Jonathan Shurberg, a Silver Spring attorney and Democratic activist, died Thursday morning after suffering from cancer and pneumonia. He was 54 years old.
“Boy, I am going to miss him,” said Maryland Delegate Kumar Barve, a Democrat in the 17th District. “We were both Democratic activists. We both had a good sense of sarcastic humor. There was no bullshit to him.”
Shurberg was born in Philadelphia and grew up in Connecticut. He is the husband of the late Rebecca Lord and is the father of two sons, Eli, who was born in 1994, and Ethan, who was born in 2000.
The Maryland attorney ran unsuccessfully in 2014 for state delegate in District 20, obtaining 8 percent of the vote. He is known for supporting the voting rights of minorities and the young, civil rights for LGBT and pro-choice issues. He served on the board of Planned Parenthood of Metropolitan Washington, D.C. and was the only male on the board of NARAL’s Pro-Choice Maryland.
“I am very sorry to learn that Democratic activist Jonathan Shurberg passed away early this morning. I last saw him several months ago, when we had lunch and he was eagerly contemplating which political office he would pursue in 2018. Fate had other plans. I am praying for his two sons, ages 22 and 16, who have experienced more tragedy than any two young adults should ever have to,” Montgomery Councilman George Leventhal wrote on his Facebook page.
Shurberg’s blog, Maryland Scramble, was frequented by many in the Democratic party. His last post was on June 29 when he wrote, “Got hit with a new bout of pneumonia and a powerful bug, and I’m back to the hospital for 72 straight hours of antibiotic induced delusional sleep.”
He earned a Bachelor of Arts degree from Georgetown University and a J.D. from American University and was a trial lawyer as well as political activist.
Political consultant Kevin Gillogly, posted on his Facebook page, “While Jon has left the battles for us to complete, we accomplished much in our time together.”
Gillogly met Shurberg more than 10 years ago, and they became close friends, working together or on opposing sides of Democratic elections in Montgomery County and Maryland ever since.
“He was such a passionate person, passionate about the way to make things better,” Gillogly said. “He took that passion seriously, but he didn’t take himself seriously.”
Pausing often to catch his breath as his tears flowed, Gillogly recalled how Shurberg loved to read The Onion and science fiction, follow Philadelphia sports teams, play poker and trivia games and mostly, discuss politics.
“He just enjoyed life,” Gillogly said, adding, “He didn’t leave this world with words unsaid or dreams deferred.”
In his legal career, Shurberg “empowered people who didn’t have any power.”
This past month, when Shurberg had a tube in his neck that prevented him from speaking, Gillogly sat by his bedside and read him news articles a few times.
“Jon was a fighter. I am going to miss my friend,” he said.
U.S. Rep. Jamie Raskin took to Facebook to express his sorrow. He called Shurberg “an impassioned Democrat and great Marylander who had an unquenchable thirst and contagious zest for progressive politics. Jon was not only a walking encyclopedia of Maryland and American campaigns and elections but an exuberant political warrior and a gifted writer.”
On his own Facebook page, Shurberg described his medical challenges, which included a recent 102-day stay in the intensive care unit at Johns Hopkins Hospital. He underwent treatment for “five respiratory arrests, cancer, two intubations and pneumonia, I have recovered sufficiently to be transferred for acute rehab to get my strength back and hopefully return home soon. I can't thank the doctors, nurses and staff at Hopkins enough for saving my life on more than one occasion, and the list of friends and neighbors who have stepped up in so many ways to help me is just astounding. I am eternally grateful to all of you - I would not have come so far without your support and encouragement. Love to each and every one of you.”