September 1, 1960 – February 12, 2019
Penelope Gnesin, daughter of Oscar and Sylvia Gnesin, devoted most of her adult life to the practice of spiritual growth and expressions of gratitude.
Her wisely composed affirmations of love began with those closest to her heart, but she then encircled all yearning for calm and freedom with her relentless determination.
Her last earthly breaths, on the evening of February 12, 2019, were no different.
Penny was born on 9/1/60, into a life she would share with older siblings Philip, Mark, Fern, and her adopted sister, Surita Lederman.
Penny spent much of her life in love with her life partner of 23 years, wife for 20 years, Sue Fulton. They celebrated their vows twice. First, in a 1999 Commitment Ceremony at the Morristown Unitarian Church, then, on December 1, 2012, in a historic marriage at the West Point Cadet Chapel - where Penny conducted the choir in a closing, rousing spiritual of faith and promise, The Welcome Table, with her bride singing the lead.
She was a graduate of Long Branch High School in 1978, and Rutgers (Cook College) in 1982, with a Major in Psych and Minor in Music.
Penny worked for 14 years as a Project Manager at AT&T while gathering the skills she needed to foster physical and emotional healing in others. In the 1980’s she became the first Reiki Master in New Jersey, and formed a volunteer group, together with Hyacinth AIDS Foundation, to support and embrace the HIV/AIDS community.
Penny founded and directed the a cappella women’s chorus “Womansong” in 1988; in 1995 the group became Olympia’s Daughters. They performed all over the eastern US and made five recordings of songs of purpose-songs of empowerment, pride, and praise.
Penny’s holistic healing practice grew, as did her breadth of research and proficiencies, to include Acupressure, Cranial-sacral Therapy, Energy Medicine, Energy Psychology, and more.
Penny treasured communication with all she met, whether they were new clients in need of relief, or her beloved “sunrise-photo-text-message” team. She infused conversations with frequent laughter, two-handed exaltations, and perpetual hope.
iHeart Radio provided Penny another venue to touch the hearts of friends and strangers. She hosted over 80 episodes of “Little Miracles with Penelope” from 2017-2019, each one meticulously prepared for and prayed over.
Penelope Gnesin lived a life of dignity and perseverance. With outstretched, conductor’s hands she orchestrated notes of both effervescent praise and succinct motivation. She left little doubt which one she felt you needed at any specific time!
For all who knew and loved Penny she was, and will always be, a damn fine reason to smile and feel forever blessed.
- Memorial Service Monday, February 18, 2019
February 18, 2019
As Penny's memorial service is beginning in Asbury Park NJ, I am sitting in TX listening to an Olympia's Daughter CD and reflecting on my limited but impactful history of knowing Penny. I don't remember when I first heard Olympia's Daughters in the late 1990's. I knew they were perfect to be part of the first concert in a series at my congregation in 2000. They, the NJ Gay Men's Chorus and the Allen Chapel AME choir of Asbury Park performed to raise money for domestic violence education for all couples - gay, straight, black, white, in Asbury Park. Then in the early 2010s, after she moved to Asbury Park, Penny started an acapello group in that practiced in that same congregation, and collaborated with our dance choir, Core of Fire, in another concert. I was honored to be on the Facebook photo list that got Penny's daily beautiful sunrise pictures from Asbury Park. Penny always had such a warm and welcoming way with me and so many others. We were blessed by her presence and her musical gifts. and she will be missed greatly. My deepest condolences to Sue and Surita, and all the lives she has touched. Penny's spirit will live on in our hearts. Fare thee well my friend, on this next plane of existence.
February 15, 2019
I only met Penny (& Sue) once, but that was all it took. They sang 'Going to the Chapel' to my mother and her wife (who were friends of Penny and Sue) and me and my wife right before we said our vows in 2013. They both made a lasting impression on us. We know she will be missed.
February 13, 2019
i wish I had met Penny sooner, as I have only had the privilege of being her friend these past couple years. When I met her, she told me about her choir and i told her that i wished i could sing but i am tone deaf. She insisted that i sing a scale in front of her. I declined but eventually she won, and i did it. And i’m sure it was awful, but she was so gracious and effusive in her praise of me that i felt instantly comfortable in her presence. Penny’s gentle and wise soul will be missed on earth but i’m glad she gets to fly free now, and i’m grateful to Penny and Sue for their friendship.
February 13, 2019
Penny will always be remembered for her immense compassion and healing heart, soul, and hands. And for me, her devotion to the beauty of the earth, our skies of light and our waters of life. Rest well, friend, in peace, power, and pride.
February 13, 2019
We were roommates at Rutgers. She was very dynamic, always singing some Broadway tune. She didn't like rock music. How I agree. She sang in the Kirkpatrick Chapel Choir & dragged me to chapel every Sunday & I loved the music. It led me to begin my own classical collection which is rather enormous. I particularly like choral. It also led me to take up piano lessons which I did for 9 years & I bought myself a baby grand. I remember those zany moments-she would leave a mug of tea with honey in the closet. Have you seen my tea? Yeah I think you left it in the closet. She was the first to put up the Christmas tree. Then there were things like Phantom of the Opera & the teddy bear raids. She was rather intelligent. I remember when some of our other roommates were studying intently for an exam over a period of days. She stayed up the night before & got a higher mark than all of them. It was fortunate that we were able to reunite after some 3 decades at the Christmas performance. I knew she came from a great tradition of Russian musicianship. The music was inspiring--it was exhilarating, it was exuberant, it was soothing. Today I have long tossed the tv & just choose to listen to music, the speech of angels.