Alberta Wright Gerould

Date(s) of birth and/or death approximate

Date of Birth

July 1st, 1917

Date of Death

January 1st, 2010

Memorial Meeting

Multnomah Friends Meeting


Alberta Gerould, age 92, died in January 2010, after a massive stroke. She was a longtime environmental activist in Portland, a Quaker, classical guitar teacher and an active hiker. She was born in July 1917 to two concert violinists, Cedric Wright, and Mildred Sahlstrom Wright in San Francisco, California, she grew up in a family with an involvement with the Sierra Club from its inception. Her childhood was spent in Berkeley, Alameda, the Santa Cruz mountains, and the Sierra Nevada in California. She graduated from the University of California at Berkeley in 1938 as an English major. Before World War II, she worked for the University of California Press and the Grabhorn Press in San Francisco.

Alberta met librarian Albert Gerould while cooking for Sierra Club work parties. He initially claimed that he was drawn to her onion soup, but was still disturbed by her appropriation of his first name. Albert became a commissioned Army officer during World War II, they married in 1941 and moved to Camp Richie in Virginia. While Albert was serving in Europe, she worked for the War Labor Board, writing news stories from Allied transmissions. In 1945, Alberta worked in press relations for the international conference gathered to form the United Nations. After the war, they moved to Long Island where Susan was born and Albert became the first librarian of the United Nations. Later, they moved to Rochdale, Massachusetts and three more children were born: Rosemary, and a set of twins, Stephen and Sarah.

In 1953, the family settled in West Mount Airy in Philadelphia. Alberta pursued her passions for music, peace, animal and human rights, and wilderness. She began studying the guitar and as a folk musician, held many “Hootenannies” at their home. Later, she turned to classical guitar and lute. She taught folk and classical guitar at the Settlement Music School in Philadelphia for 23 years. During this time she became interested in expanding the guitar repertoire. She transcribed, arranged for the guitar, and published transcriptions from lute tablature and formed a trio that played many of these transcriptions and other 18th century music to Philadelphia groups.

Alberta’s introduction to Quakerism came through Stephen Cary’s pamphlet, “Speak Truth to Power”. She took his words to heart and turned into a life-long letter writer, making her voice heard by contributing to letter writing campaigns on topics from peace to conservation. The family became members of the Green Street Friends (Quaker) meeting in Philadelphia and the children attended Quaker schools. As a member of the Peace Committee, she expanded her peace related activities, and brought her children to marches against the Vietnam War in Washington D.C.

Albert died in 1981, and in 1987 Alberta moved to Portland, where two of her children were settled with grandchildren. She became an active member of Multnomah Meeting, serving diligently on many committees. There she met her soulmate, John Saemann. Their shared love for wild places brought them to many of Oregon’s beautiful but disappearing ancient forests, and to Alaska, Utah, and California, where they would be seen, canes and camera in hand, hiking through the forest. Her photographs have appeared in publications related to Hawaii and Oregon environmental causes. She had close ties to Oregon Wild (formerly Oregon Natural Resources Council), Adopt-a-Grove and the Bull Run Interest Group, and worked to protect the Bull Run and Little Sandy watersheds and other areas through letter writing and demonstrations. She had a major role in developing a catalogue of reference materials on the campaign to protect Bull Run (the main source of water for Portland) and in seeing that the materials were preserved in Multnomah County Library.

Alberta Gerould is survived by four children and their spouses: Susan Gerould and William Tenney, Rosemary Barrett and Steven Barrett, Stephen Gerould and Carolyn Schirmacher, and Sarah Gerould; five grandchildren, Cedric Thomas Barrett, Ames Christopher Gerould, Alexander Gerould Cohn, William Stephen Gerould, and Hannah Jun Cohn; her half sister, Joanne Evens; and half brother, David Wright.