70 who have passed has two origins. One was Chuck Miller, who wrote about 60 deceased people he remembered, for good or ill, on his 60th birthday in August. This intrigued me, so I mentioned it to my sisters during a weekly Zoom meeting. Leslie said that at an icebreaker, someone suggested discussing someone who influenced your life.
My birthday was in March, so I’ve decided to write about this on November 1, All Saints Day, and November 2, All Souls’ Day, part of the Día de los Muertos.
I don’t mean this to be a definitive list. Undoubtedly, I’ve left off someone. Also, some people are probably deceased or 110; I didn’t scour obituaries.
Related: There will be a special choir concert on the First Friday, November 3rd, at 6 p.m. at First Presbyterian Church, 362 State Street, Albany, NY. The choir will sing Morten Lauridsen’s Lux Aeterna, a 30-minute work with orchestra. It sets many of the Requiem texts. This will be a concert of remembrance for the many in our choir and community members lost in the last several years.
Jimmy Rocco: Even before he was a choir guy, we always talked about music.
Will McMorris: He was a guy from my current church, First Pres Albany, whose life was more interesting, complicated, and painful than I had realized. The fact that he felt comfortable enough sharing it during an adult education class at church pleased me.
Mary Backus Dye: I knew her in kindergarten, then she moved away. I reconnected with her online and discovered she’s related to me on my father’s side.
Violet Keleshian: a member of the First Pres choir who prepared great Middle Eastern food.
Mary Durkot: A childhood friend’s mom who LOVED seeing that I had a child.
Bernie Massar: I last saw him at our 35th high school reunion. He almost certainly died from fighting fires.
Greg O’Neil: A younger brother of a high school friend, he had Type 1 diabetes and injected himself regularly, very matter-of-factly. I assumed that if I had to do that to myself, I could, but I’m far from certain.
Elinor Brownstein: When I worked at the Schenectady Arts Council in 1978, she was one of the Ladybugs who educated and entertained kids in the school. We stayed in contact for years.
Donald Yates: One of my mother’s first cousins, whom we saw often, given we were four hours away.
Garland Hamlin: One of the pillars of my first church, Trinity AME Zion, growing up. He also was on my draft board. When I was 19 and appealing to get conscientious objector status, he acted as though he didn’t know me, which I found instructive.
Robert Lamar: The pastor at First Pres when I was attending Trinity UMC. When I would see him at a FOCUS service, he was particularly warm and friendly. More importantly, he was a legend in positive social activism.
Mary Ellenbogen: She was our neighbor. Her house was immaculate inside and out. In her mid-80s, she was an avid gardener. She died trying to save her husband from drowning.
Constance Whitfield: My godmother always seemed critical of me when I was a kid, and we’d be at some church conference. When I saw her in Binghamton at a funeral in the mid-1980s, she asked me what church I was attending. I told her, and she snapped, “Isn’t that the WHITE church?” I never saw her again.
Dwight Smith: A significant leader in PCUSA circles. Choir member. He never figured out how to mute himself when we were doing Bible study on ZOOM, and he’d receive a call from his doctor.
Susan Easton: First Pres choir member and the point person for choir hospitality.
Greg Haymes: a/k/a Sarge Blotto
Sandy Cohen: the tenor soloist at Trinity UMC with an outsized personality. At a funeral I attended in 2023, I was talking with his widow about how we got Sandy the funeral they wanted for him despite the resistance of the pastor.
Albert Wood: My wife knew him from a previous work situation, while my relationship with him was music at First Pres.
Matt Staccone: He was a counselor at the local (Albany) Small Business Development Center. Twice a year, he invited me to speak to a group of his clients, sharing tips on how to find demographic information. This was a significant change of pace from my daily reference work. Also, there was a racquetball court at one of his work locations, and I would beat him regularly.
Hugh Nevin: The acting pastor at my church before I attended there. I knew him from his booming bass voice and steadying presence.
Jack White: the husband of my wife’s cousin, he, my FIL, and I could talk baseball forever, which we tended to do at the Olin Family reunion. I’ve acquired some of his books on the sport.
Stacy Wilburn: After Sandy Cohen died, I joined Q in trying to hold down the tenor section at Trinity UMC until reinforcements came.
Joe Sinnott: Not only one of the comic book industry’s greatest inkers but one of the sweetest, least pretentious human beings I’ve ever known.
Irwin Corey: Seeing our near-relative on the TV was always entertaining. In person, he was even more irascible.
Marion Motisher: My dear friend, a retired librarian from the Trinity choir. She died on March 4, 1992. Three days later, I was a pallbearer on my 39th birthday, the last time I got intentionally drunk.
Paul Weinstein: A fellow dad of two kids my daughter’s age. He did anything for them. And he admired me greatly for some reason.
Leo Mahigian: Once the concertmaster of the Albany Symphony Orchestra, I knew him when his wife became sick.
Gloria Wood: She made a blanket for my then-baby daughter and a lot more for others.
Tom Hoffman: A political junkie of the first order. But he opined with great humor and wit. My wife recently said she wonders what he would have thought of djt.
John Powell: My wife’s brother. An advocate for me between the first and second times she and I dated.