This way to FSSGB

In Memoriam

  • Ellen Schmidt, 2024
  • In an era when most performers are committed only to their own careers, Schmidt stood out for her dedication to the marriage of music and community service. Beginning with her first benefit concert, she recalls, she learned how pleasurable it was to help other people. "What I want to do with my music", Schmidt said, "is to share the joy I have in life and in making music. And I want to let people who are struggling know theyre not alone, to help them heal to give them courage."

    Schmidt has brought her songs to coffeehouses, festivals, schools, nursing homes, and fund-raising events for over ten years. She has shared the stage with Les Sampou, Don White, and Billy Novick, and made frequent appearances on folk radio programs at WGBH, WUMB, and WERS. She also performed regularly with Jake Kensinger in the duo Two for the Show.

    Ellen was a dynamic force in FSSGB, starting the long-running Woody Guthrie tribute show "Bound for Glory", initially as a fundraiser for the Huntington's Disease Society, the FSSGB Members' Concerts, and running popular open mics in the Boston metrowest area.

  • Richard Taylor, 2022
  • Richard Charles Taylor, 74, passed away on June 22, 2022. He was born in Jacksonville, North Carolina on September 21, 1947, and he grew up in Indiana, California, Ohio, and Orlando, Florida. He received an academic scholarship to the University of Florida, where he became President of the Cooperative Living Organization (CLO) at a pivotal time in their expansion, graduating with honors with a Bachelors in Education. He earned his Masters in Counseling from Northeastern University in Boston.

    Richard was the oldest of five children, always the loving big brother, sharing his love of music and by example, his dedication to volunteerism and community. An educator, counselor, and educational advocate, Richard retired as a Supervisor with the Massachusetts Department of Education. A past president of the Folk Song Society of Greater Boston, Richard helped narrate the annual Bound for Glory Woody Guthrie Tribute and special productions, and he enjoyed performing with the trio, The Graybeards. Richard had a passion for folk music, nature and the outdoors, and he enjoyed hiking a favorite place, Mount Monadnock. He shared a deep love with family, and friends who were like family.

    Richard was predeceased by his parents, Dorothy May (Ryoti) and Richard Charles Taylor Senior. Richard is survived by his children, Bari Hurley and Jonathan Taylor; his grandchildren, Caitlyn, Jake and Lauren Hurley, and Genevieve Taylor; his brothers, Daniel and Dennis Taylor; his sisters, Diane King and Darlene Sweatt; his nieces, Forest Taylor and April Bamberger; his nephews, Brian Sweatt and Thomas King; 4 grandnephews; and many cousins.

    A suggested donation in Richard Taylor's memory is to Fresh Start Furniture Bank in Hudson, Massachusetts, where Richard was a volunteer.

  • Dan Frey, 2022
  • Daniel Frey, 70, of Concord, Massachusetts, passed away peacefully at his home on Saturday, May 21, 2022.

    Dan had a lifelong interest in music, particularly the traditional music of the United States, British Isles, and Australia. A longtime member of the Folksong Society of Greater Boston and the possessor of a fine singing voice, Dan could always be counted on to lead a rousing sea shanty or render a touching narrative ballad. He performed as a member of the Graybeards, a trio whose other members were Peter Hamlin and Richard Taylor. Dan was also an accomplished guitarist, enthusiastic contra and square dancer, avid science fiction fan, and gardener.

    Dan had a career in electrical engineering, beginning at GE Aviation and ending with Proven Process Medical Devices where he worked on implantable medical devices for eighteen years.

    Dan is preceded in death by his parents, Omar and Grace Frey; his brothers Omar, Donald, and William Frey; his sister Susan Bolz, and his stepdaughter Donna Ostrowsky.

    He is survived by his wife of 24 years, Celeste Frey, and by his stepdaughter Tess Fedore, her husband Mike Fedore, and their children Florian and Peregrine.

  • Matt Fichtenbaum, 2022
  • Matthew Lawrence "Matt" Fichtenbaum, of Chelmsford, died on May 20, 2022, leaving wife Judy, daughter Rachel, and daughter-in-law Sarah.

    Matt was born on May 2, 1945 in Swannanoa, North Carolina, where his parents, Nathan and Gladys (Freedman – also spelled Friedman) Fichtenbaum, were temporarily on the Army Base. Known professionally as Nathaniel and Gladys Frey, Matt's parents were involved with the New York theater scene. Soon after Matt's birth, the family returned to New York City, where Matt was educated through high school.

    After graduation, he escaped New York for Boston, which he found to be a much more manageable-sized city. He studied at MIT, where – in his words – he pursued his from-age-three interest in things electrical into bachelor's and master's degrees in electrical engineering. While there wasn't yet a formal discipline called "computer science," some of his grad school courses were early versions of what would turn into that discipline. Outside of classes, he enjoyed being a member of the university's radio station technical staff. During college, he was a coop at General Radio (GedRad) in Concord, and in 1967, he began his career there, developing computer-controlled testing systems.

    Also in 1967, he met Judith "Judy" Lynn Hargreaves, a Simmons graduate, at the wedding of friends, and they married May 19, 1968 in Concord, Massachusetts. Soon after, they bought a house in Chelmsford, Massachusetts, where they lived for the rest of Matt's life.

    Matt carried a deep intuitive understanding of languages, exploring Swedish, Mandarin, and C++. In 1976, Matt and Judy had an opportunity to live their interest in languages. They spent their junior year abroad (ten years late) in Linköping, Sweden, where he taught computer science in a relatively new department at the University. He stated that his Swedish improved during "fika" (coffee break) when there were multiple conversations happening!

    Matt signed up for a course to learn to first build and then play the nyckelharpa (keyed fiddle), a traditional Swedish instrument. His nyckelharpa followed him back to Chelmsford, and he frequently played for Scandinavian dances and at music festivals in Boston and around the country. He soon added fiddle to his repertoire, and later in life enjoyed studying classical violin.

  • Izzy Doveburd, 2020
  • Long-time FSSGB member Isadore (Izzy) Dovburd passed away on April 21, 2020, just 3 days before what would have been his 85th birthday. (More to come...)

    Izzy was born in Philadelphia and moved to Massachusetts when he was 8 months old. He grew up in Wellesley. At age 19, Izzy started to play the guitar as well as sing and write songs. Izzy loved folk and country music and enjoyed yodeling. He will be missed by his dear friends including Emilio DiBenedetto, Judy Palladino, Ellen and Allan Schmidt, Cheryl Perrault, members of the Folk Song Society of Greater Boston, residents of the Briarwood Rehabilitation Center in Needham and many others. His favorite drink was rum and coke. His friend, the late Jake Kensinger, once referred to Izzy as “all hat and no cattle.” He will be dearly missed by all of his friends.

    You can see Izzy performing in the 1990 presentation of Bound for Glory (Woody Guthrie tribute).

  • Alice Aronow (founding member of FSSGB)
  • Alice Aronow (Alice Esther Pearlman) aged ninety-five, died on November 4, 2016. She was predeceased by her husband of seventy-two years, Saul Aronow, and is survived by her six children Victor Aronow (Jeanne Frieden), Fred Aronow (Harriet Aronow), David Aronow (Janet Rustow), Nathan Aronow (Benita Danzing), Louisa Aronow (Sandy Turner), and Jessie Kravette (Randy Kravette).

    Alice was born and raised in Brooklyn, NY, and was always involved in creating art, as well as making music, engaging in politics, writing, and being involved with other people. She learned at an early age to take concrete, direct action when she thought the cause was right. In high school, in the depths of the Depression, she walked both black and white neighborhoods of Brooklyn, ringing doorbells, canvassing for signatures on a petition to get Jackie Robinson signed onto the Dodgers. She saw what was happening during the Depression and the rise of Fascism in Europe, and she joined the Young Communist League, supported Communist Party candidates, and raised money for the support of the Spanish Republican government and the American volunteers who had gone to fight in Spain. After high school she was accepted at Cooper Union Institute for the Advancement of Arts and Sciences, and graduated with a specialization in textile design.

    She married Saul Aronow, a Cooper graduate in Electrical Engineering, and they moved to a small veteran's house in Watertown and then to a big, old house in Newton Corner. While raising children, Alice continued all of her interests, especially her art work, branching out into wood block printing on paper and fabric, designing enamel jewelry, free lance advertising, painting, and drawing. Through the post-war red-baiting period and after she also continued her principled activity in politics and commitment to the welfare and dignity of all people. She worked for the election of the Progressive Party's Henry Wallace for President in 1948, and Vincent Hallinan in 1952, as well as anti-nuclear war actions, civil rights, Voice of Women, ending the war in Vietnam, Amnesty International, and many other progressive, anti-war, pro-justice, earth-friendly causes. She also expanded her keen interest in folk music and was a founding organizer of the Folksong Society of Greater Boston. She and Saul participated in FSSGB events over a span of 55 years, and their home was frequently the location for music gatherings. Her knowledge of folk and popular music was legendary, as were her singing and duets with Saul. She had a wide circle of friends and an even wider circle of people whose lives she touched: young people for whom her home was a safe temporary haven and older people who benefited from her ability to listen, meet them on their own terms, and apply her critical skills. She especially enjoyed getting to know people very different from herself and understanding how the world was for them. Always curious, always using her critical faculties, always critical of herself for not doing enough, always ready to voice an opinion and consider alternatives, she found a wonderful cohort of friends in a group called Outrageous Women – OW. As the children grew, her art work focused on drawing, silk screen printing, and on teaching these subjects. She was associated with the Cambridge Art Association, the Brookline Arts Center, The Newton Art Center, of which she was also a founding member, and the Newton Community School Program. She produced editions of her own work and also posters for demonstrations. She had a great appetite for discovering interesting things other artists were doing, working consciously to expand her thinking about what a painted, assembled or drawn image might be. Whether traveling or at home, she was continually sketching and taking photos as notes and springboards for her work back in her studio. A 75-year retrospective of her work was presented as a one-woman show at Lasell Village, where she was residing, in 2015. Beside the satisfaction of dealing with the materials and design elements for their own sake, the catalyst in her work was her strong feeling about human-kind in relation to all other living and non-organic elements of our planet. Increasingly influenced by what she was learning of Native American cultures and by the physical presence of the Southwest, her work more and more reflected her love and concern for the beauty and fragility of the elements that make this Earth our home.

    The spirit of all the elements of her life and passions are carried on by her six children, eleven grandchildren, three great grandchildren, innumerable nieces and nephews, and the many people whose lives she touched with her music, her art, her wit, her critical faculties, and her compassion. Her life and her work are a testament to one person's ability to be a part of making "a shenere un besere velt" – a better and more beautiful world. Funeral and memorial service were held at the Wilson Chapel at Hebrew College and Newton-Andover Theological School om Newton Centre, MA. In lieu of flowers, contributions may be made in her memory to Village Health Works.

  • Jack (Jake) Kensinger
  • Jack (Jake) Kensinger peacefully left the planet on October 21 at approximately 5:45AM in his Acton home, in his sleep. He resided most recently in Acton and in Littleton and Maynard with his partner of 15 years, Michele Boule.

    Jack was born in Niagara Falls, NY in 1948, and graduated from Buffalo State University with a degree in engineering before moving to Massachusetts in the early 1980's.

    Jack was an avid and active musician all his life, a guitar virtuoso with a wonderfully harmonious voice. He was also an extremely competent sound engineer and craftsman with many interior renovation and design skills. He worked at Singer Corporation in NY, then GTE and consequently Genuity in MA, as "day jobs" for many years as a program director. He purchased and extensively renovated a home in Hyde Park,MA, residing there for 20 years before selling and moving out to the Acton-Littleton area.

    Jack is survived by his music partner of 26 years, Ellen Schmidt of Concord. Jack and Ellen formed the group Two For The Show and performed in many venues including nursing homes and VA hospitals as well as local cafes and restaurants, conducting fund-raising benefits for many worthy causes and producing many community-inclusive musical and artistic collaborations including several local open mikes.

    Jack loved the outdoors and loved to hike and to travel, especially to locations involving beaches, warm water and palm trees. He played football during his high school years in Niagara Falls, was on the swim team and enjoyed golf and softball during his GTE years in Massachusetts.

    Jack is survived by his mother, Najla Kensinger, and his two brothers, Donald Kensinger and Kevin Kensinger and his sister Linelle, as well as nieces and nephews, all residing in the Niagara Falls area. He is survived by his ex-wife Bernadine Berock, residing in Newton, MA, as well as close cousins including Steven and Marsha Kargatis, residing in Atlanta, GA. There will be a burial service conducted in Niagara Falls NY at the Spallino-Amigone Funeral Home, Niagara Falls Chapel at 1300 Pine avenue, Niagara Falls, NY in the near future.

    Jake's friends and family are grateful for the initial assistance provided by the Acton Funeral Home with his interment.

    Donations may be made to the Night Ministry in San Francisco, 1031 Franklin Street, San Francisco, CA; the Boston Natural Area Networks, 62 Summer Street, boston, MA; and The Trustees of Reservations, MA.

  • Bob Hart
  • Robert Peter (“Bob”) Hart, aged 78 years, passed away March 27, 2014, at his home in Maynard, MA.

    Bob was born July 7, 1935, in New York City, son of Gisela Johanna Hart, a German immigrant who instilled in him the importance of education. Bob attended New York City public schools, graduating from the Bronx High School of Science. He attended Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI), the University of Chicago, and Illinois Institute of Technology, obtaining a PhD in Physics.

    Bob was part of the early computer revolution, working with mainframes and FORTRAN at Bell Labs in the early 60’s, and later for Raytheon and MIT Labs. He taught Physics and Computer Programming at the Oakwood Friends School and Hofstra University.

    Bob moved from New York City to Boston in the early 1970s, and had lived since 1991 in Maynard, where he involved himself in local affairs. He was a passionate advocate for the Maynard Public Library, and led a successful effort to preserve the small Haynes Park green space.

    An Eagle Scout, Bob loved being outdoors: walking, hiking, camping, and sailing. He loved contra dancing and folk music, and attended dance and music events and festivals for 50 years.

    He was known for his intelligence, his ability to converse on almost any topic, and his deadpan humor. His friends appreciated his integrity and commitment to his values, including thrift (Bob never passed up a yard sale).

    Bob is survived by his devoted and loving partner of 16 years, Louise Breyer. He is also survived by his son, Eric Hart of Burlington VT and his wife Pamela Laser and their children Daniel and Corey Hart; by his daughter, Linda Hart of Celo, NC; by their mother, Jenifer Morgan of Celo, NC; and by his many long- time friends. He was pre-deceased by a grandson, Gary Hart.

    In lieu of flowers, donations can be made in Bob’s name to the Maynard Public Library at

  • Saul Aronow
  • October 4, 1917-February 11, 2013

    Saul and his wife Alice were founding members of the Folk Song Society of Greater Boston back in 1959. Saul earned a Ph.D. in Applied Nuclear Physics from Harvard and was a member of the faculty member at the Harvard School of Medicine. He worked tirelessly to fight for unions and other progressive causes, and was a mainstay in the local folk music community. He and Alice had six children (Victor, Frederick, David, Nathan, Louisa and Jessie) and many grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

    Click here to read the full obituary.

  • Kathy Moore
  • After a brief illness, longtime FSSGB member Kathy Moore died peacefully on June 23, 2012, with her family by her side at age 64. Kathy was born on October 8, 1947 to George and Helen Moore in New York City. After graduating from Swarthmore College, she moved to the Greater Boston area and settled in Somerville, where she raised two daughters. She was an enthusiastic and talented singer, and a devoted campaigner for social justice. Kathy taught high school in Somerville and elsewhere, and worked as a graphic and web designer. Kathy was a loving and beloved mother. She is survived by her daughters, Robin and Janet Ackerman, and her sister, Julie O'Donald.

    Donations in Kathy's memory may be sent to First Church Somerville UCC, 89 College Avenue Somerville, MA 02144, and will be split equally between three organizations that were important to Kathy: United Front Against Riverblindness, Mercy Corps and First Church Somerville UCC.

  • Richard Mungo
  • Rich Mungo of Burlington, formerly of Waltham and Lawrence, passed away on May 25 after a short illness. A native of Lawrence he was a member of the musical group Assabet Ramblers. He was also active in the Boston Bluegrass Union, and The Folk Song Society of Greater Boston. He very much enjoyed W.U.M.B's summer acoustic week camp vacations that he took over the last few years. He also worked for Academy of Creative Arts at Trinity which is a school for disadvantaged kids.

    Beloved son of the late Andrew J. and Rita A. (LaFontaine) Mungo. Beloved brother of Jeannette Sher-man of Brockton, Raymond of Signal Hill, California, Andrew J. of Newburyport. Loving and devoted companion of Donna Talmage of Merrimac. Devoted uncle to Eric, Brenda, Jodi and Phoenix and great-uncle to 2 great nieces and 7 great-nephews.

    In lieu of flowers, please consider a donation in Richard's name to ACAT c/o Trinity Episcopal Church, 26 White St. , Haverhill 01830 OR Unitarian Universalist Church, 326 Main Street, Wakefield, MA 01880.

  • Billie Hockett
  • The folk world has lost one of its most stellar supporters. Billie Hockett, founder of the Music For Robin concert series and the Conflict Calendar died peacefully on Monday, November 7 at 89 years of age.

    With more energy and ambition than a 20 year-old, Billie tirelessly promoted the music that she loved, producing exciting and eclectic seasons of bands and performers who were both world renowned, and known to barely...artists such as Battlefield Band, Boys of the Lough, Martin Carthy & Dave Swarbrick, John Renbourn, Kate Rusby, Andy Irvine, the Incredible String Band's Robin Williamson and Scottish rising star Emily Smith to name but a few. Although the music was mostly Celticand British in origin, she was eager to let people know of any new music she heard that excited her, whether it was the Swedish band Djarv, La Musgana from Spain, Welsh triple harpist Robin Huw Bowen, or Pennou Skoulm from Brittany. From unique concert halls to a delightful series of house concerts that brought the likes of Jim Malcolm, Len Graham, Les Barker and so many more up close and personal in the setting of her own living room, which usually involved pot luck dinner and socializing afterwards . She also produced some memorable multi-media events, including a wonderful tribute to the local legend "Mr. Bones." With a handful of volunteers and the goodwill of many, she created posters, distributed flyers everywhere, contacted the media, made visits to radio stations, and got the word out by any means possible.

    In addition to the concerts, Billie produced an extraordinary Internet phenomenon called "The Conflict Calendar" which was a reflection of her pure idealism of the world working together, in this case local concert promoters. The Calendar had a regularly updated list of scheduled and tentative Celtic and folk concerts in the New England area by which other promoters could be aware of related concerts and avoid conflicts that could fragment the audiences for each. It was a brilliant scheme, and very helpful as well for anyone interested in planning a night out.

    Born in 1922, she was a woman way ahead of her time, garnering degrees in mathematics and physics, being a pioneer in the nascent computer field, and delighting in gardening. inventing and woodworking (she had a full shop of power tools in her basement). Always a lover of folk dance and folk music, she had envious tales of living in New York and seeing the likes of Woody Guthrie and Leadbelly while sitting on living room floors. Her passion was fueled even further when her daughter Robin Blecher died, leaving her own legacy of pioneering Celtic concert production in the Boston area. With a mission to keep her daughter's memory alive, she began Music For Robin, and for more than 25 years gave us all some of the greatest music possible.

    Her last months were spent in Ithaca, New York, where she was cared for by her son Tom and his wife Sara. Despite failing health, her enthusiasm, wit and individuality never left her. And in so many ways, while the world is a far emptier place without her, her spirit will also never leave us. Thank you, Billie, for all you did: for music and for friendship. To quote Brian McNeill, fiddler, author, songwriter and longtime member of the Battlefield Band: "Hey Billie - Wherever you're headed, I know you'll see Robin. And when you get there, keep busy. Organize the biggest and best gig ever, there's plenty of talent to choose from, and no one better to do it."

    - Andy Nagy

    Scott Alarik shared this anecdote with us......'She lived a full, rich life. She told me once that the first folk concert she saw was Lead Belly. "Fantstic," I said. "Actually, no," Billie said, smiling wryly. "Why?" I said. "Because to this day it's the best concert I've ever seen. Everything since has been kind of a letdown." I never knew a more tireless champion of folk music.'

  • Barry Finn
  • FSSGB member Barry P. Finn, 58, of Derry, NH died Friday October 16, 2009 at the Elliot Hospital, Manchester, NH. Barry was born on February 5, 1951 in Boston, son of Elizabeth (Barry) Bent and the late Eugene Finn. A Derry resident for the last 22 years, he was formerly of Mission Hill, MA and Brookline, MA.

    Barry Finn met Neil Downey in the mid seventies while singing and playing at the Irish Music session in the Village Coach House in Brookline, MA. They formed the duo Finn and Haddie and performed primarily a cappella songs related to heavy work and hard labor. They specialize in the performance of traditional sea songs, shanties and work songs originating in the southern prison system. Recently they joined forces with Ken Schatz of NYC and the duo became a trio.

    Barry performed individually and with Finn and Haddie throughout the United States. He was a gifted songwriter who brought his unique style, talent and experiences to his music. He performed at the Mystic Seaport Sea Music Festival, New England Folk Festivals (NEFFA), New Hampshire's Great Bay Festival, the Gloucester (US) Maritime Festival, Boston's First Night, the San Francisco Maritime Festival, the Salem Maritime Festival, the Boston Antique & Classic Boat Festival, for Sea Revels in Boston, at Sail Boston Tall Ships Parades 88 and 92 and at the Massachusetts State House for the "Welcoming of the Captains" during Boston's last Tall Ships Parade. He also performed on board the USS Constitution, the USS Eagle, the USS Salem, the Unicorn, the Schooner Adventure, the Brig Carthaginian, the Polish schooner Zawisza Czarny, the Larinda, Canada's schooner Empire Sandy, the Shenandoah & Nova Scotia's Bluenose II.

    He is survived by his wife Justine Donovan of Derry; his daughter, Natalie Finn and his son, Gabriel Finn, both of Derry; his mother, Elizabeth Bent of W. Dennis, MA; two brothers, Daniel Bent of Walpole, MA and Earl Moore of N.H.; one sister, Cheryl Finn-Poole of Carlisle, MA. He also leaves behind countless friends in and out of the music community.

    Finn and Haddie website

    Here's an obituary written by Barry's sister-in-law Paula.

    Here's a great video of Barry singing Old Dollar Mamie. (You'll find other great videos of Barry on YouTube.)

  • Neal Gray
  • Neal was an absolutely amazing, high energy octogenarian who was singing with at least four choruses and choirs at the time of his unexpected passing in September 2009. Condolences to Neal's family during this difficult time, especially his daughter Michelle (Mimi), son-in-law Joseph, and grandchildren Melissa, Nicole and Joe, Jr.

    Please visit to see details of the funeral and memorial service, and to leave your remembrances. (Log in as with the password nealgray if you want to add a post -- please put your name in it somewhere.) There is also a Facebook page dedicated to Neal's memory where people are posting photos and remembrances.

    Here are some lovely words from Neal's friends Chris Farrow and Dorothy Weitzman.

    Here are three PDFs compiled by Sandra Waddock, which contain text and photos emailed out by Neal to his "Angels" over the years:

  • Will Whiteley
  • I regret to inform you that William F.N. Whiteley passed over to the other side this morning [Friday, January 9, 2009] at 4:20 a.m., peacefully in his sleep at the Tremont facility in Wareham. Our family is planning a memorial/potluck and singing party; details will be sent out soon.

    We are all doing fine and choosing to see this as a wonderful cause for celebration of his life and love for his music.

    Love, Anna Whiteley Huff

    PS Here is a photo taken by my dad; not sure when. He was also a great photographer; among many other things.

    Email us for an address to send cards to his daughters Anna and Catherine: will AT fssgb DOT org .

    There will be a memorial service for Will on Sunday, April 5, 2009, 2:30-6pm, at St. John's United Methodist Church, 80 Mt. Auburn Street, Watertown. There will be a bagpiper playing for the first half hour, and then we'll sing some of Will's favorite songs, and other songs as the spirit moves us.


    Will Whiteley was born in the 1930's in Pennsylvania. His grandfather was a cod fisher in Labrador, and Will lived there during the summer of 1944 and heard the fishermen singing sea chanteys to help them do their work. His father brought home a record in 1947 by the Almanac Singers called "Deep Sea Fishers", and heard a song from that record called "The Golden Vanity". He thought it was the lonesomest song he had ever heard, and it captured his imagination and fueled his desire for music. In 1949, he began to play the ukelele, and was told about Folkways Records the following year. In 1951 or 52, a friend played him a recording by Leadbelly (Huddie Ledbetter), which was a big moment in life for him, and he undertook to teach himself how to play the 12-string guitar. A woman at Antioch College in Ohio showed him a little bit about frailing the banjo in 1955. Around this time, Will also taught himself to play the Highland bagpipes. He played and sang ever since, and amassed a large collection of songs from all over the world. Will and his family performed many concerts in the New England area over the years. Blessed with a singular mind and a very good memory, he was a self-made folklorist.

  • Ed Softky
  • We were all shocked and saddened to hear the news of the passing of Ed Softky, longtime member of the folk music and dance community in New England. He died Thursday, October 9, 2008, after being struck by a drunk driver in Brattleboro, VT. He was on his way to a hospice volunteer training and had stopped to pick up some snacks; he was putting the groceries into his car when he was hit.

    I first met Ed in 1996 at a singing party at Ellen Schmidt's house, and we discovered a common interest in traditional folk songs. We arranged to meet to work out some song harmonies, and soon thereafter were joined by Alan Field. All of us loved, among other things, the harmonies of Finest Kind; they inspired us in our own singing -- to the extent that we joked once that perhaps we should call ourselves Kindest Find! Later, when Lynn Noel moved to the Boston area, we added her to the group and renamed it Lingua Franca -- music as the common tongue.

    Ed brought a childlike enthusiasm to practically everything he did, whether adding extra flourishes to his dance steps, finding wonderful and exotic vegetables at Asian markets, cooking up a storm in advance of a potluck party, working on some funny costume for a Halloween dance, or listening to practice tapes in his car so that we could make the most of our rehearsal times. The harmonies were glorious and seemed to flow effortlessly; it was rare that we had to write down the parts or sit down at a keyboard to walk through each chord step by step.

    Ed was also very involved in the Buddhist community, and had moved to Vermont to volunteer and translate at Thosum Gephelling Institute (the name means "a place to learn to increase and expand one's virtue in Tibetan) in Williamsville. The Institute held a memorial service for Ed on October 13th, which was attended by Ed's mother, brother, niece, and nephew, as well as friends from Vermont and beyond. The web site has a lovely tribute page:

    The Brattleboro Reformer also had an obituary:

    I found Lynn Noel's blog entry on Ed's work with her to bring Tibetan to Sacred Harp, and there's a clip with a recording of Ed singing:

    At some point, there will be a memorial gathering in the Boston area; stay tuned for details.

    I will forever be grateful to Ed for introducing me to FSSGB and Pinewoods Camp. We shared so many wonderful times with an amazing group of people who feel like extended family to me now. When I last spoke with him, he seemed to have found the path for which he'd been searching, and he was very happy. He will be sorely missed by those whose lives he touched.

    Liz Lewis

  • Lisa Neustadt
  • Those FSSGB members who were involved in any way during the '70's and early 80's will remember Lisa who has been described as "a great presence and influence" in the Society. She passed away on March 26, 2008, after a short illness with pneumonia. Her daughter, Karuna, relates that the last week before she got sick, the facility she lived in had kareoke one day. Lisa took her turn at the mike and sang several songs, with the staff and other residents yelling "Go Lisa!" She still enjoyed singing, and they played her CDs there, which people also enjoyed.

    Ellen and Allan Schmidt hosted a memorial gathering in honor of Lisa. Karuna was here from Oregon that day and attended the gathering. We shared photographs and ephemora from the time, including old Folk Letter columns that she wrote. We played Lisa's recordings that she did with the Angel Band and others. And, of course, we Sang!

  • Panos Constant
  • We are very sad to inform you that longtime FSSGB member Panos Constant died suddenly and unexpectedly on January 7, 2007. Panos' most active years as a FSSGB volunteer were the 60's, 70's and 80's, and included service on the Board of Directors, Membership Committee and Program Committee. He also collected our mail at the Post Office for many years, as well as distributing advance tickets for our larger concerts. He was a teacher in the Wakefield school system for 35 years.

    Panos was the son of the late Bessie & Charles Constant and brother of Helen Constant of Arlington. The funeral was held at Keefe Funeral Home in Arlington on Thursday, January 11th, followed by services in St. Athanasius The Great Church in Arlington. In lieu of flowers, donations in his memory may be made to the above named church. Burial will be in Mt. Auburn Cemetery.

  • David Ingle
  • Longtime FSSGB member David Ingle died Jan. 14, 2006, of complications from coronary artery disease and an autoimmune neurological illness. He was 71 and had spent the past year engaged in the arts and his most recent scientific research. Some friends knew Dr. Ingle as a college professor and researcher in the psychology of vision. Others met him after his declining motor abilities made laboratory work too difficult, prompting him to focus instead on storytelling, songs, and poetry -- often in performances with his longtime companion, Libby Franck of Framingham. He was a scientist and a storyteller who embraced equally the loneliness of the lab and the limelight of the stage.

    A collection of materials from David Ingle has been donated to FSSGB by Libby Franck, including several books with titles like "Ozark Folksongs" and "Anglo-American Folksong Scholarship Since 1898." There are scholarly papers that he had collected and some that he wrote, such as "The Self-Image of the Irish as Hard-Drinkers: Reflections of 19th Century Pub Culture in Folk Songs" and "Images of Women in Traditional Song." There are song books and sheet music for songs of humor, fighting, drinking, temperance, outlaws and rakes, and the frontier. There are two shoe boxes of cassette tapes, mostly of drinking songs, but some of concerts and particular performers. And there are Sing Out magazines, old concert flyers, and a great photo of David playing the bodhran.