It is with broken hearts and immense sorrow that we announce the passing of Donald E. Gerson. After a difficult battle with Parkinson’s Disease, he passed peacefully in his own bedroom surrounded by his loved ones, having had visits from friends from all parts of his life, including his best friend from childhood.
Don was born and raised in Dayton, Ohio – part of a large household of 3 brothers and a sister, his mother Beatrice, his grandmother Bessie, and his father Samuel, who himself struggled with Parkinson’s. His backyard abutted that of another large household of cousins, aunts and uncles. His first job, as was that of his siblings and cousins, was at the family hardware store.
Don attended Harvard College as a physical anthropology major. After graduating in 1965, he was awarded a Shaw Fellowship, which provided for a year of travel around the world. This was a formative experience for him that provided him with incredible stories his family begged him to tell and retell for 50 years.
He returned to Boston after that year to attend Harvard Medical School. In his first year there, he met Sylvia Chase, a PhD student whose first year of study involved classes with the med students. They were married in Boston in 1971 and lived there while he completed his internship and residency in Radiology.
In 1976, he got a call from his brother Bobby, also a radiologist, to come down and check out a group he had joined in Fort Myers. Bearing in mind that my mother had grown up in Paris and might not take to Fort Myers in the 1970s, they agreed to go for a year.
They never left.
They had two children, Lisa and Samuel. They traveled extensively as a family. Don enjoyed great food and French wine, building a wine collection he loved to share. To say he read a lot is an understatement. He tore through eclectic areas of knowledge ranging from literary theory to the evolution of trilobytes to the engineering and construction of long-span bridges. He loved mysteries and detective novels.
Don had a brilliant mind, a keen wit, and an encyclopedic knowledge, but most important, he was kind to everyone he met. He had deep empathy and a real gift for making people feel heard and understood. Although he was never judgmental, he never wavered from his moral compass, and he taught his children to always “do the right thing” even when it was hard – especially when it was hard. He loved family above all. In his last years he took immense joy in his young grandchildren.
He is survived by his wonderful wife of 47 years, Sylvia; his daughter Lisa; his son Samuel, Sam’s wife Nan, and their children Madison, Max and Mara. He was cared for with love, gentleness, and dignity by Lotte Ritzert, who has been with our family for 41 years. He is also survived by his sister Linda, her husband Theo and their children Stephanie and Daniel; his brother Leonard; his sister-in-law Nancy and her children David and Debra; his sister-in-law Viviane and her husband Leon, and their children Julie, Benjamin, and Jonathan. He is preceded in death by his parents, Beatrice and Samuel, and his brother Bobby – Aunt Nancy’s late husband – Don’s brother, best friend, and business partner, who he missed every single day for the past 15 years.
A service will be held on Friday, June 15 at 9:30 AM at Temple Beth-El, 16225 Winkler Road, Fort Myers; burial will take place immediately following at Fort Myers Memorial Gardens, 1585 Colonial Boulevard, Fort Myers. The family asks that in lieu of flowers, donations be made in Don’s name to Hope Hospice of Fort Myers, which allowed him to live his last days in his home with his family: Hope Hospice Development Office, 9470 HealthPark Circle, Fort Myers, FL 33908.