OBITUARIES Vera Dreiser, 90, psychologist, former dancer
The Atlanta Constitution
Saturday, November 21, 1998
Author: Rachel Tobin
Dr. Vera Dreiser never flinched. Even details of the 1969 Manson murders told to her firsthand by the female suspects didn’t shock the psychologist.
“She never made judgments on her patients,” said Tedi Dreiser Godard of New York, her daughter. “She was a wonderful therapist. Anything those women told her, nothing ever shocked her. Things so horrific that you or I would’ve been so upset. She said, ‘No, I’m not upset, I’m here to help.'”
The 90-year old Macon resident, who lived in Sandy Springs for 20 years, died Tuesday of heart failure at Macon Manor Nursing Home. The body was cremated. A private memorial service will be held in New York. Bridges Funeral Home and Crematory is in charge of arrangements.
Dr. Dreiser was head of the Psychiatric Treatment Center at the California Institute for Women from 1961 to 1972. Her name appears in Vincent Bugliosi’s “Helter Skelter,” the account of the Manson case, as the psychologist who interviewed the women involved in the murders.
“They told her the most gruesome details,” her daughter said.
A dancer at Carnegie Hall as a young woman, Dr. Dreiser wanted to be a singer. However, she had a natural flair for psychology, her daughter said. The native New Yorker earned her doctorate from New York University in 1944.
With her shock of bright red hair and 5-foot-9-inch frame, Dr. Dreiser was a memorable figure who appeared on popular television shows in the 1950s-60s giving advice on relationships and mental health.
Decades ahead of her time, Dr. Dreiser, who kept her maiden name when she married the late Alfred E. Scott in 1939, experimented with yoga and wrote monthly articles for Dance News about the importance of dance in relieving stress.
In the 1970s, Dr. Dreiser retired to Sandy Springs to be closer to her daughter. In 1976, the psychologist published her family memoir, “My Uncle Theodore,” her daughter said.
Dr. Dreiser was the niece of novelist Theodore Dreiser, who wrote “An American Tragedy,” and of songwriter Paul Dreiser, who wrote “My Gal Sal.” Her father was actor and director Edward Dreiser.
“She loved to laugh, a good joke, a good party and a cocktail before dinner,” said her daughter, the only immediate survivor.
In lieu of flowers, the family requests contributions be made to the American Cancer Society, 2200 Lake Blvd. N.E., Atlanta, GA 30319.