, maybe ‘fun’ isn’t the right word for this. 3. Moved to Big Bear for a couple of years from Los Angeles to work from home and snowboard. 4. Made up a beer holiday. Yeah, seriously: www.StoutDay.com.”
I instantly set up a meeting. The Independent had its first beer writer. And I had met someone who would become a dear friend.
Erin was definitely fun. Strikingly beautiful, she taught swim classes in her spare time, and dealt with a wonky shoulder that she kept dislocating. We howled with laughter when she told us about dislocating her shoulder while sleeping … buck naked. Unable to get dressed or do much of anything, Erin had to call paramedics for help. She was both relieved and mortified when the hunky Palm Desert firemen arrived. We bonded over our love of good alcoholic beverages. While I am more of a cocktail person, she introduced me to craft beer—instilling in me an appreciation of good sour beers.
Like many young professionals, she found advancing her career in the Coachella Valley to be something of a challenge. A digital marketing/content specialist, she worked at Graphtek Interactive for several years before moving on to Cord Media and then Palm Springs Life.
In 2017, she decided she needed a change and moved to Ventura. Around this time, she received some life-shattering news: She had ovarian cancer.
She fought the cancer with every ounce of her being, undergoing energy-draining treatments and constantly looking for new trials and therapies. Through it all, she kept living her life as best she could. She married a wonderful man, Mark Valance. She continued to teach swim lessons, and worked as the digital media manager for Good Sam. She kept writing about beer, and made trips to Guinness’ headquarters in Ireland to celebrate International Stout Day.
On Jan. 1, Erin beautifully and heartbreakingly wrote on Facebook about her rough 2021. She started off the year paddle-boarding in the local harbor, she said—but things soon went downhill.
The post concluded: “Everything in life seems to have crests and troughs. 2021’s trough was deep and strong. But I’m a good swimmer. While the breaths I took and continue to take are shallow within the rough waters, they are keeping me alive. May 2022 rise up in a beautiful crest so that I can ride the wave to health and vitality.”
That crest was not to be. Just 13 days later, she posted, simply: “Chemo stopped working.” We chatted shortly after that via text. She maintained a brave attitude despite it all.
Early the morning of April 7, Mark posted on social media: “The love of my life passed peacefully tonight. I’m lost, but thankful she is not suffering from the 5-year battle with ovarian cancer anymore.”
I love you, Erin Valance. I’m beyond heartbroken. Every time I drink a sour beer from now on, I’ll toast you—and a life well lived.
Note: This is the editor’s note that appeared in the May 2022 print edition. Much of this column was originally published online in the April 7 Indy Digest.