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My Electronic Congregation - May 19, 2010

With no good reason, other than my own compulsion to make patterns out of my experience, I present this photographic report on trombonists who have passed my way, mostly through the faithful offices of Grace Church, Valley Stream, but including others of note whom most of you will recognize. 

I begin with the inspiration for this tidbit of nostalgia, a Saturday evening concert at the Lincoln Theatre, Hartford University, featuring the Farmington Valley Symphony orchestra, in which one of the bow-tied (and mustachioed) trombonists is Bill Kirkwood Jr., the only child of the late William and Gladys (nee Combs) Kirkwood.  Bill Sr. and wife Gladys grew up in Grace Church.  Gladys' aunt will be known to several of you: Anna Combs, the doughty nonagenarian who lived on Cornwell Avenue at the time of her death, the consequence of an accident trying to cross Merrick Road in front of King Kullen. 

The week following the Farmington VSO concert we found ourselves once again in the Lincoln Theatre, this time for a concert by Capitol Winds, a symphonic band whose repertoire includes not only Souza but pieces modern and not-so-modern heard nowhere else, brass sounds harmonious and invigorating that, to my untrained ear, deserve a much wider hearing.  One of the trombonists, pictured here in a cropping from an instrumental quartet at his sister's wedding, is Jeff McGregor, Joyce and Stu's son, Mary Rose's husband, a lawyer in Southbury CT and a resident in Huntington CT.  Lo these many years ago, Jeff was in my confirmation class and a regular at the Junior Highs I supervised (more or less), one of six cousins in that moment in Grace Church's ministry.

Bill and Jeff started me counting trombonists at Grace Church.  I couldn't forget the two Charlies, W. and D., Mayers, Dad the instrumental music teacher at Wheeler Avenue School; his namesake, an ordained minister, who once auditioned for a place as a fulltime trombonist in a metropolitan orchestra.  The Mayers are mostly (Anna lives with her husband and two children near Grant Park) gone from Valley Stream; but their part in the Grace Church ministry years ago is remembered and greatly appreciated.

And, completing the Grace Church roster is the principal bass trombonist of the Boston Symphony, whom I have met just once, at the time of his mother's funeral in New Jersey, fifteen or twenty years ago.  Doug Yeo is the son of Alan (The Rev.) and Jeanine Yeo.  I last saw him, from a great distance, at Tanglewood; but following the concert I tried, but failed, to find him.  Here's a photo from his website.

Then to name-drop a little, I post this photo of a bandleader whose son was a classmate of mine at college.  One fall afternoon when Tommy Sr. was in the college town to watch Tommy Jr. play football, my parents and I crossed paths with the two Dorseys.  We rolled down the car window to greet them.  The most famous American trombonist walked to our car, stuck his head in the driver's window, and greeted us like we were old friends.  Tommy Jr. worked for a couple of years following graduation as his father's business agent. 

But no trombonist rates higher in our estimation than this one, Steve Curtis, husband to our daughter Kathryn and father to two of our grandchildren, Alanna and Sohani.  He is an instrumental music teacher in Southborough MA.  He too has played the slide trombone at Grace Church on at least one occasion during my tenure there as pastor.

Who needs seventy-six trombones when surrounded by seven as talented as these?!





When at the aforementioned concert by the Capitol Winds, the featured trombonist's dad, Stu McGregor, reported that he and Joyce have gone electronic with their art.  See for yourself at McGregArt.  Here are a few samples of what you will find:


Gladys Passaro sends this photo of her first grandchild, Phil and Denise's son, Ryan Anthony, born May 12th at 11:22 PM at Danbury (CT) Hospital.

Phil and Denise, you will probably not remember, were wed in New Fairfield CT in August 2005.  The reception was held at an inn along the shore of Lake Candlewood, that body of water which occasioned another of my reminiscences a week or so ago.  The 2005 newlyweds made their departure from the reception in grand style, waving to friends from their speedboat as the glided across the lake.


Marilyn and Michael Stephenson send this photo from their son Robert's graduation at the University of Tampa (FL).  The Brooklyn connection continues!


Further evidence of which (the Brooklyn connection) are these photos (taken by Michael Dalland) of the baptism of Vincenzo Charles McDermott, infant son of Charles James and Lisa (nee Vastano) McDermott.  Vincenzo is the grandson of Tony and Geraldine (nee Dalland) Vastano.  The baptism and the reception were held at Russo's Restaurant in Bound Brook NJ.  Geraldine's pastor, from forty years ago, performed the baptism; husband Tony was the baptismal font, holding the vessel which held the water; and the godparents were Susan Miller and Uncle Anthony Vastano (Jr.).


Today's mail brought a letter from Ruth Joseph reporting the wedding of her grandson, Chris Cara, to Lindsey Emory in South Carolina on April 24th.  Ruth sent along this photo:

Lindsey, a graduate of Northwestern, was recently hired as a lawyer by a New York City law firm.  Chris, a graduate of Bucknell works for an ad agency selling air time.  The newlyweds reside in Manhattan.


Today's Email included notification from Grace Church of the death of Helen Dowdeswell, a nonagenarian born and bred in Valley Stream, whose family owned a farm once at the juncture of Emerson Place and Hendrickson Avenue in North Valley Stream.  Helen, shown here in a cameo cropped from a 2005 photo, was a graduate of the VS school system; she taught French at North High at the time of her retirement thirty plus years ago.  There are few places on earth that she had not visited.  Her travel agent, an acquaintance of mine, with an office on Rockaway Avenue, celebrated Helen's itinerant ways, saying that she does it better than anyone else he knows.  Typically Helen would travel for weeks carrying just one small suitcase.  Summers were devoted to travel, often with an extended stay in France (where else?!).  She was an avid golfer who couldn't (or wouldn't) comprehend my antipathy to the game.  She just as avidly attended the Sunday morning Bible Class, thought deeply, and expressed herself clearly, a true seeker of faithful understanding.  Even in her declining years she regularly bested her cousins in Scrabble.  Helen died today, May 19th.  The funeral service will be held at Grace Church this coming Sunday, May 23rd at 3 PM.




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