In memoria

Do you have someone you wish to see here? Please email Mari at admin@aagt.org

Please include -a photograph – first and last name – dates of life – and a statement about the person and their contribution to Gestalt Therapy (approx. 250-500 words).

ALVIN REVELL

16 October 1932 – 10 May 2018

Alvin was a pioneer in community mental health, an esteemed educator who served Pennsylvania as Director of Equal Educational Opportunity in Higher Education, and a long-time therapist in private practice.

Many people who speak of him talk about his gregariousness, his capacity to “work the room,” and yet he listened in a way that conveyed that everything about you was of supreme importance to him. He loved his wife and children, and it showed. His delight with life was palpable. If you asked him how he was, he would say “Fantastic!!!” and was known to add that you should be careful because “it’s infectious.” And he loved the gestalt community and was loved by many members of that community in return.

(Elizabeth S. Revell)

BOB WITCHEL

10 June 1948 – 3 May 2017

Bob joined AAGT in May 2014 and died suddenly in May 2017. In those three short years he contributed hugely to AAGT. With his co-chair Daniel Bak, he fostered a revival in Interest Groups. He designed the printed programme of the Taormina joint conference, which had been considered impossible.

He expanded the role of Communications Officer, doing much to raise the profile of AAGT, steering more active promotion of AAGT, and bringing us into the 21st century with a Facebook page.

As a colleague Bob was lovely: warm, always prepared and informed, a generous and self-less enabler. I consider myself blessed to have had Bob as a fellow Board member.

He gave to AAGT unstintingly. We are grateful for who he was: for all of us. Thank you Bob.

(Toni Gilligan)

BUD FEDER

DOLORES BATE

30 Jul 1932 – 29 Nov 2015

Dolores Bate, died at age 83 in late 2015 in Victoria, Canada. She was a long-time member of the gestalt community, and a keen founding member of AAGT. She lived and worked in Vancouver, BC, Canada, where she established the Gestalt Institute of British Columbia and practiced there in her later years.

As a young woman, having originally worked in radio, Dolores moved to England, where she trained as a gestalt therapist with Ischa Bloomberg. She established a therapy practice in London, while bringing up three children.

She was much appreciated as an independent gestalt trainer for her openness to different approaches, her strong interests in the arts, her great sense of humour, and especially her linking of gestalt with spirituality.

She died expressing gratitude for the life she enjoyed.

(Malcolm Partlett)


EDWIN NEVIS

20 May 1926 – 20 May 2011

Edwin Nevis was an editor, publisher, institute leader, mentor, professor, and entrepreneur. But above all he was a teacher who aimed to foster learning by breaking down material into digestible chunks.

His contributions to the gestalt world are too many to list. He was a founding member and 11 year president of the Gestalt Institute of Cleveland and, along with his wife Sonia, created the Gestalt International Study Center. He co-founded Gestalt Review, two organizational consultant training programs and created and ran many conferences. He wrote and edited a number of books on organizational consulting and social change.

Throughout his life he was a fan of the working man, a fierce advocate for fairness and social justice, and always supported the underdog.

(Joe Melnick)


FRITZ PERLS

1893-1970

“Dr. Perls, an early disciple of Freud, founded Gestalt therapy along with his wife, Dr. Laura Perls, whom he met when they were students in Frankfurt Germany. The theory attempts to use the insights of Gestalt psychology along with those of Freudian and Reichian psychology.  Gestalt Psychology teaches that the whole is more that the sum of it’s parts; that the parts are not put together to make a whole, but, rather are derived from the whole and get their character from it.  However, Gestalt psychotherapy departs from Freud in its focus on the present, the “here and now” rather than the past.  (March 1970,New York Times)

GILL CARADOC-DAVIES

4 September 1944 – 1 June 2017

Born Gillian Joubert in Northern Transvaal, South Africa, Gill studied medicine in Cape Town, after a year in the UK she returned to South Africa and a couple of years later emigrated to New Zealand. While living in Hastings UK, she studied gestalt therapy, back in New Zealand she trained as a psychiatrist. She qualified as a gestalt therapist in 1986 and in 1987 became a Fellow of the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists, combining the holistic discipline of gestalt psychotherapy with Psychiatry.

Gill was a founder of the Gestalt Institute of NZ in 1990. She coached a small group of us as New Zealand trainers and was especially proud of her tutorials on the interface between psychiatry and psychotherapy. Gill headed the training programme from 1990 until her retirement in 2000. She was part of the original Editorial Board for the British Gestalt Journal, a role she held until her retirement.

I was privileged to know her as a generous teacher, colleague and friend.

(Brenda Levien)

GERT HARROW

8 September 1922 – 20 June 2016

Gert was a gem — smart, kind, loyal, warm, and funny – the “wise old woman” for many of us. Fleeing Vienna at 17 when the Nazi’s arrived, she and her family went to Dublin where she enrolled in Trinity College.

Eventually, she came to the USA and passed the Statue of Liberty. Holding hands, tears rolled down her face as she passed the Statue of Liberty once more on a boat ride during the NYC AAGT conference.

After finishing her PhD at University of Chicago, she came to Los Angeles with Hedda Bolgar (her mentor) and Alexander French to Cedars Hospital. A gestalt therapist since the late 1960’s, she was a revered trainer for GTILA and then for GATLA. Moreover, Gert was a treasured friend and support to many. Truly loved and missed.

(Bob Resnick)

ISADORE FROM

1919-1994

“The Gestalt approach to psychotherapy was a radical revision of psychoanalysis, focusing on the therapist’s and the clients attention to the present rather than on the search for underlying causes of disturbance.

It’s roots were German experimental Gestalt psychology in the 1920’s and in European existential philosophy and phenomenology, a philosophical movement that stresses the study of events rather than inferred causes.

From existentialism it took an emphasis on a person’s responsibility for the creation of experience and from phenomenology it took an intense focus on what the patient experiences and the therapist observes in the therapy session.”(July 2, 1994, New York Times)

JAN RAINWATER

11 September 1922 – 7 March 2016

What has always been notable to me about my relationship with Jan Rainwater was that she never seemed to have her “nose in the air” and “was a real down to earth” person. These qualities, along with a poster on her wall with the statement, “The world is full of possibilities that are limitless,” was a beacon and an encouragement for me to be more assertive and take more positive risks personally, and in my career as a therapist. I love her name, “Rainwater.” It has a musical and dancelike quality for me.

Jan was fierce and fearless, she was honest and creative, and she was a friend and a mentor to be treasured. Jan left an indelible mark on my life as well as on countless others’. She truly stands out, righteously as a champion of “goodness” and “continuous growth.” I am fortunate to have been “touched” by her in my life. Though her physical presence is no longer with us, her presence will always be.

(Nickie Godfrey)


JANET (JAN) RUCKERT

6 June 1926 – 24 February 2017

Jan Ruckert was a school psychologist in Southern California when she was invited to a training group with Jim Simkin and Fritz Perls because “they needed more women.” She became a trainer with the Gestalt Therapy Institute of Los Angeles in the early 1970s, was President, and served on the Board for the rest of her life. Jan joined the faculty of Pacific Gestalt Institute through 2017. She trained with GATLA Summer Residential as well.

In addition to being a creative therapist and trainer, Jan was a published poet and painted watercolor at Venice Art Studios. Her paintings grace the office of therapists around the globe.

A home burglary initiated Jan’s love of Rottweilers. Taking Lorelei (her first) to her office led Jan to write The Four-Footed Therapist and Are You My Dog?

Jan was the first Co-Chair of AAGT’s Scholarship Committee. She had a charming way of getting people to do things they had no idea they could do. Jan is well missed.

(Liv Estrup)


JOEL LATNER

23 December 1940 – 4 August 2016

Joel Latner can be best described as a renegade Renaissance individual possessed of a variety of strong passions and appetites. His practice of gestalt therapy integrated his talents as a professional musician, gourmet cook, and political anarchist. Joel authored, The Gestalt Therapy Book, a classic resource for those in search of a clear and comprehensive understanding of the psychological and philosophical richness contained in the Perls, Hefferline and Goodman tome, Gestalt Therapy: Excitement and Growth in the Human Personality.

As a teacher, Joel emphasized the therapeutic importance of sensing the life and brightness of the figures that form in our work with those seeking our help.

While the life of Joel Latner is no longer with us, his brightness will continue to shine within the gestalt community.

(Jack Aylward)

KAREN HUMPHREY

25 September 1941 – 11 March 2017

Karen was a beloved friend, colleague, teacher and mentor to scores of gestalt therapists throughout her long career at the New York Institute for Gestalt Therapy.

Karen began studying gestalt therapy with Lore Perls at the Institute in the 1960s. She soon found a therapeutic, social and political home engaging in spirited dialogues with Paul Goodman and other early teachers as part of her learning.

As a Fellow of the Institute, Karen never ceased to teach, supervise, and write about her passion for gestalt therapy. She continuously supported the growth and changes of the Institute, and then AAGT, as they evolved, always providing a guiding hand with calm, wisdom and clarity.

(Lee Zevy)

KEN EVANS

3 February 1947 – 15 July 2015

Ken Evans FRSA, President of the European Association for Gestalt Therapy from 2002-2008, founded the EAGT Human Rights and Social Responsibility Committee. Honoured and delighted to learn he was to receive The Maslow Award for Outstanding Services to Psychotherapy, his planned acceptance lecture included “the need for a radical re-think of our relationship with nature and non-human species, not simply for survival but for the reintegration of the human spirit.”

Ken was a much loved, charismatic, inspirational teacher, writer and lecturer, latterly continuing his vibrant psychotherapy career alongside sheep farming in rural Normandy. His chosen epitaph was:

Live life fully,

Love Generously,

Become all that you can be.

Those who knew him would agree

His life was testament to this.

(Joanna Hewitt Evans)

LAURA PERLS

1905-1991

“Real creativeness, in my experience, is inextricably linked with the awareness of mortality.  The sharper this awareness, the greater the urge to bring forth something new, to participate in the infinitely continuing creativeness in nature, this is what makes out of sex, love; out of the herd, society; out of wheat and fruit, bread and wine; and out of sound music.  This is what makes life livable and-incidentally-makes therapy possible.  Gestalt Therapy, with it’s emphasis on immediate awareness and involvement, offers a method for developing the necessary support for a self-continuing creative adjustment-which is the only way of coping with the experience of dying and therefore, of living. (CONTACT-A Gestalt Journal Publication, Volume 2, #1, 1991)

NIFONT DOLGOPOLOV

28 August 1953 – 22 January 2018

Director, Moscow Institute of Gestalt Therapy and Psychodrama —a man of many facets, talents and involvements. He was a wonderful husband, father, son, friend, gestalt therapist and trainer and a fierce fighter. Knowing and working with Nifont for over two decades, I have seen him refine and enlarge both his private and professional life – smart, ironic, creative, funny, stubborn and warm. Marrying Nadia Lubyanitskaya —a few years ago while battling a devastating cancer— they brought a new baby into the world, Lev (Lion) —now two years old and beautiful. Nifont’s creative gestalt therapy presentations began with the audience knowing little of what he was talking about – or where he was going. By the end, we knew and enjoyed what he was teaching —and everything connected. Nifont didn’t follow the grooves —he made them.

(Bob Resnick)

NORMAN SHUB

11 January 1949 – 2 January 2018

Norman made therapy into the Art of Love. The congruence between his teachings and what he used to do in life is part of what he left with us: his ability to be friend, teacher, partner, father, therapist and colleague. He always aimed for what he used to say, “Be a better person.” The “little Norman bird on the shoulder” was always there during hard times.

His legacy is vast and broad, complete and complex. His writings reflect his style–simple and profound; as he used to say, “The mission is repetition.”

On his last day of training, Norman said, “Gestalt is about learning to close, to let go…” While going away, he gave us a teaching, an experience and an experiment… a Gestaltist till the end!

His strength and wisdom will continue guiding our hearts.

He is the light in moments of darkness.

He taught how to love with love.

He is our guide, our teacher, our friend.

He is the light of growth, of love, of wisdom!

(Pablo Allen)

PEGGY CLEARY

4 September 1949– 19 January 2018

Peggy Cleary was the treasured chair of the GIT’s Board of Directors for many years. Sparkly and competent, Peggy’s open listening; clarity in communicating, her inclusiveness and her humour were appreciated by the faculty and the Board Members.

Peggy graduated from the G.I.T. training program in 2002, and integrated her gestalt into her consultancy practice in the corporate world. She was one of a small number of graduates who took gestalt into the corporate context in Toronto. Her work entertained and heightened awareness with lightness, humour and depth. Peggy lived a full life, generous, loving, awake and hard-working.

About five years ago, she began to experience symptoms of Multiple Systems Atrophy, a debilitating neurodegenerative disease. In close connection with her devoted partner of many years, Keith MacDonald, she attended to the quickly arriving changes in her condition and lived this difficult time with great courage and humour, with great strength and love   Together they came into close connection with family, friends and co-workers until the end of her life.

PAUL GOOMAN

1911-1972

“Perhaps the major recurring theme in Mr. Goodman’s books has been the view that humankind is essentially loving and creative while institutional bureaucracies subordinate this basic nature; that once the organizational structures become more important than the individual, people must suppress their humanity to conform.  During the late 1940’s and early 50’s Mr. Goodman underwent psychotherapy and became a lay therapist.  His orientation was Reichian rather than Freudian.  In 1951 he wrote a seminal work “Gestalt Therapy” in collaboration with Dr. Frederick S. Perls . . . .  1960 when Random House published “Growing Up Absurd: Problems of Youth in the Organized System.”  The book, which contended that our society of abundance corrupts art, shackles science, dampens animal ardor, thwarts aptitude and creates stupidity became a success, appealing particularly to young people.”(August 4, 1972,New York Times) note- this book he dedicated to Laura Perls, his therapist.

SONIA MARCH NEVIS

10 July 1927 – 10 September 2017

Sonia led a full life as an exceptional gestalt therapist and teacher for over fifty years from Co-leading groups with Fritz Perls at Esalen, to creating the Center for Intimate Systems at the Cleveland Institute. In her later years, she co-founded with her husband, Edwin Nevis, the Gestalt International Studies Center in Cape Cod. Always interested in relationship and community, Sonia developed the Cape Cod Model and continued the Training Program for couples and family therapists worldwide.

Sonia was much loved and touched so many. I was privileged to know Sonia in her later years, experiencing her as a generous, insightful, wise and supportive friend. She was a key figure in the “Eaters and Writers” gatherings to support gestalt writers. Sonia connected deeply to her family, friends, and mentees dedicating her life to helping others make a difference.

For Sonia remembrances-See GISC link to her memorial service and Gestalt Review, 2018 Vol.22, no. 1.

(Iris Fodor)

Sylvia Fleming Crocker

1933 – 2019

The world of Gestalt therapy lost one of its most cherished, learned and wittiest colleagues when Sylvia Crocker made her peaceful transition on Sunday, November 24, 2019 at age 86. Sylvia’s daring and creative thinking offered us a bold conceptualization of Gestalt therapy grounded in philosophical thought with prosaic nuances of its clinical applications. Being an internationally prominent therapist, supervisor and clinical trainer, Sylvia will be sorely missed by the greater Gestalt community on all continents. As so many of you reading this know, she was an avid reader, articulate debater, respected author, faithful Christian and a decent golfer who enjoyed classical and contemporary music, world-wide traveling, a good joke and drink now and then, stitching needlepoint while telling heart-warming stories from her life as an esteemed Gestalt psychotherapist. Sylvia will be remembered for her brilliant and tenacious approach to Gestalt therapy theory and practice, having held us to a high standard of awareness, morality, thinking, scholarship and ethical practice. We are fortunate and grateful for Sylvia having shared her well-lived life with us.

Sylvia was born on April 10, 1933 in Live Oak, Florida to Tom and Lydia (Compton) Fleming. She grew up in York, South Carolina, playing piano, riding horses, swimming, golfing and reading voraciously. She went on to obtain her education in USA’s Midwest, earning an Associate of Arts degree in Interior Design at Stephen’ s College in Columbia, Missouri; her Bachelor of Arts in Philosophy from the University of Missouri, her M.A. in Comparative Religion from Northwestern University, and her Ph.D. in Philosophy from the University of Missouri. Sylvia was a philosopher inside and out, having taught philosophy in the l 970’s at Marquette University and the University of Wyoming.

In the early 1980’s, Sylvia changed her career focus by earning her Master of Science degree in Counseling at the University of Wyoming in 1985. Her own therapy led her to seek extensive training in Gestalt therapy at the San Diego Gestalt Institute with Miriam and Erving Polster who became life-long, esteemed friends. In the years that followed she participated in over 800 hours of training with the Gestalt Therapy Institute of Los Angeles faculty, primarily in their European summer programs. She supplemented her Gestalt training with psychodrama, which culminated in her developing an innovative, reflective, enactment-oriented Gestalt-psychodrama approach to dream therapy. A number of Gestalt therapists sharing their memories of Sylvia in memoriam on AAGT’s memberlistserve commented specifically on the powerful and empowering impact her dream workshops had on them; such as, “Dreams, creativity and experiments were Sylvia’s passion;” “Her way of working (walking) with dreams was extremely powerful and empowering;” and “At the Toronto AAGT conference I was lucky to be a part of Sylvia’s dream workshop; prouder still that I processed my dream with her with so many other therapists taking part B… was the large truck in my dream.”

Having established her private practice as a licensed professional counselor in Laramie, Cheyenne and Rawlins, Sylvia became well known throughout the state of Wyoming for 30 years, always enamoring Gestalt therapy as a presenter and workshop trainer at the state counseling association conferences. In her practice she focused on individual, group,

couples, family and child-adolescent counseling. She was a generous, passionate and compassionate therapist who thrived from helping clients in becoming more of who they were capable of becoming while enriching their contactfulness and relationships with others. She brought her kind-hearted, informed sensitivity, prosaic thinking and intellectual brilliance to her work.

Sylvia was one of the founders of AAGT-AIC, the Association for the Advancement of Gestalt Therapy – An International Community. She often commented on how being chairperson of the Gestalt Theory Development Interest Group and on AAGT’s Board of Directors for 8 years was a great support for her to write more about Gestalt theory and getting support to spread her wings to become an internationally-known presenter, trainer and supervisor. Her presentations and workshops at Gestalt therapy conferences in the America’s, Europe, Australia and the Orient were consistently filled to the capacity of the room, uniquely experiential and highly acclaimed. She was sought by Gestalt institute post­ graduate students for their personal therapy- face-to-face and online. One such now prominent Gestalt therapist and former client shared this memoriam comment that illuminates some of her dearest qualities, “Dear Auntie Sylvia, Thank you for everything! For your unique dress code high-waisted pants and SC [South Carolina] embroidered cardigans. For the times you supported and invested in A..’s and my growth as therapists. Your times with us around the world, eating, drinking and talking were some ofmy favorite times at conferences. You seemed (and I was generally shocked at first) that an experienced and famous therapist and writer would take interest in two young therapists a relationship that lasted over a decade. You became that favorite Aunt we all have: colorful, crazy, wise, at times cranky, very lively, and very interested in not only your world, but the world of others.

Nancy and I had the good fortune to have Sylvia as our house guest in Kent for 8 years in succession to augment my Gestalt therapy graduate courses by teaching, demonstrating and processing her dynamic Gestalt approach to individual and group therapy in 4-day experiential workshops for my graduate students. Many of them still ask about her and mention the tremendous impact she had on them, whether they had volunteered as a client, participated in another person’s dream work or just observed her work.

Sylvia’s active involvement in the Gestalt Writers’ Collective culminated in authoring her own book, A Well-Lived Life: Essays in Gestalt Therapy (1999), which has become a classic. She was a prolific writer whose articles appeared here in the Gestalt Review as well as in the Gestalt Journal, the British Gestalt Journal, the Australian Gestalt Journal, the Quaderni di Gestalt/Studies in Gestalt Therapy, as well as in journals on philosophy, including the Harvard Theological Review.

Sylvia life was enriched by and with philosophy. Her thinking was greatly influenced by the learned path she followed to acquire in-depth knowledge of Aristotle, Plato, Kierkegaard, Kant and Whitehead. Existential philosophy permeated her thinking, her writings and her clinical work. She was committed to emphasizing the phenomenology of Gestalt therapy

and was working on a book on the topic at her death. She was enamored with understanding, describing and clinically applying the nature of the phenomenological method with particular interest in Husserl’s method. In Sylvia’s words, shared in a recent manuscript

draft, she said, “I want to show that the method Gestalt therapists actually use in working

with clients (in contrast to how it is often discussed in Gestalt circles), is a fairly pure application of the phenomenological method. The difference is that while Husserl was in search of pure universal essences for the sake of knowledge itself, a Gestalt therapist seeks an increasingly exquisite understanding of the living of a unique and singular individual person, and does so in the service of human change.” Being aware of her gift of knowledge of existential thought, phenomenological processes and world religions, Sarah Toman and I were extremely pleased when Sylvia agreed to write the oft- cited chapter, “Phenomenology, Existentialism and Eastern Thought in Gestalt Therapy” for our textbook, Gestalt Therapy: History, Theory and Practice (2005), which includes insightful dialogue with her good friend and challenging theorist, Peter Philippson.

Sylvia prided herself for having introduced into Gestalt therapy lexicon the concept proflection as a style of resistance that interrupts interpersonal contact. Her introduction of the concept was one of the featured articles in a series focusing on Gestalt resistances in the 1970 issue of the Gestalt Journal. Proflection being a composite of two styles of resistance

— projection and retroflection, which can be observed behaviorally when Person A does to Person B (others) what he/she would like Person B to do to or for him/her.

Sylvia bore two lovely daughters with their father, Dr. Thomas Crocker, also of Laramie. Sarah Garcia Castro (Jairo) and grandchild Thomas Manuel Garcia living in Colorado Springs, Colorado, and Trena Larson (Ethan) of Montreal, Canada. She was preceded in death by her parents; her sister Cathy Montgomery; and her brother Thomas Fleming -­ from whom Sylvia used to say she learned much about life’s most difficult mental and emotional challenges.

Sylvia owned and was open-minded in discussing her Christian values and beliefs. It was a joy to be in her company when we visited the York Minster Cathedral in York, England.

She was an active, faithful and vital member of St. Matthew’s Episcopal Cathedral in Laramie. Memorial services were held there on Saturday, November 30, 2019, officiated by Reverend Brian Gross, with inurnment at St. Matthew’s Columbarium with a reception following in the undercroft at the cathedral.

As I finish writing this obituary, in response to the news of Sylvia’s passing on the internet, there have been countless online memoriam salutations, appreciations, loving stories and condolences posted on theAAGT memberlistserve, Gstalt-L and Facebook — a testimony to how much Sylvia’s “well-lived life” is remembered, respected and sorely missed in the world-wide Gestalt community.

Do you have someone you wish to see here? Please email Mari at admin@aagt.org

Please include -a photograph – first and last name – dates of life – and a statement about the person and their contribution to Gestalt Therapy (approx. 250-500 words).