Peter Gerretsen directed 20 feature films
and captured more than 30 awards of merit
Peter Gerretsen, a film producer, Ryerson University instructor and a longtime pro-life supporter, died August 16 after losing a battle with lung cancer.
Born in the Netherlands in 1939, Peter emigrated to Canada as a teen. He later married Patricia, whom he met in the film industry, where he worked as a writer, director and producer.
In her book Silhouettes Against the Snow: Profiles of Canadian Defenders of Life, Interim columnist Grace Petrasek described Peter and Pat, who later suffered a stroke, as total partners in life, “in marriage, in business and now in Pat’s recovery.”
They have three children – Philip, Becky and Mary – and five grandchildren. The children recall their father’s ability to keep them laughing, even in his final months, when it became obvious he would succumb to cancer.
In 1974, Peter and Pat founded Gerretsen Film Productions. The couple ran the company out of their home, with Peter drawing on his professional background in the industry to write and direct the films and Pat running the administrative side of the company, as well as editing.
GFP produced pro-life films such Two is a Crowd, The Slippery Slope and feature films The Kidnapping of Baby John Doe and Night Friend. The videos were distributed in Canada and internationally.
LifeSite managing director Steve Jalsevac told The Interim that the Gerretsens were “pioneers in creating top-notch movie productions with life-defending themes.” He added that, “Pro-lifers can be proud that the message was created professionally and so convincingly.”
GFP also produced material for several Toronto-area pro-life groups including Birthright, Campaign Life Coalition and Toronto Right to Life, and educational videos such as The Grief of Miscarriage for Toronto’s St. Michael’s Hospital. Gerretsen Film Productions was also one of the first companies to advertise in The Interim in 1983. CLC national president Jim Hughes, The Interim’s first editor, said that without the financial support of dedicated pro-lifers like Peter Gerretsen, The Interim would not be around today.
Throughout his career, Peter directed 20 feature films and more than 200 commercials, winning more than 30 awards of merit from organizations such as the Art Director’s Club of Toronto, the U.S. Film Festival and the Canadian Film Awards. He was also nominated for two Genies and two Geminis.
Peter would later teach cinema at Ryerson University in Toronto.
In 1989, Pat suffered a stroke and was left with only partial use of her right arm and leg. Peter cared for her and their young family during his wife’s rehabilitation. He visited her daily during her long rehabilitation in 1989 and worked with Pat toward the recovery of her vocabulary.
Although she never regained full use of her right arm and leg, when Pat was once again able to walk and communicate, the Gerretsens returned to pro-life activism and were regular attendees at pro-life conferences, strategy meetings and other events. Until earlier this year, Peter still dropped off and picked up Pat at CLC’s Toronto office, where she worked once a week as a volunteer.
In addition to Pat, his three children and five grandchildren (Conor, Rowan, Aidan, Sofia and Abigail), peter is survived by his brother, John Gerretsen, currently Ontario’s minister of municipal affairs and housing.