A Most Unusual Opening of the Year

A Most Unusual Opening of the Year

For the first time in decades, the Ethical Culture Society will not open with a welcome from its Leader, Joe Chuman.

While not physically sick, Joe’s spirit is very ill. As you know, his wife, Linda, passed away on August 31. In an attempt to make some sense of this suffering for myself and others, I wondered what meaning we might be able to squeeze out of this nightmare.

Despair is suffering without meaning.

Viktor Frankel

I think the humanists must project the meanings day after day, and it’s hard work many days.

Lisel Burns

Some of the hardest work we members of the Bergen Society have had to do is to be patient. This waiting, in an age of instant information, was painful. Joe is a public figure, always accessible. Respecting his privacy thwarted so many of our instincts both individually and as a community; to reach out, to comfort, to know more, to shed a tear together, to connect, to encourage, to hug, to listen, to bear witness.

Joe had needed to keep himself focused entirely on Linda. We now wish him the strength to endure what’s ahead. As for us, we have each other to turn to with our worries and our grief. We stand ready to be present and to be leaned on, but not until the time is right. When the time comes, we will meet that suffering with patience and with love.

It is with profound sorrow that we announce that Linda Gerstmann died August 31st. The world is a darker place with the passing of Linda, the wife of our Leader Joe Chuman. Information about visiting with the family will follow when we have more details.


  1. I will always remember that Linda took the time to listen to my personal problems. Her wisdom and empathy were both exceptional gifts that she shared with me, her friends and the ethical community. I extend my sincerest sympathy to Joe and the family. Here’s hoping that all our memories of Linda will be a comfort to Joe and the family and help them heal during this difficult time.

  2. We have suffered a great loss,those who knew her as I diid since before she was married,feel an emptiness ,she was special and unique,loveable. I will always remember her for her many virtues.

  3. I’m so sorry. This is a sad loss of an exceptional woman. Joe offerred me wisdom and comfort with my losses and now my heart goes out to Joe.

  4. Still hard to believe and although I did not know Linda well I always admired her offerings during Platforms and once when she gave me the nicest smile!! Joe, I’m with you and offer whatever I can for the healing process……

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