Ian Watson's Web Site

Leah Watson, August 23, 1933 — July 10, 2022

Memorial Gathering

Please join us at a memorial gathering for Leah on Friday, July 29, 2022, at 4 p.m. at the Harley School, 1981 Clover Street, Rochester. Light refreshments will be served afterwards. The gathering will be in the school theater; use the main entrance.

For any questions about the gathering, or if you have memories or photos you would like to share, please contact us:

Ian Watson, 585 436 5035, ian@ianwatson.org

Elisa Watson, 734 546 0573, elisaerina@yahoo.com

About Leah

Our mother, Leah Watson, passed away peacefully at the Jewish Home in Brighton, New York, a little before sunrise on July 10, 2022 from complications of Merkel cell cancer.

She was born Leah Fay Siegerman on August 23, 1933 in Neenah, Wisconsin, where her father was working as an illustrator for the Kimberly-Clark paper company. In 1937, her parents brought her and her older sister to California, settling in Los Angeles where she graduated from Hollywood High School. She attended the University of California at Berkeley, transferring back to Los Angeles after marriage, and also received a master's degree in special education from the University of Southern California. Later, she was licensed by the New York State Department of Education as an impartial hearing officer, resolving disputes between parents and school districts over placements for students with special needs.

Leah's parents, Harry Siegerman and Tillie Nitzberg, had both immigrated from Shershev (Sharashova), a village now in Belarus, to North America before World War I. Harry came to Saint John, New Brunswick, in 1905 and Tillie to Chicago in 1913. Leah's older sister, Aronelle Siegerman, was born in 1925, and most people know her as Suzy Pines, as she was called after her marriage to David Pines.

Leah married James M. Watson (Jim) on August 16, 1953 in Los Angeles. She worked for several years in the Los Angeles city school system. After Jim finished his master's degree in sociology at UCLA, he took teaching jobs first at the University of Indiana, then at the University of Rochester, and finally (after finishing his PhD) at SUNY Geneseo where he spent the bulk of his career.

Leah and Jim arrived in Rochester in the summer of 1968. They settled in Rochester's 19th Ward where Leah developed a wide circle of friends. She lived in the same house at 450 Rugby Avenue for fifty-three years, until December 2021. Her house was like a museum, full of artwork and books that she loved to show and share with other people.

Aside from her work in special education, Leah was active in local poetry and Yiddish circles. She published several books of her own poetry, as well as translations of poems by Israel Emiot, a respected Yiddish writer who she had known in Rochester before his death in 1978. In her writing life she used the pen name Leah Zazulyer or Zazuyer, based on her father's report of his family's original surname (which they changed to Siegerman within a few years of arrival in Canada). Records show that this unusual name was actually "Zazhuer."

Leah's husband Jim died in Rochester in 2010. In 2017 Leah noticed a spot on her ankle which was quickly diagnosed as Merkel cell cancer, a rare skin tumor. She had prompt surgery, but this very aggressive form of cancer had already spread. Treatment with a new immunotherapy drug (keytruda) stopped its progression and gave her three more good years before the cancer returned.

Leah is survived by her daughter Elisa Watson, son-in-law Jeremy York, and grandson Jasper York, of Ann Arbor, Michigan; and by her son Ian Watson, daughter-in-law Angela Walk, and grandchildren Jakob Watson, Anna Laura Watson, and Emily Watson, of Burtenbach, Germany.

Leah's Books of Poetry and Translation

Alone as a Stone. Kanona, N.Y.: Foothills Publishing, 2018. ISBN 978-0921053293. (Still available from the publisher.)

Escenas / Scenes. Rochester: Palettes & Quills, 2017. ISBN 978-0988809239.

As Long As We Are Not Alone: Selected Poems, by Israel Emiot, translated and introduced by Leah Zazulyer. Tiger Bark Press, 2015. ISBN 978-0986044557.

Sophie the Cat, Leah's handmade book about her and her cat, written for her grandchildren in 2012. Scanned as a PDF.

Songs the Zazulya Sang. Kanona, N.Y.: Foothills Publishing, 2007. ISBN 094105389X.

The World is a Wedding. Bath, N.Y.: Foothills Publishing, 1993.

Siberia: Poems by Israel Emiot, translated by Leah Zazuyer with Brina Menachovsky Rose. Brockport, N.Y.: State Street Press, 1991. ISBN 093358105X.