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.
Ellie and Gene
From Rachel Kimber:
My eyes are filled with tears not just of sorrow on the loss of Gene but also with happiness that I was lucky enough to know Gene & call him my friend. You don't need me to tell you that Gene was a truly special, fantastic, fabulous.. 'sugoii' man. My memories? I suppose the most vivid one is of Gene playing songs in Ohtaku House on the morning before I left Japan. Gene's music and folk songs captured the moment perfectly and expressed how I think both Mel & I felt. We both sobbed - neither of us wanted to leave Japan (although, neither did we want to stay...). Gene's music and folk songs expressed entirely the atmosphere, that Mel & I felt. Another memory is attending Gene's concert at a university in Japan. The look of disbelief of the entire Japanese audience when Gene took out 2 spoons... and the look of pleasure as the music swept throughout the hall. And, keeping with that evening... the enjoyment that fellow train passengers, took to Gene's concentrated look as he read the Japanese newspaper ...upside-down!! Even though I haven't seen you both in 6 years - you are both so close to my heart. One huge regret: David could never meet the man who I'd describe as wonderfully wacky and so full of fun.
From Naomi Dicker:
I cry off and on these days as I remember this or that event in my own life for which Gene was such a wonderful support. He was a great teacher for me and the only person I ever met who seemed to understand my world outlook, put roughly: cynical, but optomistic. Is that combination possible? I don't recall if I ever asked him! I'm sure he would have laughed if I had, and improvised a story part true, part molded to the occasion to enlighten me on the question. Having known him is one of the true joys of my life, and I will be ever grateful to you, Ellie (yourself a wonder woman and role model for me) for bringing him the happiness, stability and extra years of life, as you did. And to each of you children and your families, who were always there to joke, spar and support.I take solace too, in thinking of the contributions he made: his and Ellie's family life, which not only made their home a special place for all who entered it, but also gave us four children who themselves live that tradition; his concern for his students, their understanding and their advancement; his insight into people he knew and his warm acceptance of them as if only their best counted; the originality of his professional thought and the energy that so often translated it into positive action that us lay folks could share in; and his knowledgeable, clever, fearless and loving contributions to peace and progress in the community, the work place and the world. One is supposed to say 'goodbye, Gene,' at this point, but I know something of Gene will always be with me to give me strength or a chance to laugh. My thoughts are with you.
From Sam Hinton:
"We're sad to hear that Evo's dad has died. He was one of the participants in my Extension class "The Folk Singers" in the early 1970s, and we always liked him a lot.... That class took a lot of organizing; each participant played on 10 UC campuses one year and on 11 campuses the next year; I think Gene was in the first year. I did all the arranging for transportation and housing. I made an audio tape of his lecture, but can't play it with my present equipment; both tracks sound at once!"
From Bruce Bronzan:
Doug Jones just forwarded the web site to me. My mind was flooded with sad and wonderful thoughts of this great man and his most remarkable family. You all have played such a big part in my life -- more than you can know--and the foundation of that was Gene and Ellie. As I think of the amazing dinners at the Bluestein house, the incredible intellect, the music, the wit, the worldliness, the humanity and the sheer and abundant love, I am, in his death, struck with the life of it all. My thoughts are with you all and with Gene. I can not make the service on the 7th -- Chloe and I are in The Tempest here in Marin that day. But please let me know if there is anything I can do.
From Joe Rostato Jr:
I am so, so sorry to hear about your dad. I am so glad i got a chance to know him and spend a bit of time with him over the years. I always thought he was such an inspiration... a person who could fill a room with his energy and soul. I consider myself one of the indirect descendants of his music... and I know there are hundreds if not thousands more like me in the world. I'll never forget the editorial he once wrote in the fresno bee... where he blasted fresno state for placing athletics over academics. He suggested the school change its logo to a pitbull ripping a student to shreds. I know this has been a really tough time for all of you... during his illness. my prayers are with you all.
From Lev Liberman:
I was sorry to hear of your father's passing -- although it sounds as if he departed in the best way possible, surrounded by family and singing. Along with Ellie, Gene touched many lives through his music, his writings, his teachings, and his community activities. I'll remember him as a righteous, good-hearted man who used his time on Earth to leave the place better than he found it. Gene will be missed -- but his influence will live on in his family and in the many people he helped and inspired. From Hannsjoerg Scheid:I'm sad to hear that Gene left. For me it is the first loss since the beginning of my new life in the US. Somehow without him I would not be here and we would not know each other and and and ...so many things would be different. I'm amazed by the ripple effect that is caused by touching other lifeand changing them forever. I remember talking with Gene about R.W. Emerson ,who means spiritually a great deal to me, right the first time we met. That gave me the initial thought that I'm in the right place and don't have to worry, that there is something greater that we aren't aware of most of our life. Just in those rare moments when we are open enough to receive we feel the greatness in the connection of everything.
From Judith Wegner:
I regret that I did not know Gene -- only his daughter Frayda (who has shared her thoughts on him over the years). Gene must have been extraordinarily proud of Frayda--who is an amazing teacher/scholar in her own right, here at the University of North Carolina. I came to know Frayda when she transferred to UNC for law school, and have marveled at her accomplishments in ensuing years (as she became a faculty member at the School of Government here and established an outstanding record of leadership, teaching, and creating deeper understanding of law and policy for government officials and those who assist them in their work). I marvel at the music that Gene brought into Frayda's life, the inspiration he provided as a teacher, the love and affection that he clearly engendered in Frayda and others he knew. I only wish he and I had not been faculty members on opposite sides of the country, since I would love to have learned more about how he worked the magic he did (and inspired others to do the same). I know he will be sorely missed by all, but that his acts of kindness and inspriation will ripple out to many over many, many years... including, I'm happy to say, myself.
Brighton Beach football, Gene in second row right
From Morris & Lorraine Friedman:
There's probably not much I can tell you about Gene that you do not already know. But when I think of Gene, I think of the summer of 1945. It was the summer that he, Blackie and I worked at Camp Kinderland. As you know Gene lived in the apartment house next to mine growing up in Brighton Beach . . . but prior to the summer of 1945, we socialized in different circles. I spent most of my time playing ball and later going to the pool room, while Gene was into music, partying and girls. While I spent hours doing schoolwork, it came very easily to Gene. I always knew he was smart. How we got to camp . . . Gene's father and my father were furriers, his mother knew everybody, my mother was active in the local schule and that became the connection to camp. I was going to be drafted in September and I had no plans. My mom felt that I shouldn't just be a beach bum for my last summer as a civilian and she convinced me to apply to be a counselor. She then used her persuasive powers on Masha, who worked on Gene, who said he would only go if Blackie also went . . . and that's how we all ended up at camp. Little did we know then how that experience would change our lives. Gene and I both met our beloved spouses at camp and I got to know and appreciate him much better. I admired his wonderful sense of humor, high energy level, and many talents. I also liked the fact that we were both about the same size. Gene was a "trumbanik" and a leader. However, what I admired most was his free and creative energy. I will miss Gene very much. He reminds me of my youth. The spirit and enthusiasm he brought to everything will be fondly remembered.
From Jan Mills (Bianchi):
In 1974, when I joined the Socialist Worker's Party, I needed a faculty sponsor. I knew Gene, having told Jemmy the summer before that my parents wouldn't let me read at home, a wild lie that allowed me a wonderful summerof reading, music, and friendship at the Bluestein house, a pleasure which others managed to come by honestly. But now that I was about worldwide revolution, I knocked on Gene's office door and asked him to sign on as"club sponsor." He hesitated for perhaps ten seconds before he said, "What the hell," and signed. I'm unaware of any consequences to him for sponsoring this short-lived group, or rather, me (I was never able to convince anyone else to join the party). I know my father lost his security clearance with the Department of Agriculture-perhaps something to do with fluoridation. And Professor Dmitriew was wildly upset when an FBI man came to her house. She was sure I was the one who cast suspicion on her loyalty. But I will always be grateful to Gene for allowing me my revolutionary turn. How odd that I was thinking about him the very day Ruth Kaufmann e-mailed me that he had died. I'm sure he touched countless lives, like mine, with his courage and encouragement.
From Paula Ethel Wolfson:
The first Bluestein I met was Joel, in 1976, at UC Santa Barbara. He was at the campus beach having a picnic with his family. It was a sunny, windy day. They were all very white. Gene was sitting there playing his banjo. I thought to myself, "What a happy family." They even looked smart, except for the fact that they were all getting sunburned.While in college, Joel moved to Paris to study. I traveled to Paris and crashed at his place but never saw him because his family was in town. I finally met all of the Bluesteins during their many visits to D.C. There was always a parade of musicians about.I finally had a conversation with Gene on Father's Day 2001. He was coping with multiple health problems and his voice was failing; however, he graciously allowed me to interview him about fatherhood for a book on . . . what else . . . Jewish fatherhood. Of course, Gene made it a point to tell me that he taught Jewish culture and identity to his children through music. He described fatherhood as "delicious" and "delightful." Ellie was the "girl of his dreams," and all the children were "angels." He was so excited when Joel was born that he got lost driving home from the hospital. He talked for almost two hours. He used the F word several times, but it seemed to mean much more than what most people use it for. He said he hoped his legacy is in the music and that it lives on with his grandchildren. At that point, I thought that we had come to the end of the interview, but then Gene told me that scholars now doubt that the Exodus ever happened. He completed his interview by asking questions. Perhaps he is now teaching Moses to play banjo and to ask questions.
From Howard Watkins:
Your father is someone who made a difference in the thousands and thousands of lives he touched directly and indirectly. He and your mother have been role models for me for their committment to family, community, and social justice. The web page is a wonderful glimpse of how one person can makesuch a big difference in this world.
From Marci Williams:
Senior Vice President for International Relations, University of MassachusettsOne thing was very clear to me, being around your family then: there was lots of love, caring, respect, encouragement, and enablement...in addition to loyalty, fidelity, and trust. Your parents...by their very presence...persuaded those around them to hold these attributes as prime values. And though I often fell short of the mark they set, I have never stopped striving to get it right...or, at least, to get it "better." I thank them for their living example of a committed and passionate life...and in your father's case, its ending.
From Warren Argo:
I am filled with such mixed feeling to hear of Gene's jump to the Great Beyond. On the one hand it is so damn sad to lose such a high-ranking general in the army for human greatness, we are so short handed at the top, you know, but on the other hand, even top-class heroes must eventually move on and leave us to make our way with whatever we have managed to learn under their gentle lashes. I guess the main thing is very selfish of me; I am delighted and honored to have known him so well and to have wound up being such fast friends with his boys. My heart and mind will be with you as you join with such a throng as is surely heading to you now to celebrate this mighty and memorable man. As Pete Seeger said of Uncle Dave, "May he liven up the heavenly band!"
From Joel Pickford:
For me Gene was first and foremost a great teacher. Though I never actually took a course from him at CSUF, I was enrolled in one of his living room seminars that lasted from the early 1960s, when I first met the Bluestein family, until about two weeks ago. Every visit to the Bluestein home meant being introduced to some new musical style, author or idea. In particular, I remember one visit during my high school years, when Evo and I were studying together at Ananda. I arrived one afternoon to find Gene tuning up a guitar, instead of the banjo I usually expected to hear him playing. Softly, he began to fingerpick some country blues. The infectious rhythm and twangy blue notes immediately caught my attention. When I asked him how I could learn to play such music myself, he replied "Its easy." He demonstrated the roles of various fingers on the right hand and then explained how the tune he was playing could be broken down into its rhythmic and harmonic elements. Then he loaned me a Lightning Hopkins record called "Blues In My Bottle." It may have been the first blues album I ever heard all the way through. I still play one of the songs I learned from that record and Lightning Hopkins is still among my very favorite blues artists. Another time during those Ananda years, I was over at the house telling Jemmy how excited I was by Charlie Parker's music, after being introduced to it in Bruce Bronzan's black music appreciation class.Jemmy nonchalantly commanded "Dad, do your Charlie Parker rap!" What followed was not only a brilliant thumbnail analysis of Parker's role in the development of Jazz, but also some great stories about Gene'sadventures at New York clubs in the 1940s, where he heard Bird perform live several times. He had even seen Parker sharing the stage with Billie Holiday on one occasion. Around a decade later, I was performing electric blues with a band at a Unitarian Church wedding. I looked out in front of the stage to see Gene and Ellie among the couples dancing to a slow blues. "This is stupendous!" he called out to me as he caught my glance. I was somewhat embarrassed to think that he was hearing such a wobbly performance, but he and Ellie were obviously having such a good time that the anxiety just melted away and I started to have more fun myself. These are but a few of the many times I profited by being an unofficial student of Gene Bluestein. Though I will miss Gene, I don't really feel he is gone. The sound of his banjo tuning up, the living room filled with instruments, records and a then-state-of-the-art stereo with reel-to-reel recorder, as well as the discussions, arguments between Gene and Earl Lyon, mini-lectures, jokes, stories, rehearsals, and the nearly constant parade of interesting and illustrious guests, not to mention the essays on Herder, Whitman, Poplore and the 5-string banjo, all of these will remain with me.
From Nancy Schimmel:
I'm glad I got to be part of the "chaotic joy" at Gene and Ellie's one weekend when Bessie Jones was there. My mother (Malvina Reynolds) and I came down for a weekend performance at the college, which was beautifully set up, but the real show was at the Bluesteins: music, conversation, garden, food. I'll never forget it.
From Annie Davidman Cody:
When I was a little girl and we would visit Genie and Ellie and the family, Genie was bigger than life to me. He was funny and he told great stories. He was a different kind of dad than I had ever seen. He was totally cool. I laughed when I was around him and I was in awe of his talent. I will always remember how my father, Blackie Davidman was so happy when he was with Genie. They were best buds and it showed. Blackie had a certain smirk on his face and ease in his heart when he was just hanging with Genie. When they looked into at each other's eyes you knew they had many secrets and shared experiences. The love between the two of them ran deep. I am so grateful for Genie's love. Genie will always hold a space in my heart along with Ellie and the rest of the family.
From Virginia Rock:
Some days have passed since I read your news, dear Ellie, of our dearest friend's departure from the pain and consciousness of this life. You may have wondered about my silence; I have been looking inward, thinking back through the nearly half century we have known each other, finding my unreliable memory an irritant; but places and events have not entirely faded--classes and parties at Minnesota and Michigan State where we both studied and taught, sessions in American Studies national meeting, wonderful visits with you at wedding celebrations (Joel's in Virginia), the overwhelming 50th anniversary commemoration honoring you and Gene in Fresno, your wonderful hospitality and my meeting of some of Gene's colleagues from women's universities where he was teaching when I visited Tokyo. My eyes blur again, then clear as I remember Gene's astonishing vitality, his love of life and ideas, of courage and fearlessness in the face of those black years when reactionary powers slashed and threatened and destroyed lives in universities--but not Gene's. He never let the finks rule his world and we were heartened by his war on fearful passivity. As I thought about how to embody something of my deep admiration for and indebtedness to Gene, I do what literary scholars often do--and Gene was so good at this--I turned to a text, to be more specific, to Walt Whitman, one of Gene's lifelong subjects--There is a dream, a picture, that for years at intervals, sometimes quite long ones, but surely again, in time, has come noiselessly up before me, and I believe, fiction as it is, has enter'd into my practical life--certainly into my writings, and shaped and color'd them. It is nothing more or less than a stretch of interminable white-brown sand, hard and smooth and broad, with the ocean perpetually, grandly, rolling in upon it, with slow-measured sweep, with rustle and hiss and foam, and many a thump as of low bass drums. Gene's life reflected this power, this grandeur, this link with nature, with its sounds, its music. As the sea-shore was for Whitman, Walt became for Gene, I have felt, "an invisible influence, a pervading gauge and tally...." One vivid picture emerges from my memory--it emboides another face of Gene--loving father, proud, protective. This goes back to the first term I was at Minnesota, some months after the beginning of the school year; it was a cold raw day; there was Gene with Joel, less than a year old, in his arms--warm in his snuggly blue snow suit and parka hood, arm thrust out toward his mother; we went up the steps of our Temporary Office Building into the hall--my first meeting with Joel as part of the Bluestein family. How blessed we all are--to have known Gene, to remember him as teacher, scholar, performer, friend. What a legacy he has left--in print, in recordings, in stories we remember his telling, in the life he led. May I be forgiven for my need to seek my ending of my thoughts, not from my flawed memory but from his heroic "good gay poet": Failing to fetch me at first keep encouraged, Missing me one place, search another, I stop somewhere waiting for you.
From Chris McGahan and Lonnie Fleisher:
We have had the wonderful presence of Frayda in our lives for over 16 years now and have spent many very special visits with Gene and Ellie here in North Carolina. Even though the total cumulative time with them has been relatively short, we have always been welcomed into their family so very warmly that they really feel like family to us. As has already been said many times in these remembrances, Gene was a fabled raconteur. One special memory that my family cherishes was our inclusion in the Bluestein/Cullen family Passover Seder this past spring. The Seder of course was led by Gene and although he had difficulty getting force behind his voice because of illness, he marched on valiantly and delivered a most amazing "presentation". The story of Passover became alive for all present and our children were mesmerized. Oral history is a dying tradition that Gene helped keep alive through his story telling. Our oldest son Daniel always looked forward to seeing Gene because they shared interests in language, especially Yiddish. He thought Gene was an extremely special person and said so many times, wisdom from a 17 year old. Gene will live on through his family, students, colleagues and friends whom he inspired with his intelligence, scholarship, humor and courage. We will sorely miss him.
From Shirley & Dudl Bernstein:
I sang at Gene & Ellie's wedding the song they loved so much "Fun Vanen Haybt Zikh on a Libe". I was privileged and honored to sing the same song at their 50th Wedding Annivesary together with Joel, Evo, Jemmy & Frayda. I remember the nights in Camp Kinderland writing parodies & songs for the Kinder Tog evening. Gene's talent was very evident. The committee consisted of Gene, Herb Gutman, Helene Masslo & myself. What a great time we had. Shirley & I will not be at the Memorial service but our love & admiration will be there. We send our best to Ellie who did so much in her own way. We send our best to Joel, Evo, Jemmy & Frayda and their families who brought so much joy Gene & Ellie and certainly an important part of his accomplishments.
From Bernice Greenberg, aka "Brownie", aka Blackie Davidman's kid sister:
I met Gene when I was around 10 or 11 years old, and he was my big brother's best friend in Brighton Beach, Brooklyn, New York. Two sweet Yiddishe guys who tried to look like gang members (to get the girls). I remember Gene from Camp (Kinderland) when he started to date Ellie, and we giggled and gossiped about this love affair. Over the years I would hear about the Bluesteins, and I was so happy to see them again at Aaron Davidman's wedding. All time disappeared as we talked about the past. What an incredible legacy he has left. To think that that skinny little guy who made me laugh, who was so full of life, would not only leave a lifetime work of writing, of music, but most important, of love and of family. Genie was a blessing in the life of anyone who knew him.
From Pat Arnold:
I only met Gene a few times but I love Elly. She and her family have been an inspiration to me so I want to send my best wishes and those of my daughter, Linda Arnold, also a singer - of children's songs. She has always loved the Bluestein Family music. May you all carry on in the tradition that was begun by Gene Bluestein - a singer of songs, a lover of life.
From Peter Everwine:
I was very sorry to hear of Gene's death; I know this is a difficult time for all of you. One of the many qualities I respected and admired in Gene was his strong sense of family and his generosity in welcoming so many lives mine among them into its warm circle. This strength surely survives him, and I hope it brings a measure of comfort to you, even as you mourn his passing.
From Jean Ritchie and George Pickow (recieving National Heritage Award Sept. 18):
I couldn't stop the tears when I learned that Gene was actually planning to come to Washington in September! First time I ever blubbered into a computer, and I would have laughed if I weren't crying! You two are such incredible people- and Gene must know it certainly IS a surprise for me! As much to know it, as it would have been if he were really there! Our love, hugs & kisses are with you all, and the warm presence of both of you will, combined, be the strongest one around me on September 18th, for I haven't forgotten that it was Gene who first nominated me for this award, all those years ago. George and I both long to be there for Gene's memorial, but it is not to be. Have a wonderful "Bon Voyage" party, and feel our presence amongst you, too. Much love- We're so glad we have our memories of all the grand times with you all!
From Jaime Reyna Juarez:
Class of 1986, Assistant Director of Admissions, Penn State, HarrisburgI would like to pass on my condolences to you and the rest of Dr. Bluestein's family. I was a student of Dr. Bluestein during the early 1980's at CSU Fresno. I remember taking him for a topic literature course on Walt Whitman and Emily Dickinson. He was a wonderful teacher, and I will never forget his readings of Whitman. I fondly remember his reading and explication of "I Celebrate Myself," especially a passage that goes something like:Undrape! you are not guilty to me, nor stale, nor discarded; /I see through the broadcloth and gingham, whether or no;/And am around, tenacious, acquisitive, tireless, and cannot be shaken away. Dr. Bluestein read that passage in my class over 20 years ago, and I still remember it. I remember this stanza because he read it with such joy and humor and impact, and I will always associate it with him. But it is not a wild association. I think it symbolized, in part, the kind of man that he was: a wonderful teacher and a beautiful human being. In my mind there were a handful of extraordinary people at Fresno State, while I was a student there, whose instruction and guidance will stay with me for the rest of my life. He was one of those people. I, too, mourn your loss.
From Erik Hoffman:
I'm sorry I won't make it to Gene's Memorial. I'm also sorry that I never got to know him. Knowing you and Jemmy and your love for music and dance, and thinking much of it must have come from a family spirit that must have been fostered by Gene makes me miss him already.
From Joci Tilsen:
I am filled with powerful memories dating back 44 years. The music in my heart came from the time I spent at Gene's feet when I was a young child. He taught me to laugh and cry to music and the powerful ways music takes action in our lives. He taught me to be family across cultures and time and distance. I am so glad he died with dignity after all he has been through these last years and that is a tribute to his wonderful and loving and beautiful family. My love is with you all as we try to imagine and then find comfort in this changed world.
From Joy Vincent Killian:
I was at the College of Communication Graduate student orientation yesterday. I have just read your e-mail and Evo's. As I sit at my desk at work I realize how much Gene meant in my educational life. The professor that drove the students onward and to stretch. How odd that I was going on to learn more on the day he passed away. So far away I can't image him not there. The two of you were so much a part of the Vincent-Killian family. I recall how Elliott and I sat at his feet during our last visit and how I stressed to him how important Gene was as a person to me, as a musician and writer. That Elliott should remember this time, it was very important for him to remember.
From Larry Hanks:
It's a very long time since I last saw him, at least twenty years I guess. I remember him in the early days at the Mill, and once in particular when he gave me some good tips on my rather homemade banjo style (flailing, not frailing). It was interesting to read about his life and work; I didn't know a lot about him, and wish I had known him better.
From Amy Davidman:
At Gramercy Park Hotel last year I met gene & ellie for breakfast. I brought a camera, thinking that I could catch a great moment of the three of us on film. Well, a great photo did develop and we had a wonderful time together. Gene told me a story about him and Grandpa Blackie starting an imaginary club in Brooklyn called CLUB TEMPO. They made fake business cards and would hand them out to the ladies attracting them to a designated location where they could "socialize". I don't remember if there was more to the story, or if that's all gene told me right then... All I know is that it was a great story and ever since then I've been fantasizing that my future club will have that same name. Gosh I wish I could hear that story again. And it's a bummer that my memories aren't so detailed...but at least I remember the love. And there's a whole bunch more people to love and be lovin' out there. Music is where we are, who we are, we are born in it, we are living it, we will pass in and out of it, and we will speak and lovebeyond it.
From Ann & Al Wasserman:
Words are really inadequate to describe our feelings and that is why this note is late. For how can you put on paper those things which are much better said with a hug, a kiss or a touch of the hand? Our memories of Gene (and Ellie too, for they were always inseparable) go back some 56 years to 1946 in Camp Kinderland, when we were all having our summer romances. We remember Gene as the skinniest lifeguard, who would always be seen around camp playing music on his recorder. We learned very quickly of his great sense of humor, compassion for people and passion for justice. But this was just a summer acquaintance for us. We lost track of each other once our camp days were over and we each married and started having children and working. And as it turned out, we each left New York for the "greener" pastures of the West. It wasn't until 1964 that we heard from Nina Youkelson that Gene & Ellie were in Fresno. So one Sunday we packed our kids in the car and drove to make an unannounced visit. (Drop in visits was one of the things we missed of our New York heritage.) We received the warmest welcome and spent the weekend playingcatch-up, poring through all the memorabilia and photos which, as we recall, were housed in a great big bushel basket. It was as if no time had intervened in our friendship. In 1974 we were in Paris and were walking somewhere in the Tulleries when we literally bumped into Ellie, who was engrossed in a French language lesson book. We did a double take and found that the entire family was in Paris and that the boys were busking somewhere on the Left Bank. We walked over to watch them play and sing and Gene was the merciless heckler. In 1983 we visited with Gene & Ellie in Hiroshima for a few days. Gene had an exchange professorship and Ellie was teaching English as a second language. It was a most meaningful visit given the city and with their apartment within walking distance of Peace Park where the United States dropped the atomic bomb in 1945. Between our overseas visits we would see each other periodically either in the Bay Area or in Fresno. The Bluestein Family had their annual farewell concerts which we tried to attend but missed on occasion. The last time we saw Gene was in Glen Ellen to celebrate his 70th birthday. All of these wonderful memories crowd in as we try to express our feelings of loss and condolences to the Bluestein family. He suffered much in past number of years but through it all he was able to continue his contact with the world of writing and thought. Gene was a person who made an impact on those around him. His humor and compassion with be sorely missed by all who knew him.
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