by Elaine Bertisch
We mourn the passing of Sidney Leonard Bertisch, who died on April 17, at UF Health Shands Hospital after a brief illness.
Sidney was born in the Bronx, New York, on June 26, 1941, to Max Bertisch and Kate (Lieber) Bertisch. He graduated from Theodore Roosevelt High School, then worked for several years at resorts in the Catskills as a lighting operator for nightclub acts including Milton Berle, Gregory Hines, Eydie Gormé and Steve Lawrence, and Jackie Mason. Sidney’s Borscht Belt sense of humor originated there.
In 1967, Sidney headed to Gainesville to visit a friend. He never left, aside from spending a few years in Colorado. He earned a bachelor’s degree in political science from the University of Florida, then launched a successful career as a local piano player and singer at regular gigs and private events. He also worked for the University of Florida from 1983 to 1998.
Sidney’s hobbies included contra dancing, bicycling, and acting; his passion was social activism. He participated in many demonstrations, including the 1963 March on Washington (he quit his job when he wasn’t given permission to attend) and protests against the death penalty in Florida. His compassion for all humans and for other species was unlimited.
Sidney is survived by his wife, Elaine Bertisch of Gainesville; his sister, Sandra Gelman of Ocala; his son, James Bertisch of Aracaju, Brazil; numerous other relatives; and hundreds of friends. He will be greatly missed. A private burial at Prairie Creek Conservation Cemetery was held with immediate family in attendance. Details for a Celebration of Sidney’s Life will be shared in the future.
If inclined, please donate to one of the causes Sidney supported. Those especially meaningful to him include Human Rights Watch, PETA, PCRM, FFRF, IPPL, ACLU, Fairness & Accuracy in Reporting, Jewish Voice for Peace, Jane Goodall Institute, Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, The Jerusalem Fund, Doctors Without Borders, Democracy Now!, The Hightower Lowdown, and Amnesty International and, locally, Jungle Friends Primate Sanctuary, the Civic Media Center, Florida Coalition for Peace and Justice, FL0165 Gainesville Area NOW, WGOT, and Pride Community Center of North Central Florida.