Friends and colleagues of Margot Adler gathered in New York and Washington, D.C., last week to pay tribute to the late NPR correspondent, whom they described as a great intellect and inspiring spiritual presence.
“She really knew more things about more things than just about anybody else I knew,” said Ken Barcus, NPR’s Midwest Bureau Chief, at a memorial for Adler at the network’s headquarters Wednesday. “She actually was the smartest person I think I have ever known.”
The memorial in Studio 1, which Barcus described as “a blast from the past,” drew NPR alumnae Liane Hansen, Peggy Girshman, Bob Edwards, Jean Cochran, Ted Clark and David Molpus. An audiovisual presentation included excerpts of Adler’s NPR stories about birding, Central Park and 9/11.
Two days later, NPR’s senior European correspondent, Sylvia Poggioli, told a gathering at All Souls Unitarian Church in Manhattan that Adler’s passion for paganism was contagious. Recalling a trip from Rome to Greece that the two women made with their husbands, Poggioli said, “I joined her in a ritual to the goddess Hera, a mystical experience I will always treasure.”
Attendees at the Manhattan memorial included Deborah Amos, NPR’s Middle East correspondent, and On the Media host Brooke Gladstone. In the pew in front of Amos and Gladstone sat Ceil Muller, an engineer who worked with Adler for years at NPR’s New York bureau before taking a job at KQED in San Francisco. Members of the production team of Justice Talking, which Adler hosted from 1999-2008, also turned out.
Many thought Adler would’ve gotten a kick out of a memorial service held on Halloween. Manoli Wetherell, a longtime engineer at NPR’s New York bureau who described herself as like a sister to Adler, wore a black dress decorated with white ghosts. Wetherell, who had worked with Adler since their days at New York’s WBAI-FM, delivered a eulogy both humorous and profoundly serious.
She recounted that Adler would often say “Martians took over my brain” whenever she did something flakey and that Adler lost her keys “more times than any five people.” Remembering when Adler led a workshop at the Esalen Institute in Big Sur, California, Wetherell told the gathering that after relaxing in hot springs, listening to seals bark in the Pacific, gazing at the blue sky and inhaling the scent of wildflowers and sea air, Adler exclaimed, “Isn’t this fantastic? You could fart and no one would know.”
Like Barcus, Wetherell referred to Adler as one of the smartest people she had ever met. “She was so smart and so very, very Margot.”
“From Margot I learned that no one is just one thing, not the people we don’t like but also the people we do like,” Wetherell said. “She forgave us our frailties, our faults and was comfortable that she had hers.”
A friend of Adler’s since childhood, Mary Kate Bluestein, spoke of Adler’s summers in her beloved Martha’s Vineyard. The reporter’s annual arrival on the Vineyard “was a big deal,” she said.
Adler’s son, Alex Gleidman-Adler, scattered her ashes in the Atlantic Ocean and in a pond on the Vineyard. Gleidman-Adler organized the New York memorial and was to make concluding remarks but, at the last minute, decided not to speak.
In remarks included in the printed program for the memorial service at NPR, he wrote: “Once in Amsterdam, someone called out her name, recognizing her only from her voice. She found that amazing.”