from messages sent by Penn's friends. Anyone who would like to
a comment to this page should
email it to Ted Goertzel.
Received February 12, 2011:
I was friend of Penn's in Juneau and kept in touch with him while
he was in Chicago after we moved to Bloomington Indiana a while back. I
knew he died a while back for some reason today he flashed to mind soI Googled and followed the lead back to your [Ted's} email.
Just thought I's send a note saying hi and that i still remember Penn. We used to play basketball together in the Juneau City League and Penn
was the only person I've ever meet who used to shave his ankles to tape up his ankles with duct tape for games. Pretty sure his ankles
were shot but the duct tape was something else and probably only something Penn would do.
Hope all is well, Thom Gillespie
Received June 1, 2007:
I met the
goertz in the eighties in juneau Alaska working with native
youths and coaching basketball and the times we had joking and
harassing one another. I'll miss his humor and still do though he has
passed. It has taken me awhile to sit and write of the many memeories
that I've of him.The other roomies at the time were Gus Van Vliet
,sheila Mahoney, his niece Tamara and Wade Johnson for abrief moment.I
was not there at his memorial and had not known of his passing till one
day when talking to Gus that our friend had gone to be with his
parents.I had known of his sickness thru our conversations over the
years and had kept in contact.I keep in contact by coming to this site
to see his photo,over the years I've lost some possesions from the
years including photos of us working with the youths in the summer
camps and of course bball..I was his native american brother as
he eloquently use to say what a "red hound", a running comment we had
was Goertz there are nosingle mothers safe around when you are dogging
ha ha....so all was said in jest then he would go of laughing and
braying aloud...Penn as a friend thank you for being my
Hello all. I must inform you
of a tragic event that happened on
Saturday, Mr. G passed away. Things were going pretty bad, as he had had
a antibiotic-resistent strain of VRE, which had gone away, but came
back, plus the very weak liver was going slowly, as well as his kidneys,
and all of this at the same time. We have all known Mr. Goertzel for a
while, at some point, and we all know that he was a special teacher, and
a special friend to many. He will always be remembered by us, and by the
students he taught, the faculty, and most, if not all of Eton School
that knew him. He was a special person, one that a lot of people knew as
a person who loved others with a very caring personality. He helped us
when he could, and was always quite generous. He believed in all of us
all. I hope that we take his death as a way to know really how much life
means, as it is a gift that no material can match.
Anthony Cutler of the Eaton School where Penn taught.
It still seems a little unreal to me
that Penn is gone. I
miss him a lot already. To be honest, I'm not really sure what to do
anymore, now that he is gone. It's hard to look forward to time that I don't
know what to do with.
Penn is the best friend I ever had.
I couldn't help but be a good friend to
him in return. He was always there for me and trusted me more than anyone
had ever trusted me before. I would like to help fulfill his wishes.
Thank you for the message about our
dear friend and Science teacher, Penn.
It is with great sadness that I will carry this unhappy news to the
teacher's first day of Inservice tomorrow. As I said on the telephone,
both my husband Vic and I had great fondness and respect for Penn. He was
a wonderful educator and an inspiring colleague. He will be missed.
Pat Feltin, Eton School
Penn and I were friends his last
in Chicago and spent much of the
summer before he came to Seattle together. It was a difficult time for both of
us---he was coping with his breakup with Toni, and I with a friend's
suicide---and I know that we helped each other, lightening the load. That
experience, seeing him when I was in Seattle (at the time of his welcome
party), our day with the Orcas in the islands, and other things established
the foundation for a friendship that, in some ways I think, surprised us
both with its depth. Penn made a difference in my life, with his sensitivity,
attention, humor, support of my writing, respect for my input to his, so
many ways. I have some wonderful memories to console me, and he'll continue to
be a source of inspiration---I'll let his courage and commitment to getting
healthy and his dedication to writing, under all conditions, fuel my own.
I loved your brother very much and
so grateful to have known him. And I'm
grateful, through your e-mails, to know you as well. You and your family
arein my thoughts.
Penn touched a lot of people's
After I got your e-mail today, I
called my mom to tell her, and she started crying. She has had her prayer
chain, a group through her church, praying for Penn, and now she'll have
them pray for his family and friends. I also called the woman of the
couple Penn and I used to live with in both Eugene and San Diego, Andrea
Bacal, and she is going to tell her former husband, Dick Trumbull.
(They're both still in San Diego.)
I've been looking through my
this afternoon, and I have some
good ones of you, Carol, and Mario in Ashland. I have professional photos
of both you and Penn when you were teenagers--maybe they're your junior
high or h.s. graduation pix--I can't tell whether you look 14 or 18--I
think more like 14. I also have some snapshots of you, Penn, and Ted when
you were little. I guess I wound up with some of these pictures by
accident when Penn and I split up. I have a couple of good ones of Sam,
too (wasn't that your grandfather's name?). If I come to the memorial,
I'll bring all the pictures I have, and if I don't make it up there, I'll
send them to you.
I'm going to spend the
getting out all my old photos of Penn and crying and thinking about him
and reading inThe Tibetan Book of Living and Dying. My thoughts and
are with you and the rest of Penn's family and friends.
Kam Magor (Penn's ex-wife)
I met Penn three years ago when I
a playreading group. I produced
two productions in which Penn's Plays were presented at Hugo House. Penn
attended my 50th birthday party last year along with another fellow
playwright Cathryn Pisarski. Sadly, Cathryn passed away this year and I
gave her a memorial and Penn came. He spoke eloquently about her and her
work, her compassion and I felt as if he was describing himself. I am so
glad I visited Penn in the hospital a couple of weeks ago right after his
birthday. He was a wonderful human being, a terrific playwright and a good
friend. My best and healing wishes goes out to all his friends and family.
Thank you for the details, even
I might short our the laptop with my tears. Last night I made pizza and
I was sure that the sauce would make everyone depressed as a few of my
tears landed in it. (like the movie Like Water for Chocolate) Lev said
he was "deep rest" too. Jaal is more closed emotionally, Lev is really
sad. he keeps saying, "we're sad for Uncle Penn", and hugging me. I
I knew that this was coming, but I hadn't really prepared the kids
The really loved spending time with Uncle Penn, and he had babysat
often. I thought maybe it would help them if they had something of
so I asked them if there was something in particular that they would
as a memory, and their materialistic side came right out. Below is
requests. If someone else wants one of the things they requested they
care, so feel free to give it to someone else.
Penn was a loving and generous man, with a easy smile and a friend to everyone he met. Soon after arriving in Seattle I came across Penn through Larry Coffin, and the first show I appeared in was at the 1999 Fringe Festival, '3 Dreams'. I will remember him fondly and with gratitude as the man who introduced me to the Seattle theatre scene. Since then we stayed in touch, and he gave me a copy of his play The Junk Room, with a view to playing one of the roles. There are some very poignant moments in the play that I would be happy to help put together as a reading at a memorial for Penn.
I visited Penn a few times over the last three weeks and, yes, it was distressing to see such a wonderful man in obvious distress. I hoped beyond hope that he would pull through and once again be the Penn we all knew, but at the same time, I knew the body cannot last forever, as much as we may wish it. I sincerely believe his spirit will live on in the hearts and minds of those who knew him and loved him.
My thoughts are with you all.
hi john and sue ellen. i'm so sad
penn. as i remember how uncomfortable
he looked on thursday, tho, i'm sure that he would genuinely thank you for
letting him go.
of course i want to be there for a
service for penn...
I spent the day yesterday thinking
Penn and what a dear, humorous, lively, loveable, bright and gifted
he has been to me. I played the last voice mail I received from him
and over. After his transplant, when he was feeling strong, he called
talk about getting together. I remember how happy I was to hear the
in his voice. I never, through all the complications that ensued, had
heart to erase it. That sound signified -- all through this time -- my
hopes for him -- even later, when I sensed that his valiant body was
I knew Penn in his early CDW days
it's a tribute to your brother
that fifteen years later I still remember his warmth, charm, humor and love
of Juneau. His passing affected so many of us; I, for one, will always
remember his talent, his wit, his sweet, generous nature. I wish I kept in
touch through the years so that he knew how important he was to so many of
us. I hope that these shared memories can help you through these difficult
days. Robin Seidman
Needless to say, I was quite shocked to hear of Penn's passing. We worked
together at Lenart School in Chicago. He was a friend to everyone on the
faculty and really enjoyed teaching our "gifted" children. A special pride
of his was coaching the academic team. I have send the news of Penn's death
to his friends at Lenart. I'm sure you'll hear from some of them.
To tell you the truth, the last time I wrote to him, his responsed saying
that he was having a problem with his health after his transplant. I hadn't
heard from him in awhile and hoped nothing bad had happened.
Today was the first day of school for Chicago's children. I phoned the
principal (I am retired now) and told her about Penn. She will relay this
information to the older children, parents who knew him and of course, the
Please accept my condolences. Penn was a unique individual. He loved life
and seemed to have enjoyed whatever he pursued.
I worked with
for a few years at the Lenart School in Chicago and
though I hadn't seen him since 1997, we kept in contact occasionally via
email. He was quite a renaissance man and I loved to hear about his plays
and other writings. As we both lived in the same neighborhood, we would
sometimes car pool together. This fact did not slip by our observant
students and they wanted to know if we "liked" each other. I thought this
was rather funny as I'm about 20 years younger than Penn, but I don't
think he would have thought that the age difference was an issue : - )
I'm very sorry for you & your family. I'll always remember Penn fondly.
Penn and I were friends in Juneau,
during the 70's and early 80's. I
had lost contact with him until recently when I was able to track him down on
the web. I had a nice chat with him on the telephone several weeks ago and
was looking forward to a visit from him sometime this month. My inquiry was
answered by your daughter with the sad news of his death. I knew of his
recent surgery and the risks involved but Penn just seemed too full of life
for anyone to worry about him. I'm very saddened to hear the news. I'll
always have a smile on my face when I think of him. He was a good man who
made life a little bit fuller for all who knew him.
You don't know me but I taught with
Penn when he was at Stowe School.
We were the official Boy's Club (Kelly, Frank, Penn, and myself). He
usually referred to me as Goose (long story).
I just want to send my deepest regrets about the loss of such a fine
person. All of us were hoping that the G-man would come through with
flying colors, but unfortunately that didn't happen. All of us were
proud to call Penn a friend. He will truly be missed.
If there is anything that I can do, please let me know.
It was with great sorrow that I read
Ariel's email about Penn. I am so
sorry. I realize that Penn had many friends. However, although he had been
gone from Chicago for awhile, he remained my best friend. I know that we
always have regrets. Ths is something that I will always regret. I should
have visited him. I should heve called. I am sorry I did not.
I was saddened to learn that Penn
passed on and wanted to send
condolences from both my wife Susan and myself to you and your family. I
enjoyed meeting and getting to know Penn and although our friendship was
brief, he had a profound effect on my outlook on life and my attitude in
dealing with all of the complexities and uncertainties surrounding
transplantation. Please keep us informed of any plans you may have for a
memorial service. Peace to you and yours.
Terry L. Way
Three things about Penn that I will always have with me:
-- The dinner parties he and Toni threw.
-- The negotiations he and Toni had
after the dinners when we would all
begin to play charades. They HAD to know the rules. They also took those
games as seriously as the dinners themselves. That's what made them both
-- Our discussions about
after readings at Joel's Bar, next
door to the old Chicago Dramatists (back when we still had a "Workshop" in
the name). I was jealous of his abilities to write poetry and short plays
and put them together ... it was something I felt like I could not do. He
claimed to be jealous of others' (including, I guess, mine) ability to
write full-length plays, thinking he could not do it. He was wrong, but he
didn't have to worry.
Penn had a gentle voice, both as a
and in person, and that's all
anyone could ask. He inspired me to take up poetry a couple of years ago. I
am in the process of writing one for Penn. Just to show him that, like him,
maybe I have a voice that can stretch like his.
That's the long and the short of it,
I guess. I'll always hear his voices,
and I'm blessed for that.
I am Carol Davis and I have known Penn for a long while. We met at the Univ of Oregon in the mid seventies . He, Chris McQuitty and I attended the Creative Writing Fiction program at the grad school and along with my husband Nathan and other friends like Alice Cartwright shared lots of beers, (those were the days he still could) gossip and late night rewriting sessions.
Since those days ended in 1978 Penn has always stayed in touch despite many relocations. Nathan and I moved to NYC for a few years (where we are from). Ironically, my mom, whose birthday was the same as Penn's Aug 2, myself, Nathan and Penn celebrated in August, oh maybe 1979, at Windows of the World at the top of the World Trade Center.
We visited him in Alaska, he came to see us in San Diego, Los Angeles and then Seattle where we spent the last sixteen years. We saw a lot of Penn once he moved here. He was definitely an uncle to our three children, Gabe 10, Alex 18, and Zoe 15. He had a special and intimate relation with each of them. Gabe, Nathan and Penn played basketball, tennis and baseball together and it wasn't all that long ago. For Zoe it was an appreciation of literature as well as science in his teacherly yet humorous way. And for Alex it was helping her get along with her parents as a teenager wanting her freedom. Whatever the subject, he knew something about it and was always ready to assist. We were family.
There was a ready humor I appreciated in Penn after knowing him for years. He became less restless and more eager to analyze himself and chuckle and dream. He was always forming new and interesting plans. His energy and mental ambition knew no bounds. The last years we hung out in such an easy way, watching movies and arguing about them passionately (one of his all time favorites and something which he would say he was indebted to me for life for was turning him on to director Alan Rudolph, particularly AfterGlow, Penn just loved that movie), taking walks, reviewing his writing or talking about our shared friends with great concern and just a little bit of gossip.
After the big scare two years ago when a blister put him in the hospital we watched him rally and build his hopes again. We had a lot of chances over the last two years to tell him how important he was to us, especially when he needed encouragement, and to tell him that his life was worth struggling for. And what a struggle it came to be. He came sooo close to his goal. With the immeasurable sacrifices of John and Sue Ellen he took it as far as his body would allow. I thank them both for being such knowledgeable and compassionate caretakers. No one could have wished for better advocates. And I just know he is at peace with the timing of it all John.
We will plant a tree at the science garden at Mercer Island High School in Penn's honor. We are making a stepping stone for him to be placed in our garden as well.
Well Penn, we are missing you, your spirit and energy, your playfulness and fun. There are so many things I will miss: your happy eyes, coming home to find you sneaking a cat nap somewhere in the house, your gratefulness to be included, dragged along, cooked for or invited anywhere. I see you around every corner and I will miss you always.
Carol Hartman Davis
Some words from my son Gabe, age ten:
He was the coolest guy to talk to about sports. He was a great guy and I miss him with my whole heart.
He turned into a psycho when talking or watching the Chicago Bulls. He loved Jordan. He squealed amd yelled. It was fun to watch sports with him.
I'm glad I was able to be there Sunday. The service, the
remembrances, conversation with friends and family, and the readings all
called him forth in as a complete a way as can be done with the mystery and
complexity that is an individual. I was especially touched by the neices'
and nephews' remarks. He spoke of all of them, and the next generation, to
me at one point or another, and his love for them was palpable.
Thank you for putting the website together. It's a comfort and
and will especially help those who couldn't attend the service. I know that
people at Chicago Dramatists and the Chicago theatre community who were close
to Penn will make use of it. Some of them are talking about putting a
memorial service together here; I'll help to facilitate getting information
from the service to you for inclusion on the site once that takes place.
My love to all of you during this difficult time. I’m not going to be there this Sunday for Penn’s memorial service, but my thoughts will be with you. My thoughts have been with Penn often, every day, as I have a picture of him napping in front of his drums in his condo – right on my desk. This was taken two summers ago. I’d be happy to post in on the Web site, or send a copy to anyone who requests it. He’s smiling while he’s sleeping.
My main request for a remembrance of Penn is: I would love a copy of the picture of him with Alexis and Alex, at their wedding. He looks so handsome and happy, elegant, and a bit sly (since he often was). I’d like to always refresh my memory of him with this lovely picture.
Besides that, I would love to read his last book, the children’s book about transplants. This may be available to me on the Web site. If not, please let me know what to do, John or Sue Ellen, to get a copy.
Like everyone who reads this, my memories of Penn are vivid and joyous. We talked, we laughed, we danced, we sang – but not the last too often. He is the person who first got me on cross-country skis, he is the person who got me to move to Alaska, he is the person with whom I shared writing and reading, parties and tears, all parts of my life without any secrets. I could share it all with him. Of course then he’d sometimes exclaim “What!? Why did you do/think that?”
Thank you all for tremendous care you had for Penn, and for the care you took of him.
Penn, my Penny: Vaya con Dios.. I am so glad for the parts of our lives we shared. I am so sad that you have left us too soon. But you are all better, now. And you know you carry my love forever. As I carry yours.
Messages from Members of Penn's High School Class