Natalie L. M. Petesch, July 6, 1924-October 23, 2021
Natalie L. M. Petesch, who was the first woman to win the Iowa Short Fiction Award (1974) and Pittsburgh’s Cultural Trust Award winner in 1991, passed away in Jefferson Hospital in Pittsburgh on October 23, 2021. Natalie was the recipient of several other literary awards including the Louisville Review Fiction Prize and New Letters Summer Prize (both 1978), Best American Short Stories (1979), the Swallow’s Tale Award (1985), and the Harvey Curtis Webster Award (1989). She was 97.
Born Natalie Levin in Detroit, Michigan in 1924 to Russo-Polish immigrant parents, she earned a baccalaureate at Boston University (Magna cum Laude) in 1955, a Master’s degree from Brandeis University the following year, and a doctorate in English from the University of Texas in 1962. She is the author of ten books and taught English at San Francisco State University, the University of Texas, Southwest Texas State University, and the University of Idaho.
She married Donald Anthony Petesch in 1959, also a scholar and author. In the 1960s, she was active in the civil rights movement, participating with her husband and daughter in the march into Montgomery, Alabama in March, 1965. Natalie was also an activist for farm workers’ rights, the peace movement, and equality of rights for women.
She is survived by a daughter, Rachel Maines, son, Nicholas Petesch (Rebecca), a grandson Gabriel Petesch, granddaughter Rachel Pottinger, and two great-grandchildren, Naomi Opal Wolfman and Eleanor River Pottinger. She wrote an autobiography for Contemporary Authors Autobiography Series (vol. 12, Detroit: Gale Research, 1990, entitled “The Laughter of Hastings Street,” describing her origins in Detroit and her career as a scholar and author. The titles of her books, in chronological order, are After the First Death There is No Other (1974); the Odyssey of Katinou Kalokovich (1974); the Leprosarium (1979), Soul Clap its Hands and Sing (1981); Duncan’s Colony (1982); Wild with All Regret (1986); Flowering Mimosa (1987); Justina of Andalusia (1990); the Immigrant Train (1996); Confessions of Señora Francesca Navarro (2005); and Stories of the Civil Rights Movement: Selma 1965 (2006). Her literary papers are held by the University of Pittsburgh Archives. Friends will be received on Thursday October 28, 2021 from 10:00AM until an 11:30AM Funeral Service at at John A. Freyvogel Sons, Inc. 4900 Centre Avenue at Devonshire Street. (freyvogelfuneralhome.com)