Dorothy Gerson’s devotion to her many friends was unsurpassed, and she had a knack for making each person feel like they were the closest.
Throughout her lifetime, Dorothy “Dottie” Gerson was guided by three great passions: her family, her multitude of friends and her commitment to helping others. As energetic and determined as she was giving and compassionate, Dorothy lived each day to the fullest, remaining active and connected to the people she loved. On April 16, 2021, Dorothy passed away, just three weeks short of her 100th birthday.
Dorothy and her younger brother, the late William “Bill” Davidson, grew up in Detroit, in close proximity to their grandparents, aunts, uncles and first cousins. As the oldest, she frequently looked after “the boys,” a precursor to her later — and most fulfilling — role as the matriarch of a large and loving family.
She began her studies at the University of Michigan and then moved to New York, where she received a bachelor’s degree in business from Barnard College and a master’s in accounting from Columbia University. By taking advantage of the city’s many cultural offerings, she began a lifelong appreciation for art, music and theater.
She met her husband of 66 years, the late Byron “Bud” Gerson through a mutual friend, and, after one false start, the two became inseparable. Their marriage was an egalitarian partnership brimming with love, humor and mutual respect, despite his proclivity for promptness and her tendency to “finish one more thing” before leaving the house.
The couple traveled the country and the world, including many missions to Israel. Dorothy was raised in a family of avid Israel supporters, and the Gersons and Davidsons proudly continued the legacy through numerous visits and transformational contributions.
Love of the Arts
Dorothy was a caring and attentive mother to her sons, Ralph and Matthew, with whom she shared her love of the arts.
“She was determined to make sure we were well-rounded, so she took us to art museums, the DSO Youth Concerts and Broadway shows,” said Ralph.
Matthew remembers going to services at Congregation Shaarey Zedek on Saturday mornings with his mother and brother, an experience he describes as “awe-inspiring.”
She embraced her sons’ wives, Erica and Marysia, as if they were her own daughters, and her granddaughters, Stephanie and Maddie, were her greatest pride. She liked planning special activities and spending one-on-one time with each one.
She was close to her brother Bill and maintained close relationships with her first cousins and their extended families, teaching her sons by example to prioritize family in their own lives.
Her Yom Kippur break-the-fast gatherings and Passover seders, which she hosted in her Franklin home through her mid-90s, were legendary, and always included newcomers to town or those who had no family to celebrate with.
Dorothy was an active member of Hadassah, which her mother, Sarah Wetsman (Ralph) Davidson, helped found. She was a generous supporter of the local arts, including the Detroit Symphony Orchestra (DSO), the Detroit Institute of Arts (DIA), The Henry Ford and a founding member of the Jewish Ensemble Theatre (JET).
She amassed a remarkable art collection and, to make her art accessible to a broader range of people, she donated many pieces to the DIA, the Henry Ford Museum and the Cranbrook Art Museum. She was a knowledgeable and talented gardener who looked forward to seeing the spring flowers bloom each year.
Devotion to Others
Dorothy’s devotion to her many friends was unsurpassed, and she had a knack for making each person feel like they were the closest. She spent several hours a day catching up with friends and family, which Bud jokingly referred to as “working the phones.”
She believed in helping people whenever she could, and she did so in her own quiet way, expecting nothing in return. When she learned that someone was facing illness, divorce or financial problems, she stepped up to provide whatever support they needed.
“Caring and giving were in her DNA,” said Rabbi Aaron Starr of Congregation Shaarey Zedek in his eulogy.
Dorothy is survived by her beloved sons, Ralph J. (Erica) Gerson and Matthew (Marysia) Gerson; grandchildren, Stephanie Gerson and Madeleine Gerson; sisters-in-law, Karen Davidson and Jeanne Gerson; nephew and niece, Ethan (Gretchen) Davidson and Marla (Cyrus) Karimipour; and a large extended family of nieces and nephews, great-nieces and great-nephews, cousins and a world of friends. She was the devoted wife of the late Byron “Bud” Gerson; the daughter of the late Ralph and Sarah Wetsman Davidson; and the sister of the late William “Bill” Davidson.
Interment was at Clover Hill Park Cemetery. Contributions may be made to Jewish Federation of MetroDetroit, Byron Gerson Fund, 6735 Telegraph Rd., Ste. 260, P.O. Box 2030, Bloomfield Hills, MI 48303, (248) 642-4260, jewishdetroit.org/send-a-tribute; or the Detroit Institute Of Arts, Byron Gerson Fund, 5200 Woodward Ave, Detroit, MI 48202, (313) 833-7979, dia.org/support/donate; or Hadassah-Greater Detroit Chapter, 5030 Orchard Lake Road, West Bloomfield, MI 48323, (248) 683-5030, www.hadassah.org/detroit; or a charity of one’s choice. Arrangements by Ira Kaufman Chapel.