Gerry Schreier, M.S.W.
A Woman of Valor
2 May 1931 - 25 July 2008
By Marvin Margolis, M.D., Ph.D.
Gerry Schreier, a well-known social worker and passionate supporter of psychoanalysis in Michigan, died at the age of 77 on July 25, 2008. She was a founding Board Member of the Michigan Psychoanalytic Foundation and the Association for Psychoanalytic Thought. She chose to die in her family home surrounded by her family and friends.
Gerry was a positive force in our psychoanalytic community. Her hopeful attitude and radiant smile, coupled with a commitment to our mission, have left an enduring legacy. Our psychoanalytic community was central to Gerry’s professional life. She was a lifelong learner and participated actively in our advanced seminars for mental health professionals. Many of her closest friends were analysts and mental health colleagues in the analytic community. Gerry was not just a consumer of analytic ideas. A doer and leader by nature, she helped us organize our first fundraising efforts. Our Benefits were welcoming, entertaining, and a convivial experience for all--a true reflection of Gerry’s style and personality. She served as Benefit Chair for many years and then, continuously, as a key member of the Benefit Committee until a few months prior to her death. Gerry not only participated in the planning of each Benefit, she also helped organize the related fundraising and was one of our major solicitors. Gerry always gave generously herself; few could resist her requests for support of our treatment clinic and educational activities. Gerry was a prime mover in securing the funds that allowed us eventually to purchase our offices in Farmington Hills. Her husband Aaron (Hank) helped design the layout of classrooms, administrative offices, clinic and library.
Gerry also attempted to organize community support for psychoanalysis by establishing our Psychoanalytic Foundation and the Association for Psychoanalytic Thought and served on the boards of these organizations for years. Gerry wasn’t simply a member of our extended psychoanalytic community, she helped establish this community, lending her leadership, talent, and energy to the cause of promoting psychoanalysis.
Gerry was born and raised in Detroit. Many of her core ideals and prodigious organizational skills were developed during her adolescence in Habonim, a labor Zionist youth movement. Here her love of Israel and Judaism was nurtured. It was in Habonim during her high school years that she met the love of her life, Aaron Schreier. They were a couple immediately and later went to the University of Michigan where Hank became an architect. They married and settled in Oak Park to raise their family. They eventually moved to a home designed by Hank on a beautiful wooded lot in Beverly Hills. It was only after her children were well along in their school years that Gerry went to Wayne State University to study social work, a field that allowed her to channel her idealism and generosity to people in need. She interned at the Detroit Psychiatric Institute (DPI) where she first became interested in psychoanalytic psychotherapy. She then took a position at the Lakewood Clinic, a private clinic in Birmingham. All of these institutions no longer exist, but in their heyday they were dedicated to patient care and provided trainees and new professionals with a deep immersion in psychoanalytic education. Gerry left Lakewood after many years to enter private practice in Birmingham.
Gerry loved people and had many friends. Once a friend, you were a friend for life. Gerry was a witty, kind-hearted and generous spirit. She enjoyed entertaining. She loved art, fashion, music, theater, literature, and travel. Gerry was a deeply caring, thoughtful and gracious friend to many, many people. She always remembered birthdays and arrived with just the right present, elegantly wrapped. If you performed the smallest kindness to her, she would respond with a deeply appreciative thank you note. Gerry had a long, challenging and successful life. She knew how to live and make the best of her opportunities, especially to give of her boundless energy and love. Gerry was able to seamlessly meld her family, social and professional lives. Her children remember Gerry as a vibrant, optimistic and caring woman who adored her husband, Aaron; her four children, Naomi, Alisa, Joel and David and their spouses (Judah, Marea, and Debbi); as well as her seven grandchildren: Jocelyn, Bethany, Zack, Carly, Jessica, Arava and Maayan. Her boundless energy and devotion to her family kept her flying between Washington, Chicago, and New York City where most of them lived so that she could play a vital role in the lives of her children and grandchildren. She also was a loving daily presence to Naomi, the only one of her children who still lives in Detroit, and her granddaughter Bethany. Her children in their eulogies at times had everyone smiling at their memories of their mother’s exuberance and zest for life, as well as her patience, kindness and proud support for their every accomplishment. Her son, Joel, said it succinctly: “With my Mom in your corner, you couldn’t help but feel that everything was possible. ‘You can do anything you want sweetie’ was a lifelong refrain to all of us.” Naomi warmly spoke of her as super mom, teacher, and best friend.
In her final days, her son, David, asked his mother how she felt about having a disease for which there was no cure. She told him that she accepted it because she had led a rewarding life. “It was just another in a series of wonderful life lessons she gave,” said David in his eulogy. Gerry indeed faced her last weeks of suffering often with a smile and without complaints about her lot. In fact, in her final days of life she attempted to call as many of her friends as she could to say goodbye and to thank them for their friendship and love. Her daughter Alisa, in her eulogy, recalled her mother singing a folk song to them as a lullaby when they were children – “I gave my love a cherry.” She quoted the lyrics: “I gave my love a story that has no end. How can there be a story that has no end? The story of I love you, it has no end.” As we said goodbye to Gerry in the Hebrew Memorial Chapel, hearing the moving farewell eulogies of her four children, there was not a dry eye amongst us. So goodbye, Gerry. Your loving energy lives on in your children, grandchildren, friends and in the Michigan Psychoanalytic Community, which you helped create.
A Woman of Valor, who can find her? Her value is far beyond pearls. Her husband's heart relies on her and he shall lack no fortune. She extends her hands to the poor, and reaches out to the needy. Strength and honor are her clothing. She smiles at the future. She opens her mouth in wisdom and the lesson of kindness is on her tongue. She watches over the ways of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness. Her children rise and praise her and her husband lauds her. Many women have done worthily, but you surpass them all.
Proverbs 31 (from Alisa's eulogy).