(Below are intimate portraits of Estelle Shohet Brettman by close friends and associates written not long after her death on June 24, 1991. In a genuine and spontaneous manner, they provide insight into the unprecedented success of her campaign to raise international awareness of the artistic and anthropological significance of the Jewish and Christian catacombs of Rome.)
Pictured: artist David Renka's preliminary sketches for an International Catacomb Society medal.
"Estelle Shohet Brettman was fearless in the wide sweep of her beliefs and dream, and even if might have individually thought from time to tome that "this" or "that" "couldn't be done" when we were with her, she was aways off and running and actually "doing it"! I know she attracted so many different people to the International Catacomb Society for so many different reasons, not because she was a perfect person or leader, but because she was such a talented and committed human being. I loved Estelle for all the verve and optimism and incredible energy she brought to the ICS. She was just an incredible optimist and a big thinker. Her sudden and painful death in mid-1991 was a terrible personal loss to those of us who admired her so much.
Estelle's bequest to us - of her book, her notes, her slides, photographs, and collections, and many other tangible assets and, above all, that intangible but still indomitable Spirit that lives on in or memories, also includes a great, grave charge and challenge to us to be as wise and as courageous and as creative as Estelle was in our stewardship of the advancement and fulfillment of her wishes and vision for the ICS."
- Allen Swartz, International Catacomb Society Treasurer, September 23, 1998
"Thank you for your kindness in letting me know about Estelle. ... All of us who had the pleasure of working with Estelle during the preparation of her show were stunned by the news of her death. It was rather like being told that a river had quit flowing... you just can't believe it.
Having known her for only a short period it would be unseemly for me to tell you, an old friend, what she was like. Just let me say that we all lost not only a gracious person, but a fun one who though at times was capable of driving me up the wall, never did so through malice or pettiness but because of a sincere and laudable desire that what was done be well done."
-David M. Renka, March 22, 1994