"It is with sadness that I am writing on behalf of the Executive Board of the International Catacomb Society that Estelle Brettman passed away on June 24, 1991.
Last fall, Estelle had an operation, but seemed to be recovering from it fairly well. A few weeks ago, she suddenly became very ill, and entered the hospital. Her husband Richard, who had been in the hospital for several months, died seven days after Estelle was hospitalized.
All of us who have known Estelle, know well her courage, her strong will, and her commitment to carrying out the tasks she set for herself. The weeks of Dick's last illness were extremely difficult for her. She spent inordinate amounts of strength and spirit looking out for him, and, although I don't think anyone was aware of it, I believe she began to sense that her own time was growing short. Around the middle of May, she spoke of her concerns and of the need to make arrangements for the future of the ICS and to insure that her book would be finished.
By last spring (1991), Estelle had been ill for a while, but, characteristically, paying as little attention to her own needs as possible. (Husband) Dick's condition had gotten much worse, and Estelle was desperately fighting for his life. Characteristically, she had totally denied and ignored her own suffering, until she suddenly and totally collapsed.
Unfortunately, what none of us were aware of was how sick she herself was. Dick died on May 30, 1991, and Estelle was gone on June 24. Since then, we at the International Catacomb Society have been trying to carry on her work as well as we can. You will understand me when I say that Estelle was the ICS, and things will never be the same without her, but we are clear about what her vision was, and are dedicated to doing our best to follow it.
We are asking ICS members and friends of Estelle for anecdotes or stories about here - any observations or comments that will strike chords with those of us who knew her, and fill out the picture of her for those who did not get the chance to know her.
Estelle's personality was so vivid that in some ways, for us, she has not really gone. She also will have a living memorial in the work she started, and the scholarly projects that we hope will result from her foresight.
It was also Estelle's hope (and she made provision for it) that the ICS would continue to exist as an autonomous organization.
That Estelle was an extraordinary person we do not need to tell you. The ICS, her exhibition, her book, and what they have and will accomplish in bringing people together to recognize and celebrate their shared humanity, will be her memorial.
- Florence Z. Wolsky, Secretary, International Catacomb Society, May 15, 1992
Photographs of the Brettman family grave in the Beth El Cemetery (Crawford Street Section), West Roxbury, MA.