Gerald “Jerry” A. Lester died unexpectedly May 12, 2020, at age 83. He had been at a rehab center recovering from a neck injury sustained in a fall at his home in Berkeley, Calif., on April 18. He had previously been in good health and was expected to recover.
Jerry was born and raised in Cleveland to Samuel and Stella (nee Schwartz) Lester, as the first son of first-generation Americans. After graduating from Glenville High School in 1954, he went on to The Ohio State University and graduated from Case Western Reserve University with a degree in economics. He served in the U.S. Army Reserves at Fort Meade, Md.
He had the soul of an artist, and was a gifted photographer and painter. Throughout 30 years as a dedicated teacher of kindergarten through fifth-grade students in the New York City public schools, he dreamed of being an artist. After retiring, he began painting and drawing furiously across many mediums, large and small. His work was accepted for shows in many galleries and museums, including the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, Penn Museum, Metropolitan Museum of Art and The Hudson River Museum. He continued to draw and paint prolifically until the day of his fall.
His family and art led him to take residence in Brooklyn, N.Y., Ardsley, N.Y. (1979), Santa Cruz, Calif. (1998), and the Oakland Arts District (2006). He has lived in Berkeley since 2010 with his partner, Dr. Helena Katz.
He leaves behind Helena, his partner of 11 years; brother, Arthur; sister, Lynn; his children, Rachael (Mike) and Jacqueline (Jason); and an untold quantity of drawings and paintings. He was a beloved grandfather (“Dood”) of four grandchildren: Austin, Sam, Alison and Sydney.
He will be interred at Mountain View Cemetery in Oakland. There will be a memorial at a later date.
In lieu of flowers, donations are requested to the ACLU and California Lawyers for the Arts.