submitted by Roberta Carrow Jackson
It is with deep sadness that I share here that Roberta Dilk Bruck, PhD, JD, passed away this past Saturday after being diagnosed with cancer less than two weeks ago. She was 83. Before she passed, she asked that, in lieu of flowers, friends and colleagues please send donations to the St. Tammany Art Association in Covington or the AAUW – Tulane U. New Orleans.
When we were together, she was Ro and I was Berta. We did lots of things together — saw movies, plays, went on art museum trips, birthday lunches – and in her last years, she joined my family for Thanksgiving and Christmas. Being the taciturn sort, she didn’t talk much about herself, but I want to share with you some things I did know about my friend.
When I first met “the other Roberta,” she was a near-daily St. John’s Coffeehouse denizen, covering her table with newspapers, bags of books and whatever origami or scrapbooking project she was working on. She rarely spoke to anyone but when she did, it was with that distinctive Jersey accent and a laugh that rang to the walls. So y’all know me, I had to go meet this unusual, elderly lady who always sat by herself making things.
I went to her table, asked if I could sit with her and she said, “Sure!” … and sort of politely answered my questions about her project, but kept her head down to work on it. She wasn’t lonely at all, her brain was on fire and she was involved in a million things.
Though she always thought herself more artist than scientist, she was a highly regarded educator at LSUHSC School of Public Health, retiring in 2006 as Assistant Professor of Cell Biology and Anatomy. She earned her PhD from Cornell Univ. Medical College in 1967, and a highlight of her professional accomplishments included publishing a book on Human Anatomy (1979, Harper & Row). Dr. Bruck-Kan, as her students knew her, was active with and supported numerous groups concerned with the arts and community, education and scientific advancement, among them the AAUW, (especially its book group!), Leadership St. Tammany (class of 2006), Playmakers, Inc. Community Theater, Friends of the Library, and, of course, the St. Tammany Art Association.
Ro was a dedicated volunteer and patron of STAA. She served on the board of directors as Corresponding Secretary, hand-making and mailing welcome cards to every new and renewing member. She also created and maintained a media archive, compiling several thick binders of articles and photos to document the goings-on at the nonprofit. She exhibited paintings and mixed media creations in the members’ gallery and rarely missed a Second Saturday Art Walk, fundraiser or festival night. She was also a member of the Louisiana Watercolor Society, exhibiting striking florals at their shows at The Atrium Gallery at Christwood.
She brought her knowledge of anatomy to Bill Badon’s monthly life drawing group, one of her favorite activities at the Art House. Similarly, she was teacher as well as student there. She participated in dozens of studio art classes, both to continue exploring her own ideas and to support the education program when enrollment was light, and taught art history, bringing that academic rigor to her surveys on Asian and Middle Eastern art — they were comprehensive, compelling, and funny. She loved pointing out the comical, strange and gross things that occurred down through the history of art, and of medicine — so much so that many years prior, she did stand-up comedy under the moniker, “The Very Gross Anatomist.”
She once said that, when her time came, she hoped to have a memorial at her dear Art House, where her friends could come together to eat, drink and be merry. So, sometime this spring, STAA will host a potluck complete with a brass band, drinks–probably including absinthe, her favorite–and her many watercolors on display. I hope you will all join me in celebrating her life and sharing your own stories of your time with her.
– Submitted By Roberta Carrow Jackson
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