It is with a numbed sense of great personal loss that I report the passing on June 27th of David Gitin: poet, educator, and polymath. As Gloria Avner lovingly phrased it (his long-lost teenage sweetheart, re-discovered and reunited in Key Largo six years ago), “he has finally graduated from Earth school.”
It is never easy to get to know the complex and extremely gifted. Those who reached out received warmth back they might never have imagined. Those wise or fortunate enough to have probed his vast cabinet of knowledge emerged richer and deeper and often agog at his intimacy with the intertwined arms of all the creative arts.
No one loved or pursued the depths of film and music more passionately than David. He was internationally renowned as one of the last of the post-beat-generation poets.
Though he ended up teaching much of his adult life, most recently as chair of a Humanities Department at Monterey Peninsula College in California, his journey to poetry began with a restless and unlimited imagination, plus an innate allergy to conventional pedagogic inanities, which put him on the road at a very young age.
Something led him to Greenwich Village in the late ‘50s when it was the epicenter of American ideas and, led by the arts, fairly erupting with the seeds of a coming American sensibility.
He sat in cafes and bars with others of geothermal creativity and rejection of grayness — poets and novelists and musicians and composers and filmmakers and painters — and found his place among them. His work ended up in the same pantheon as, and considered fully peer to, that of the indelible, iconic figures of modern American poetry. As a teacher, his long memory and insistence on finding and unlocking the wellspring of every student is reflected in the many notes Gloria has received, from around the world, offering love and gratitude for what David taught them and the vibrant legacy he left them.
Gloria wants to thank the entire Upper Keys Community and particularly the Keys Jewish Community Center where he served on the board as chair of the Scholarship Committee, for welcoming David into the fold. She offers special thank yous to those who hosted his daughter Diana Victoria Lal and granddaughter Nico when they flew in to say goodbye from Washington State, to the caregivers of VNA/Hospice of the Florida Keys, to those who visited David in the Plantation Key Nursing Center, to his doctors, Bernard Ginsberg and Joanne Mahoney, and to the many who offered Gloria rides so she could be with him at will.
Rest in peace, David. Say hello to Shakespeare and Yeats, Eisenstein and John Coltrane, Miles Davis and, of course, to Frank.
Your friend and admirer,
Keys Jewish Community Center