Gerree Nash: In Memorium - 1924 to 2013
Despite our age difference, Gerree Nash and I were friends. Good friends. She was intelligent, funny and sharp as a tack. “Right up until the end,” says her daughter Judy Mordecai. And I am glad for that. Glad she got to spend her last days in the rambling old farm house on East Miami where she lived out the last years of her life, pretty much alone with the exception of a cat and toward the end, I hear, her grandson. I’m glad she died in the carved wooden antique bed that she loved, in a familiar place, surrounded by loving family and her beloved dolls. A privilege in this day and age.
Gerree was elderly, but not a recluse. No, Gerree she was active right up until the day she didn’t feel so good. She was losing her eyesight so she didn't sew as much or drive, but she was often out and about, relying on the Senior Bus to take her where she wanted, or needed, to go.
They tell me that when death came knocking, it happened quickly. The time was short enough not to suffer and long enough to “get her ducks in a row.” Could anyone have orchestrated it better? No, I don’t think so. Judy says she was “being bossy and making jokes” right up to her final exit. That was my Gerree, feisty and proud.
The last time I spoke with Gerree, which was too long ago…we think we all will live forever…she was working on writing her memoirs. She had finished the first 9 or 10 years at that point. Her memory was incredible and filled with nuance and an eye for detail that only an artist could see. We laughed about how long it would take her and immediately got off track talking about something totally unrelated. She was like that. We diverged a lot in our conversations.
I loved hearing her tales of traveling to California in the heart of the Depression with her mother and grandmother. How she was born on the 4th of July and thought all the hoopla was for her. Her tales of her grandmother's lodge on Red Feather Lake in the 1940s. Her fabric shop. Her costumes. Her dolls.
I listened to her many stories of her mother, a musician and a divorcee in a time when good women were neither. Her knowledge of local history. I loved it all. Opinionated and forthright, but usually right on, she was a joy and a blessing to be around. I took endless notes in hopes of writing not just one, but several articles, on such a fascinating, talented person whom I adored.
I guess I always thought Gerree and I would have one more opportunity to visit. I somehow thought she would be there “the next time,” even when I knew that each time we spoke, she seemed more fragile than ever. She didn't complain, not much anyway. More like aggravated to be daunted by her body. She would have liked to have danced more, sung more…acted on stage one more time. I hear that the Magic Circle Theatre has honored her recently, and I am grateful, because she deserves that recognition. Every bit of it.
So, goodbye, friend. I didn’t get that story written but I have all the notes – scribbled pages of them – and will pass them to your children. I will cherish what they represent -- the time spent. I am a better woman, artist, person, wife and daughter…for having known you. Thank you. Brava!