I met Marty Jezer in 1995 on stutt-l. Special interest Internet groups were a novelty at the time and having the capability of sharing experiences and sharing opinions about stuttering was compelling for me. I had planned to attend the NSP convention the following year in Denver and was looking forward to meeting with those that I had been corresponding with with on stutt-l. I was particularly interested in meeting Marty Jezer. After reading his posts I sensed there was something special about the man. At the time there were many SLP's on stutt-l debating about treatments and issues about stuttering. The list was alive with academic dialogue and in the middle of it all was Marty Jezer, skillfully debating, challenging, and offering alternative points of view. Marty could heat up an exchange but was never hostile. He was a skilled wordsmith who could carry on a complex argument with a seasoned SLP while offering wise words of encouragement to others who stuttered.
And then I met him in person...and my jaw dropped. I anticipated Marty might stutter because I knew there were people on stutt-l who stuttered although I wasn't quite sure who, or how many. Marty stuttered quite severely....like me. There was no second guessing it, nothing covert about it. He stuttered on every word. He liked to say he had an organic stutter. And yet, he was captivating and confident. People hung on his every word. Witnessing this, it contradicted everything I ever thought about stuttering. The eloquent words coming from Marty across the Internet were now delivered in person...quite a revelation.
I had the pleasure of visiting with Marty and his wife Arlene several years ago for a few days. Woody Starkweather and Janet Givens were presenting Birch Tree workshops at the time and planned one in Brattleboro, VT., Marty's community. The setting was intimate and it gave me a chance to get to know Marty better. I already knew that Marty was a contemporary of those in the left wing political movement during the 1960's, such as Abby Hoffman. I had bid on his biography of Hoffman at the NSP auction and won it. I discovered during my visit that Marty was a man truly dedicated to social justice. And he was continually evolving, never content of past accomplishments. The first gay union to take place in the U.S. happened in Vermont and Arlene told me she and Marty were very proud of that.
I saw Marty as a learned historian. His book "The Dark Ages, Life in the U.S. 1945-1960" taught me more about the period than my parochial education ever did. And he was so unassuming about it. I commented about the book during a conversation with him and his response consisted of, "Yeah, that book was fun to write." Only then did I realize he wrote it in 1982 and was now absorbed with other concerns.
I enjoyed Marty's sense of humor. He loved Andy Kaufman. How much better does it get than that? He once told me how he thought he was responsible for a major black out in the area. Seems Marty was getting ready to do a little power drilling. He plugged in his drill and the very second he squeezed the trigger to start drilling all the power in the city went dead. Was Marty pulling my leg? You can't make that stuff up.
Of course the book most of us are familiar with is "Stuttering, A Life Bound up in Words." For me it is the definitive book about stuttering. And Marty is so generous, in his acknowledgements he listed so many of us on stutt-l. But it is Marty who needs to be acknowledged as such a positive force within the stuttering self help movement. Whether facilitating a workshop at an NSA convention, delivering the keynote speech at a Speak Easy Symposium, or writing a column for kids who stutter in the pages of the Friend's publication, "Reaching Out", Marty has always been there for those of us who stutter.
During the past two years I worried about Marty. I called him periodically to chat and he was always upbeat and believed he would prevail. He was planning to attend Speak Easy this past spring and told me he wished he could have attended my workshop. He was optimistic just one month ago when he lasted posted to this list.
Marty, thank you for being such a valuable teacher and good friend to me. Thank you for showing me, by example, the possibilities I possess within myself in spite of my stutter. Thank you for showing me how to be a better man.