Día de los Muertos

All Souls Day

Día de los Muertos is Part Two of 70 who have passed, which began yesterday.

Please come to hear a special choir concert on November 3 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.

Margaret Lia: The den mother of my Cub Scout troop and mom of one of my best friends in elementary school and junior high.

Darby Penney: She wanted to save the world. Very occasionally, I tried to help.

Bonnie Deschane: She would clean our house some weekends. She was less good at the cleaning thing and better at the friend thing.

Robert Yates: My mother’s youngest first cousin; he was only seven years older than I was. Though we saw him only twice a year when I was growing up – I was in Binghamton, he was in Queens, NYC – he was the closest thing to an older sibling I had.

Paul Peca: Our sixth-grade teacher let us, even encouraged us to disagree with him. He supported Barry Goldwater for President and agreed with the US dropping the bomb on Hiroshima.

Comic books

Phil Seuling: Seagate was FantaCo’s primary comic book distributor, and he and Jonni Levas were Seagate. I went to a couple of his lavish parties in Brooklyn. Phil lived large.

Freda Gardner: I didn’t know that the nice older lady at church was a legend in the Presbyterian Church USA. Her wise counsel was invaluable when she and I were on pastor Glenn’s congregational team to aid him in his doctoral quest.

Tim Ryan-Pepper: Music was our bond

Sinon O’Neil: Every time I saw him, he always cheered us with questions about current events joyfully. And he was a crafty card player.

Helen Foley: The Binghamton Central High School public speaking and drama teacher and Rod Serling’s mentor was also involved with theater with my father.

Stan Moore: When I was church shopping in 1982, he gave the sermon at Trinity UMC on June 13 that got me to come back. But I avoided his vicelike handshake.

Paul Crowder: The choir director when I joined the Trinity UMC choir after not singing for over a decade.

Samuel Walker: When items were discovered in the possession of my father’s mother’s father that a good Christian man presumably should not own, it rocked my mother’s theological underpinning.

Charlie Kite: a First Pres church member and a physician.  He was particularly effusive when he knew he was dying,

Donna George: She tried to do good things but often wasn’t taken seriously. Beleaguered would be the term I’d used. We bonded over this.

Margaret Hannay was the epitome of hospitality and grace. She was also brilliant.

A force

Ken Screven: A great local journalist and a fellow Times Union blogger for a time.

Lillian Johnson: Before my time there, she was the associate pastor at Trinity UMC. We fought the good fight, getting the then-current pastor to change his ways.

Fred Goodall: the youth choir director at Trinity AME Zion for many years.

Arnold Berman: my mother’s Charlotte’s brother, genealogist of the Berman/Barosin tribe.

Ida Berman: Charlotte’s sister, who used to take me to New York City art galleries and museums. She was a fine photographer.

Alice Schrade: an older member of First Pres. We adored each other. We’d have great philosophical conversations about race, justice, and other topics.

Arlene Mahigian: When I joined the Trinity UMC choir, she adopted me. She would take my robe home to wash, though I didn’t ask her. She had a tremendous soprano voice.

Keith Barber: We kept crossing paths on CDTA buses for which he was a ride evaluator, in Bible study, where he was the purveyor of a specific text, and as a raconteur.

Richard Powell: my father-in-law. I loved going to minor league baseball games with him. His love for jazz and country music I didn’t appreciate until after he died when I inherited part of his CD collection.

Robert Pennock: a baritone in the Trinity UMC choir, he was wise regarding Methodist polity.


Marcheta Hamlin: the organist at Trinity AME Zion who tried to teach me piano. My wife met her and commented on how warm and wonderful she was.

Agatha Green: My paternal grandmother died when i was 11. I’ve since learned so much about her courage and character.

Fran Allee: She was an educator and cook at Trinity UMC. Several of us traveled to her cottage, about an hour away each summer.

Mike Attwell: My racquetball competitor long before I joined him in the First Pres choir.

Adenia Yates: my mother’s maternal aunt, a buffer between me and her sister. She and I watched JEOPARDY, played cards and SCRABBLE.

Pat Wilson: A friend of my father, with whom I talked theology extensively.

Gertrude Williams: My maternal grandmother was a superstitious and controlling person who attempted to pass it along to her grandchildren; my sister and Leslie bought into it, but baby sister Marcia rightly ignored her.

Charlotte Yates: the mother of four of my mother’s first cousins. She had a strong sense of politics and art.

Jim Kalas: I knew from both work and Trinity UMC.

McKinley Green: Thanks to Pop, I got on TV a lot as a kid.


Raoul Vezina: Ever since I became the de facto keeper of the FantaCo flame, Raou never goes away, even though he died in 1983.

Gladys Crowder: We were in two choirs together at Trinity UMC and First Pres.

Trudy Green: Increasingly, I suspect there was more there than my mom showed. She’s mentioned a lot on February 2 (the anniversary of her death), November 17 (her birthday), Mother’s Day.

Norman Nissen: racquetball partner, book suggestion-maker,  best man at my last wedding.

Les Green: My dad was a really complicated guy. He shows up on Father’s Day, August 10 (the anniversary of his death), and September 25 (the day before his birthday).

I can quickly think of a dozen more, but I will let it be.

Unanswerable questions to my dad

flights of fancy

Les Green.tree sweaterI want to ask my dad, Les Green, some things. Of course, they are unanswerable questions since he died 23 years ago today.

I want to know if he knew the name of his biological father, Raymond Cone? What, if anything, did he know about him? And how was it growing up without a father? He WAS living in the abode of his grandfather, Samuel Walker.

What was his relationship with McKinley Green, the person I knew pretty early on – from my mother, not my father – was not my biological grandfather? Mac, or Pop, married Agatha Walker in 1931, but they were estranged by 1936. Yet Mac adopted Dad in 1944, three weeks before Les turned 18.

Where did my father serve in the military at the end of World War II? I know he was in the European Theater of Operations, but I don’t know specifically where. Does his picture appear in the October 1946 issue of Ebony magazine, and if so, which pic? Is there any truth to those apocryphal tales of living in Belgium for a time?

Why was he seemingly at arm’s length from the Walker family, most of whom lived in Binghamton blocks from our house? I saw my mother’s cousins and aunt Charlotte, who lived in Queens, NYC more often than most of his local cousins, aunts, and uncles. Specifically, why did he have a poorly veiled disdain for Aunt Jessie, his mother’s sister?

Could we have asked?

There was a point in the few years before his death that my sister Leslie thought to ask him some of these questions, though other parts we learned well after he died.

I was never comfortable telling him that his wife and, occasionally, his mother-in-law were telling his children stories about him that he himself never managed to share with us.

Thus, the frustration. Maybe he had some papers we haven’t encountered in nearly a half-century. I’m not holding my breath.

I believe that our work on genealogy has partially been the thing that has rekindled these musings. Did he know what his grandfather Walker did for a living? Did he know Samuel Walker’s parents’ names? Might they have been enslaved people?

What was his relationship with his grandmother Walker, Mary Eugenia, who died in 1944, long before I was born?

I suppose the musing is an idle exercise. But on the 23rd anniversary of Les Green’s death, I’m allowing myself a bit of permission to indulge in these flights of fancy.

The Great Dying in the Americas after 1492


Great DyingI had heard of the Great Dying in the Americas after 1492. Still, it was a shocking headline in my newsfeed. 56 MILLION. This is the “estimated number of Indigenous Americans killed by violence, famine, and disease due to European colonization from 1492 to 1600. That’s a 90% drop in the Indigenous population – a decline so rapid it caused the earth’s temperature to cool.”.

“We know the story. Or, at least, we think we do: In 1621, a shared feast between Pilgrims and Indigenous Americans in Massachusetts to give thanks for the harvest and survival of Plymouth colonists created a 400-year tradition Americans mark annually.

“Most of us know that tale is, in large measure, a lie

“That story exists in part to obfuscate the quite bloody reality of how the nation was actually claimed by the colonists who arrived here,” said Julian Brave NoiseCat, a journalist, activist, and advisory board member for The Emancipator.”

When facts such as these are shared, I hear so many non-Indigenous people complain, “Why are they ruining the best holiday?” I understand. Hey, I grew up with the myth as well. It was such an affirming, positive story that one wanted it to be true.


“So how do Indigenous people in America mark Thanksgiving? The ways are as diverse and complex as the communities themselves. They do mourn the atrocities their ancestors suffered. But Indigenous culture is also firmly rooted in the tradition of giving thanks. They find a way to do both.

“One of NoiseCat’s traditions is attending Sunrise Ceremonies at Alcatraz Island, the Indigenous land that became the now-shuttered prison, to commemorate a 19-month occupation that began in 1969. Bay Area Native American activists sought to reclaim the island under the terms of a 19th-century treaty.”

The article is from Unbound, a newsletter from The Emancipator, published by the Boston Globe. In each issue, “Kimberly Atkins Stohr, senior columnist for The Emancipator and The Boston Globe, explores past to present-day themes centered on antiracism and democracy.” She examines “some of the most urgent conversations on racial justice infused with context, news, and perspective.

The statistical citation is from Quarternary Science Reviews’ 2019 study Earth system impacts of the European arrival and Great Dying in the Americas after 1492 by Alexander Koch, Chris Brierley, Mark M. Maslin and Simon L. Lewis. You can hear Koch on the Last Born In The Wilderness podcast.

Les Green: a very important person

Binghamton’s finest

Les Green.city leadersOne of my sisters sent me this newspaper clipping from 1970. There’s Les Green, a very important person, in Binghamton, NY with city and county leaders, state legislative representatives, and others.

If I’m reading my Les Green history correctly, this took place largely over a 15-year period. It was roughly from 1959, when he first started singing and playing his guitar publicly, until 1974, when he, my mother, and my baby sister moved to Charlotte, NC.

And it wasn’t because he was a civil rights leader or a singer of folk songs. It was that he was those things AND a tremendous arranger of flowers AND a painter of signs AND a set designer for the Civic Theater. He was very active in his church, from running the mimeograph machine that produced the weekly bulletin to singing in the choir to leading the MAZET singers, the youth choir which included my sister Leslie and me. Also, he was an advocate for those with mental illness at Binghamton State Hospital; I do wonder what was his special affinity for that place was.

Moreover, he and his wife bought their first house in 1972, after living in a property owned by his mother-in-law for all of his married life. After I wrote about my dad a few years back, an acquaintance seriously suggested that there should have been a statue of Les Green in Binghamton.


So, on the anniversary of his death in 2000, I’ve been musing about how he felt about the move to Charlotte. Surely, he took time to find his bearings. When he first came down there, he referred to it as a “big country town.” And he wasn’t wrong, though it become more civilized over time, with a real mass transit system, not the abomination it used when I lived down there at the beginning of 1977.

The family had a rental house and they took time before discovering the right church for them. He did important work there. His job, where he became a Vice-President of J.A. Jones probably generated more income than any other job he had. He was very involved in his church, with music but also a breakfast program.

But he was always out looking for the financial rainbow, starting so many little businesses that neither my mother nor their accountant knew how many. He regularly came to me in the latter stages of his life wondering how he could get rich on this new World Wide Web thing. (The brutal truth is that he couldn’t because he was lousy at recordkeeping or even giving his wife or the accountant his receipts. Being online wouldn’t have helped.)

When he moved the Charlotte, he was sure that he couldn’t find a market for his music in the South. I was not convinced he was correct. He did start writing poetry; I have a massive manuscript in this very room.

Thinking about you, dear old Dad, as you liked to be called.

Mom died on Groundhog’s Day 2011

It was a Wednesday

Roger and Trudy
March 7, 2005

My mom died on Groundhog’s Day. It was 11 years ago, in 2011. Now, it’s 2022. A lot of repeating numbers. It was a Wednesday. Today is Wednesday.

On one hand, of course, her passing is a singular event. Looking back at my blog posts from February 2011, specifically 2, 3, 6, 9, 16, and 27, and subsequently, I had the need to write more about that time than possibly any other. The death of my dad in 2000, before the start of this blog, has been discussed, but retrospectively.

The day before, I had arrived in Charlotte, NC. Leslie was already there and Marcia lived there. They said that mom was doing better than she had been since she entered the hospital the previous Friday. I had heard that people often seem to rally a bit before they die, but I saw no reason to mention that to my sisters.

I slept in a chair, or maybe two, in my mother’s room. About an hour after she had awakened, she sounded as though she were suffocating. So I buzzed the nurse and this army of folks descended on the room. Someone noted to me in a scolding tone that she had a DNR, Do Not Resuscitate. Yes, I knew that.

I wasn’t trying to get her rescued, just to make she wasn’t uncomfortable. To myself, but not to the medical personnel, I muttered, “Sorry, I am not savvy on the stages just before death. This is my first one.”


And, in fact, when she did pass away, I was unaware until someone told me. My sisters were en route, so there was no point in calling them. When they arrived about ten minutes later, one noted that she looked peaceful and comfortable. I got to break the news. I signed some paperwork, as I did for dad. Then there seemed to be this rush for us to identify a funeral home to send her body to. This made me cranky too.

I can recall my emotions to the response to my February 2 post. I had written about four days earlier that I was going to Take The Train To Charlotte after my mother’s stroke. So the early comments were of the “I hope your mom gets better” variety. But after I told Denise Nesbitt via email that Mom had passed, she clearly circulated the news. If I want to cry Right Now, I can just read the later comments.

Now, I feel like an Orphaned Adult but that happened and is now just IS. Life post-parents have allowed my siblings and me to have more honest conversations about the ‘rents.

So when Mom died on Groundhog’s Day, it was a long time ago. And it was last week. One of those funeral parlor quotes, which I suppose I’d normally find overly sentimentalized, I somehow like right now. “There is a link death cannot sever. Love and remembrance last forever.”

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