Diana Joy Colbert, the wife of author Charles Bock whose battle with leukemia inspired widespread sympathy and support among the New York literary community, died Thursday. She was 41.
Colbert died in her sleep, according to an email from Bock that his publisher, Random House, shared with The Associated Press. Colbert was first diagnosed two years ago, and a fundraising auction was held in February to help the couple pay medical bills, with Jonathan Franzen, Jonathan Safran Foer and Rick Moody among the authors involved.
"All of you know that she was a truly kind and wonderful woman, but I just need to say it: She really was an amazing, lovely person," Bock wrote in his email.
Bock's acclaimed debut novel, "Beautiful Children," came out in 2008. His editor, David Ebershoff, noted Thursday that Bock worked on the book for 10 years, "all of them supported by Diana."
"Diana gave Charles the time, the space, the freedom to write," Ebershoff said in a statement. "She also gave him the love that every great writer must have in his or her heart to create. I learned only today that Diana's middle name was Joy. How perfect, and how true."
Colbert grew up in Memphis, Tenn., and graduated from New York University in 1992. She tried different careers, including massage therapy and yoga instruction. At the time of her death, she had been working on a doctorate in English literature at the CUNY Graduate Center.
According to her Facebook page, her interests included literature, history, bodywork and "saving our planet." A close friend of Colbert's, Susannah Maurer, said she was exceptionally bright and determined and had a weakness for "cheesy music," singing Kenny Loggins' "This is It" or a hit by Journey for the pleasure of knowing the melody would remain in her and others' heads all day.
"We would leave songs on each other's answering machines," Maurer said.
The fundraiser for Colbert was billed the "World's Most Literary Rent Party Ever!" Wesley Stace, better known as singer-songwriter John Wesley Harding, performed, while bids were taken for some unusual and personal favors. Moody volunteered to write a song, and fellow author A.M. Homes offered to do laundry.
Bock said at the time that he was paying $3,000 a month for health coverage and that he feared "going broke" unless "something changes." Colbert was being treated at the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center and was unable to attend.
"She is the one person who would have (most) enjoyed this evening and would have enjoyed seeing you most of all," Bock told the gathering in February.
Bock and Colbert have a daughter, Lily, who turns 3 on Sunday.
"That child and Charles were her reasons to fight," Maurer said. "She did not want to leave this planet."