Rememberances of Gene
|Rememberances of Gene|
May 1, 1928 - August 21, 2002
The Bluestein Family thanks all of you for your thoughts, memories and love.
Gene wrote on the back of this old photo: " '. . . A book beneath a friendly bough, a loaf of bread, a jug of wine and thou.' Except there's no bread, nor bough, and you're in New Britain dammit!" ~ Gene Bluestein, circa 1948
From Bob Billings:
I always thought of Gene as one of the "crazies" Earl Lyon brought in to cure the English Department of any urge toward respectability -- and especially to teach all administrative layers sitting above us not to trust too much on tradition and authority to keep all us "crazies" in line. Gene as an elemental force simply defies any attempt to reduce him down to mere words. And I cannot yet think of Gene's voice as stilled. His righteous indignation, his exasperation at timid human beings -- whether educators, politicians or religious leaders -- still rings out, challenging us to carry on the fight as he would have us do it -- right up to the end, as long as there is any life still in us, to make clear our contempt for the hypocrisy and timidity of those who still care too much for their "respectability" and "position." So in my mind Gene's voice talks on, firm, confident, with just that tiny hint of falsetto in it -- maybe just a slight impatience at someone too slow to grasp the obvious point. We must now do his talking here in this world. Hoping we can live up to Gene's expectations of us...
From Catherine Campbell:
My brothers (Tom and Bob Speer) and I were all students of Gene's in the late 60's, and I'm sure all three of us recall him best for that. We know he was a musician, and a writer, and in the last few years he and I shared books and I read his, but mostly I remember his teaching, and I remember much of what I learned from him. During the terrible times at Fresno State, when it seemed as if a catastrophe arrived every day, he was steadfast in his opposition to the administration and his refusal to cower. This was not true of all of the English Department, and it wasn't true of most of the rest of the faculty, but it was true of Gene, and his courage gave us courage (at the same time that our courage, the courage of the young who don't know any better, gave him courage) and we fought it all together. What has been said about the faculty has been said, and hopefully more will be said soon, but it's important to know that Gene Bluestein, Phil Levine, Pete Everwine, Gene Zumwalt, they changed our lives, they gave us direction, they brought us to a kind of knowing that had nothing or maybe everything to do with literature. They passed the test.
From Marty Cooper:
Although I learned about Gene's passing a month ago it has been difficult finding the words. My memories go back to the "cellar clubs" on Ocean Parkway and our days at Lincoln High(where we both wrote for the school magazine) in Brighton Beach in Brooklyn and Gene's irrepressible mother Masha and his subsequent showing me (years later)the lemon tree in the backyard where she chose to rest, finally. Weekends at Ellie's parents' home on Connecticut...and though many years passed before we actually met again in Fresno, the years ,since our days in Harry Slochower's classes at Brooklyn College, melted away with the embrace in the doorway by Gene and Ellie. The memories flood back and you realize that with Gene's passing our lives are diminished in small but unforgettable parts. Truly, a man for all seasons.You realize that in some way that he was always a part of you in spite of geography.
From Will Spires:
I put Gene's biography on my Folklore course web page as a link this afternoon. The same day Gene died, the English Department here asked me to do a Work of Literary Merit campus presentation on music related to "The Grapes of Wrath." I'm going to do a program of folk music from the Central Valley refugee camps based of Library of Congress material, and this program will be dedicated to Gene's memory on October 23rd. I'm sure there will be many events and appropriate memorials, but I did want to put in my share.
From Maria Wortham:
As you know your mom & dad did a lot for me in those days and changed my life by direct means and indirect. My best memories of him are when he was in elfin mode, mowing the front lawn with his headphones on with a power mower. One time I was there when your mom was having to get insistent, as most spousal units do from time to time, that he get on to vacuuming the front room. He was looking sullen but got the vacuum and then looked up at me with the elf look and said, "She knows I'm her best vacuumer." Singing them out is the best way by far, don't you think? A director I worked for told me about a bunch of his friends in Montana that were, or studying to be, professional thanatomusicologists. He said harp music was the most popular. Myself, I hope I have a friend when the time comes who can do the music. Hiring somebody just doesn't seem the same spirit of things. Certainly I will be sending up a few tunes for your dad. And thinking of you all too.
From Derek Hodge:
I'm saddened to learn of Gene's death. I remember when he came to find me at Michigan State because he had heard that I had come from St. Croix, VI with a steel pan and he wanted to hear it. We went on to form a steel band with my brother Winston Hodge, Ariel Melchior, Jr., Tom Gatten ( who had no rhythm!) Keith Williams (married to Marci who had perfect pitch) and Chemo Rodriguez. We had a great time playing different gigs on campus, at the Gate of Horn in Chicago (Gene had a friend there named Blackie) and doing a recording with Folkways Records (The Bamboushay Steel Band.) Gene and Ellie became our foster parents and their house was our refuge when we were homesick.I am glad that I took the time some years ago to visit with Gene and Ellie in Fresno. He will always have a special place in my heart and my memories.
From Jules, Anne and Halley Chametzky:
Needless to say, Anne and I were shocked and deeply dismayed at the news of Gene's death. It was good to talk with Ellie, though, this past Saturday, the day I learned of it, to commiserate, and admire, and mourn. What I remember best about Gene, as classmates at Brooklyn, and later at Minnesota, is his irrepressible vitality, the eagerness for life, and his humor. However acerbic, and sometimes almost despairing, our views of the foibles of teachers, colleagues, friends and enemies, and of "the system," there was usually the Yiddishe knaitch attached, the twist, that somehow humanized all of it. Nothing pollyannish, but never without hope.> In these bleak times, that's something to remember, a valuable legacy, among so much else that Gene gave to us and to the larger world.
From Guy E. Sharwood:
One of my fondest memories of the Bluestein Family performances is a children's show they played at Westley Methodist Church in the early spring of 1979. They played some very catchy tunes and everybody in the audience sang along with the choruses. A carpenter's song sticks out in my mind:"Bling, Blang, hammer with my hammer; Zingo-Zango, cutting with my saw." I always enjoyed listening to Dr. Bluestein's soothing tenor when he would sing lead on a song. And he always had my undivided attention when explaining a song or offering a personal anecdote. Of late I've been listening a lot to These Are My Blues from my copy of the Evo's Autoharp album. He did all blues greats proud on that song. I'm not at all surprised that Pete Seeger was a major influence of his, as the Bee article stated. Similarities were prevalent not only in the music, but also his very insightful essays and his calm, affable demeanor. My heartfelt condolences go out to his wife Ellie, as well as to Evo, Jemmy, Joel, Frayda and their children.
From Linda Davidman Rogers:
Some of my happiest and vivid childhood memories are of when the Bluesteins visited our house (which was never often enough). Gene always had a banjo or steel drums or some other instrument that was so new and exciting to me. I remember us (all the children) sitting on the floor singing songs with Gene. He always had funny and silly songs to sing that we helped make up as we sang. I remember always begging for just one more song. I never wanted the fun to stop. That memory will never die. Gene will always be alive in my heart. The concept of best friend took form for me as I watched my Dad "Blackie" and Gene's relationship. They respected and loved each other so much. I'm sure their spirits are together again now somewhere in the universe.
Gene & Ellie Bluestein
- Press Honors Gene Bluestein
- Rememberances of Gene Bluestein
- Celebrating Gene Bluestein
- Gene Bluestein Retrospective CD
- Brief Biography of Gene Bluestein
- Bad Old Times at CSUF
- Getting to Fresno State
- Letters from Woody Guthrie
- Early Memories
- Childhood and Parents
- Union Organizing
- Cousin Moishe
- Club Tempo Cellar Club
- Early Folk Music Influences
- Sex As a Literary Theme
- Memorial Concerts
- Poem for Gene by Lisa Strand Baloian
- Polish Shtetl Rememberance Book
- A Few Awards
- Gene Bluestein Fund
- Ellie Bluestein Biography
- Courage Award
- Ellie – Award for the Common Good
- Ellie – Freedom of Speech Award
- Ellie – MLK Award