Blossom S. Kirschenbaum, Ph.D., died peacefully at the age of 78 in Providence, R.I., on Nov. 5, 2011 after a vibrant life and a two-year battle with lymphoma.
Born in The Bronx, New York, she graduated from New York City’s Hunter College High School and from Hunter College. She went on to earn a master’s degree in English from Brown University in 1972 and her Ph.D. in English, also from Brown, in 1976. She always considered herself a “Hunter Girl” as well as a native New Yorker.
While raising a family in Boston and later in Providence with her then husband Barry, Blossom first came to the Vineyard in 1957 and made it a point to visit often. Long walks always led to long talks and more often than not with a deep life lesson shared and explored.
For many years she taught composition and literature and served on the faculty of several local universities, including MIT, RISD, Clark University, URI, and University of Massachusetts at Dartmouth. In addition to her work as an educator, Dr. Kirschenbaum worked as a writer for nearly her entire adult life. She published book reviews in The Providence Journal, as well as scholarly articles and literary criticism in a variety of literary journals, as well as in several anthologies.
After living in Rome, Italy, from 1969 to 1972, she became interested in comparative literature and Italian Studies. In addition to published translations of poems by Trilussa, an Italian poet who wrote in the Romanesco dialect (“Fables from Trustevere,” 1976), she translated two novels, “Bloodstains,” by Giuliana Morandini (1987) and “Maria Zef” by Paola Drigo (1989). Her most recent book was a translation of “AlphaBetaBestiario,” a collection of poems by Antonello Borra, which was released the day before she died.
Dr. Kirschenbaum was also active in several local, national, and international organizations. She served for many years as the secretary of SWAP, a program that rehabilitated abandoned properties. She also volunteered for Amnesty International, and the staccato sound of her electric typewriter could be heard during letter-writing campaigns sponsored by its local chapter. Her other memberships included the Modern Language Association and PEN International and the Italian American Historical Association. She was known to express her opinions vociferously at Providence School Board meetings, at which she continued to support high school students long after her own children had graduated from the Providence public schools.
She will be remembered as a lifelong learner, as well as for many personal qualities that left impressions on nearly everyone she met. Her keen intellect and the clarity of her analytic mind made her both a powerful ally and a formidable foe. Her exuberant spirit, wit, and ready laughter inspired others to reach for lofty goals and self-fulfillment. She detested injustice in all its guises and used her love of language to combat oppression, wherever she saw it, with unfailing energy and aplomb.
Blossom Kirschenbaum is survived by her three children, Jennet, Abram, and Helena Kirschenbaum and two grandchildren, Joshua and Julia Kirschenbaum. She leaves lasting memories with her three brothers and scores of friends around the world. Funeral services were private at her request. A celebration of her life is being planned for spring 2012. Those who knew her are encouraged to send their recollections about her life to firstname.lastname@example.org. Contributions in her memory can be made to Hunter College High School, c/o Dr. Tony Fisher, Principal, 71 East 94th St., New York, NY 10128; Italian Studies Department, c/o Mona Delgado, PO Box 1942, Brown University, Providence, RI 02912; or Amnesty International, Group 49, www.amnestyusa.org.