The public relations and San Diego community lost a legend recently, with the passing of Valerie Lemke, who was 84. In 1974, she was a founding account executive of Nuffer, Smith, Tucker and rose through the ranks to ultimately serve as the firm’s vice president.
She was instrumental in building the firm’s food and nutrition practice, which continues to be strong today. Her client work included Dairy Council of California, California Dietetic Association, American Dietetic Association and the American Institute for Wine and Food, where she met and worked with the legendary Julia Child.
Valerie and her family would lead NST’s annual trek to Yuma, Arizona for spring training with the San Diego Padres. In those days, the office would close for a week and NST business would be conducted around the pool at the Yuma Cabana. In its hey-day, the NST contingent would swell in numbers to 100 or more. The shuffleboard tournament was intensity at its finest. The trophy normally moved back and forth from the Lemkes to the Nuffers to the Tuckers, with an occasional gun slinger coming to town to steal the infamous trophy.
Valerie also had a deep love of the desert and was a part-time resident of Borrego Springs, where she and her husband had a second home, which they visited almost every week for 25 years. She was active in the Borrego Springs community, serving as board chair of the Anza-Borrego Desert Natural History Association, where she assisted the group in its effort to designate Anza-Borrego as an International Dark Sky Community, only the second in the world after Flagstaff, Arizona.
Valerie was also a gifted freelance writer, contributor to The San Diego Union-Tribune and a member of the San Diego Press Club.
Among Valerie’s other interests were reading true crime, needlepoint and doing crossword and jigsaw puzzles. Her rules for jigsaw puzzles were legendary — no puzzles under 1,000 pieces and no peaking at the picture on the box for guidance.
Valerie was one of the most important and talented staff members in NST history and she will be missed by her family, friends and colleagues.