May 23rd, 1927-January 6th 2021
Gerald Hiken lived 93 years, 60 of them alongside his wife Barbara Lerner Hiken. He died at home on January 6th 2021 surrounded by love. Fun, funny, a prolific storyteller, brilliant in unexpected ways, he had a genius for helping you understand yourself and your complicated life situations. Talented, he had golden hands with which he could and did do anything.
After graduating in 1949 from the University of Wisconsin, Gerry got in a Jeep and went all over the country working in Repertory Theater, once with Geraldine Page in the company. In the 1950's he went to New York and always landed the parts. It was there that he met Barbara while working on the soap opera Love of Life.
In 1964 he left New York to start the graduate repertory theatre program at Stanford University. Later, he teamed with Paul E. Richards in an original 2-man theater before returning to Broadway, television and movies. He also toured as a dancer with the Margaret Jenkins Dance Company.
Over the next 65 years as a celebrated master actor, he was recognized by greats such as Helen Hays, Laurence Olivier, and Jerome Robbins, and was a favorite of Lee Strasberg at the New York Actor's Studio. Considered a leading Chekhovian interpreter of his time, he received a nomination for the Best Actor Tony in 1979's Strider. He also won an Obie and a Derwent award. His creative community greatly admired him, and he acted in many companies all over the San Francisco Bay Aea.
Always ahead of his time, he was the first male dance student at the University of Wisconsin, and in the 1970's, he corralled his grumpy teenage children into going with him as he played amateur trombone in the Los Trancos Woods Community Marching Band.
A generous mentor teacher, and a believer in being of service, he gave freely of his acting knowledge and friendship to any who sought it, requesting only a little lunch in return. At the onset of the AIDS epidemic Gerry volunteered to be a Los Angeles AIDS Project buddy, bringing meals and companionship to patients and families.
He never stopped learning and making art, writing his own one man shows based on works he loved. Inspired by a college course in Native American studies, he planned an epic cross state family vacation with his (by then less grumpy adult children) to explore historic sites such as Hovenweep, the Anasazi cliff dwellings and the Four Corners area.
He wrote two books, Afraid to Look, an Autobiography, and So You Want To Be an Actor. His work can be found on Youtube and the IMDB under Gerald Hiken.
He anchored a loving home and family, and leaves behind his wife Barbara, daughter Nina and son Noah. They will miss him always.
Published in San Francisco Chronicle from Jan. 11 to Jan. 12, 2021.