Helene Gerstle passed away peacefully in her home in Providence, Rhode Island on Tuesday January 5, 2016 surrounded by loving family and her dear friend of 40 years Len Smith. Helene will be remembered as a devoted daughter, loving sister, caring aunt and fabulous friend to so many. Helene was born in the Bronx and raised in Yonkers, New York. She was a graduate of Roosevelt High School class of 1971. After obtaining her undergraduate degree in Political Science at University at Albany SUNY, she obtained her JD at Albany Law School. In her 33 years of litigation experience, her colleagues and clients have praised her for her dedication, integrity and persistence in serving their needs. As an adjunct professor at University of Massachusetts Dartmouth Law School, Helene was able to share her professional knowledge. Helene was the oldest child of Helmut and the late Mary Gerstle. When Helmut remarried, Rita and Helene immediately formed an everlasting bond of love and friendship. She is also survived by her siblings and sisters-in-law: Mark Gerstle (Sandi), Alice Beckman, and Robert Gerstle (Doreen). Helene was a loving Aunt and created many great memories for her nieces and nephews: Elyse, Keith, Brian, Sara, Michelle, Alex, Joseph and Carolyn. Although she was taken from us too soon, Helene enjoyed a very full life and achieved so much. Her interests and favorite pastimes brought joy and happiness to all those around her. She enjoyed long walks in the park with her (and Len’s) beloved dogs Jasper and Cooper or spending quiet evenings with the cats. She was steadfast in her devotion to the New England Patriots, especially Tom. Helene’s love of travel took her to beautiful places such as Greece, Italy, Santa Fe and P-Town. During her lifetime she resided in Boston, Providence and Woodstock, Connecticut. The “little house” was built with so much love. It was her retreat for solace, rejuvenation and creativity. She generously shared it with so many. She delighted in all the laughter, conversations and quiet hours spent there. Her many lifelong friends (of which she had many) will forever cherish their time together. Like her father, Helene enjoyed the art of painting. She blossomed as an artist and was so proud that her paintings were selected to be displayed at the Newport Museum. Her art will continue to be enjoyed in the homes of her friends and family. Helene was also very active in the Rhode Island community. She helped create the Elmwood Neighborhood Association and in her position as Executive Director at the Community Legal Services she was an advocate for the less fortunate. She also created new laws for the benefit and improvement for all in the Rhode Island community and found the time to volunteer many hours at the Gamm Theater. Helene will always be in our hearts and remembered for her joy of life, sense of humor, generous heart, unique style, long lasting friendships, robust spirit and immense strength. To quote her hero Abraham Lincoln:
“In the end, it's not the years in your life that count. It's the life in your years.”
A Memorial Service of Remembrance will be held on Friday January 15, 2016 at 12:00 noon in The Butterfield Chapel 500 Pontiac Avenue Cranston. Visitation will be held 1 hour prior to the service beginning at 11:00am. In addition, a Mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated on Saturday January 16, 2016 at 9:30am in St. John the Baptist Catholic Church 670 Yonkers Avenue Yonkers, New York 10704.
Carol Ryder - 01/10/2016
A beautiful obit to describe a beautiful woman. She will be missed by so many. My heart is broken.
Camilla Duffy - 01/12/2016
She was a strong advocate and an excellent lawyer. She will be missed.
Gary Johnson - 01/13/2016
She certainly had life in her years. Maybe she would have agreed wit this:
Do not stand at my grave and weep.
I am not there.
I do not sleep
I am a thousand winds that swiftly blow.
I am the diamond glint
on newly fallen snow.
I am the sunlight
on ripened grain.
I am the soft and gentle autumn rain
When you wake from sleep in the early morning hush,
I am the swift, uplifting rush
of quiet birds in circling flight.
I am the soft, starlight at night.
Do not stand at my grave and weep.
I am not there.
I do not sleep.
Carmel McGill & Laszlo Siegmund - 01/15/2016
What a powerful woman she was - with a big, soft and caring heart. We will miss her so much - it is heartbreaking that she is no longer with us.
Michael & Laura Howell - 01/18/2016
Helena was a beautiful soul with a quick wit, always in the center of things. We will miss her.
William Dorry - 02/02/2016
I am very saddened to learn that Helene is gone. My firm had the privilege of being on the other side of the table from her in several lawsuits. She had a keen legal mind, and she was able to zealously represent her clients while still being a delightful colleague. She will be missed.
Robert Levite - 03/18/2016
Helene was a much loved and valued friend from when we first met and worked together back in the early 80's. from there our love and adoration for each other was the base of a many year friendship. There was no better friend and no better listener. My heart is broken and I will always hold her in my heart.
April Chaifetz Everett and Bobby Everett - 03/14/2017
I am saddened to see this, and so late after Helene's passing. She was my college roommate and it must have been only a month or two before this that I found her on Facebook, and made a brief reconnection. Alas, many years had passed but we still recall her radiant smile and laugh.
Kenn Rabin - 11/19/2018
I was sorry to not know about this page earlier -- a few years earlier -- nor to know about the memorial service, for which I would have come from California to attend.
Helene was one of my best friends for almost 40 years, from the time we met in college, to the time of her death. She was funny, passionate about justice in both her work and her politics, perverse in the best sense of the word, and the best friend anyone could hope for. She always told me the truth about myself, even when sometimes it was difficult to hear, but always with love and with an uncanny ability to see the larger picture, and to deliver the truth with love and thoughtfulness. She made me think hard about my life, and the choices I made -- congratulating me, questioning me, but always standing by my side, ready to support me.
I loved nothing more in this life than to hear her laugh, which was often and it made me so happy when I could do that -- again, from the time we were in college together, laughing over all kinds of silly things, to when we were both reaching our middle and late-middle years, laughing sometimes with irony or regret about some of the choices we'd made. I trusted nobody more with my real self or the most intimate part of my thoughts and feelings, and for that I will always be unbelievably grateful. Knowing her made me a better person.
If Helene had to pass, I'm glad she did so at the beginning of 2016, a year filled with events that would have infuriated her and offended her strong sense of what was right and just. Like me, she would have suffered over the intervening time with the choices our country has made, and the results of those choices. I think of her, along with my own parents, so often when I give thanks for the fact that they didn't live to see what has transpired.
But I miss her, miss her terribly. I could have used her outrage, and perhaps her perspective, wisdom and humor. Not one to give up, she would have fought the good fight always, whether it was against her illness, or against any injustice she saw. Her outrage was like fuel for our lives.
Losing her, after a fight I truly thought she was going to win, broke my heart and my spirit, and my life is much more painful and difficult in her absence. I only hope she is in a better place, and that her spirit soars high above us.