Amy Stechler, the Emmy-nominated filmmaker of PBS’s The Life and Times of Frida Kahlo (2005) and the ex-wife and early collaborator of documentarian Ken Burns, died Friday, Aug. 26, at her home in Walpole, N.H. She was 67.
Her death was announced to The New York Times by daughters Sarah and Lilly Burns, who said that Stechler had been in declining health due to multiple sclerosis.
Stechler and Burns attended Hampshire College in Amherst, Mass., in the 1970s. After Burns and two other Hampshire classmates, Roger Sherman and Buddy Squires, formed Florentine Films in 1976, Stechler soon joined the venture. The group’s first project was the Oscar-nominated documentary Brooklyn Bridge, which made the festival rounds in 1981 and aired on PBS in 1982.
Stechler and Burns married in 1982 and divorced in 1993. During that time, the couple collaborated on the 1984 documentary The Shakers: Hands to Work, Hearts to God, and the following year Stechler was a writer on Burns’ Oscar-nominated The Statue of Liberty. She would later serve as a consultant on Burns’ 1990 Emmy-winning documentary miniseries The Civil War.
Although she largely stepped away from filmmaking in the 1990s, she returned in 2005 to write and direct the well-received, Emmy-nominated The Life and Times of Frida Kahlo.
In an interview with The New York Times, Burns said of Stechler, “I don’t think you’d have ever heard of me had she not been there.”
In addition to her daughters, Stechler is survived by her partner Bill Patterson and other extended family.