Pesha Joyce Gertler

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August 4, 1933 – June 8, 2015

Pesha Joyce Gertler was born on August 4, 1933, in Portland, OR. Upon the death of her mother, Esther Louise, 17 month old Pesha moved, with her father, Harry E. Gertler, to Brooklyn, NY where she was raised by her grandmother, Rose Gertler.

In those early years, Pesha developed a life-long love of reading. She once said “I grew up in an extended tri-generational, bilingual family of story tellers, poets, dreamers, who lured me into the magical world of language. As an imaginative only child, poets and writers became my closest friends. My Jewish immigrant grandmother’s need to work in the sweatshops precluded an education. Hence, she could neither read nor write in English and through her, I learned how language can shut one out as well as draw one in. Out of this heritage, my love and respect for language grew, my appreciation of the magic and power of words.”

Pesha would spend the rest of her life writing: during marriage, the birth of five children, divorce, welfare, single parenting, hard-won academic achievements (full scholarship to Reed College), and creative collaborations with her life partner and other artists. Pesha fell in love with the art and craft of poetry and became a nationally and internationally published poet, including travel coast to coast and to the Middle East.

In 1981, Pesha became the founder of “Self-Discovery for Women through Creative Writing”, a writing community for women of all ages, backgrounds, new and experienced writers. Pesha was a member of the English faculty at North Seattle Community College. She also taught creative writing at the University of Washington Women’s Center, Cancer Lifeline, NSCC Continuing Education, along with independent writing classes, workshops and retreats.

An achievement of which she was especially proud, Pesha became the inaugural Seattle Poet Populist 2005 with the mission to bring poetry to places where it isn’t heard. Pesha’s poetry appeared on city buses, she read at a Seattle City Council meeting, Bumpershoot, Mary’s Place, and leading writing workshops for children and adults.

October 2014, Pesha was diagnosed with small cell lung cancer, a highly aggressive form of the disease. She underwent chemotherapy treatments at Seattle Cancer Care Alliance, though it eventually ended her life on June 8, 2015.

Pesha is survived by her spouse and partner of 37 years, Leslie J. Shinsato; five children, Lonnie M. Pierce-Smith, Gina P. Vaeretti (Bill), Valerie R. Hamilton (Doug), Shawn S. Smith (Doris) and Veronica V. Smith; 10 grandchildren, Michael Smith, Paul, Douglas (Priscillia), and Amanda Hamilton, Pesha R. Pierce Smith, Violet V., Felycia F., Jasmine J. Smith and Nikki and Rolando Delgado Smith; and six nieces, and one nephew.

A Celebration of Life will be held at Barton Family Funeral Services, 14000 Aurora Ave. N, Seattle WA 98133, on August 3, 2015, at 3 p.m.

7 Responses to “Pesha Joyce Gertler”

  • Gina says:

    The family of Pesha J. Gertler is having a “Celebration of Life” on August 3rd at 3pm at the Barton Family Funeral home on 140th and Aurora. The service will be approximately one hour long and the family would love to have all of Pesha’s friends and colleagues join us and share stories. Following the service there will be coffee, tea and desert at one of Pesha’s grandchild’s home. This information will be at the service. Please join us in Celebrating the Life of our beloved Matriarch, Pesha J. Gertler.

  • Scott Shinsato says:

    Vibrant, inspired and courageous, I will always remember Pesha for her gift of writing poetry. To imagine, capture and paint images though words, her gift and legacy will always be remembered through her writings and the writings of her students. An inspiration to many, her gift of nurturing others to express their feelings through words will firever be her gift to the world.

    With much love.

    Scott Shinsato.

  • Marta Horvath says:

    I just realized that my former instructor, Pesha Gertler has passed away. I was a student in her “Self-Discovery for Women through Creative Writing”, class in 1994 and later, probably 1995 also. After living in this country for almost twenty years I finally took the courage to enroll in a creative writing class where I had to write in English instead of my mother tongue. Pesha created an atmosphere in her class that was always encouraging, never judgemental or critical. She started my English language writing “carrier” and I’m’ forever grateful to her for her kind encouragement. RIP , Pesha.

  • Cynthia D Nelson says:

    I was lucky enough to study with Pesha Gertler in Seattle, first in 1981 and then again in February 1985. I think the first class was held at the women’s bookstore where I volunteered, called It’s About Time. She was a remarkable teacher: smart and knowledgeable, wise and warm, feminist through and through, unfailingly encouraging to everyone. To this day, she remains a shaping presence in my life. I still have my spiral notebook with my notes from her ’85 class, which drew on the work of Jean Bolen. And I’ve kept Pesha’s ‘The Healing Poem’ taped to the wall near my desk across many moves over many years. All the best to Pesha’s close ones & kin (I remember meeting Leslie at their home). Feel free to reach out if you wish (DM Twitter @CynthiaDNelson). And thank you for posting the beautiful pictures of her. Lovely to see after all these years.

  • Carrie says:

    Ms Gertler’s poem, The Healing Time, is my favorite. I have shared it with so many of my friends and students. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

  • Sylvia Clark says:

    I first met Pesha in the 1970s, when a group of us got together to study poetry by women. Pesha, along with the late Carolyn Hinkley, introduced us to Adrienne Rich and Denise Levertov. I appreciate so much Pesha’s constant and unwavering support for women writing!

    Now its 2023, and I run across the news of her death. What a beautiful, generous soul.

  • Martha Read says:

    It is almost the anniversary of her death. I’m looking for her poetry. All I can find is one poem: Finally on my Way to Yes. Where is her other work? I want to read it. Our friend and favorite Poet Laureate and her poetry is not available! Please tell us how to find her work!

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