Interview with Pat Herreshoff


Pat Herreshoff
told or written to DC

Pat Herreshoff was one of the older students when I came. She sat very straight, was quiet, serious, steady, proper, kind, and was one of the mainstays of the zendo. After we got Tassajara and Zen Center got busier and less intimate, eventually she wasn’t around as much. I always felt she was too critical of herself, too hard on herself. I thought she felt she couldn't keep up with the younger people but I'm not sure she agreed with me on that. I don't think she realized that people really liked having her around and looked up to her. Katherine Thanas says that Pat was not pleased with the name that Suzuki Roshi gave her when we got lay ordained, felt it was sort of a put down. That was in August of 1970. Silas Hoadley was close to her at that time which I'm sure was very comforting to her because he was a favorite of the older students - and the younger students too. At the end of this she says she’ll send some vignettes about Suzuki if she thinks of them. She did later send me a letter typed quite large, from Hawaii. She couldn’t see well at all then. I’ll get it here later. I know I have it back home. My comments [in brackets]. - dc

Go to bottom for note on Pat's death and life from Silas Hoadley

I came in ‘62 in May - I was 48 years old. Suzuki Roshi wasn't there - I think he went over to pick up Jean Ross and bring her home [from Japan]. Suzuki Roshi was not speaking English very well. The zendo looked very much like it did when you arrived. Bill Kwong was there and Jean Ross, Graham Petchey and Connie Lueck and Paul Anderson who committed suicide I guess. [Disappeared]

I was working as an office person with figures, I had a minor in math in college - for American Can Co. and some secretary had a book by Daisetsu Suzuki and I asked to borrow it and that got me off on an avalanche of reading for about a year and a half before I attempted to go to Bush Street. My reading was almost all about Rinzai Zen and I called Alan Watts in Berkeley and he said there's this Soto Zen Mission. [Sokoji]

I was always arrogant about taping - I distanced myself from it. At that time there was a little feeling of making money because we were charging I believe for sending them out - to groups I believe. I thought it was Yvonne doing it and I thought it was inappropriate at that time.

[I don’t think that ever happened, or if it did, it was short-lived, and Yvonne wasn't around when they started taping the lectures. But maybe later in 66 or so something like this was talked about.]

I lived in San Rafael and did some commuting in the early morning hours. And then I'd go sit after work.

I first met Suzuki Roshi in that little office and he gave me a cushion and my knees stuck way up in the air and he said you'll have to do better than that or something like that - he was very friendly and then he said the thing to do for me was to sit on two cushions and we went in and I sat. I attended very faithfully because I felt it was like school. If I didn't attend I might miss something. He was marvelous, he was so kind, like an uncle. Then there was a service and it was so nice and I thought, at last I'm home cause it seemed like something I'd been searching for all my life. That's the kind of atmosphere he established you know. Totally friendly. I never stayed around [after zazen and service]- that was for the older students - the six or seven.

I'll write out some vignettes if I think of anything.

An earlier cuke entry announcing Pat's death

2-02-09 - Early Suzuki student Pat Herreshoff dies.

from Silas Hoadley

I was able to visit with Pat Herreshoff a few days before she died last week. Pat was at home with her son Daniel and his wife Madeline in Kingston Washington. Before moving there Pat had lived in Hawaii for many years.

She was a regular at the Bush Street zendo in the spring of 1964 when I started sitting there. She had found out about Suzuki Sensei through a job connection and, in her direct way, had cold-called Alan Watts to find out how to get to the place where a real Zen master was teaching, Pat was born in San Diego Thanksgiving Day 1913, When she was 4 her mother sent her to relatives in a small Montana town to protect her from the Influenza epidemic of that time. She stayed there till she was 8. During this visit Pat sat upright and her presence was bright. During tea she spontaneously broke out in a child hood hymn to the setting sun . She also sang a verse from "old black Joe." Her voice was strong and wonderful. She said she had learned these songs in Montana as a child. She also shared a dream of a night or two before.

Two friendly beetles had appeared in the interior vicinity of her spine. One had short legs and the other long. They had nothing much to say but gave a very good feeling as did Pat on this last visit.