The Remembrance Project
Lives of those among us.
People read obituaries avidly. Alongside the famous deaths in the newspapers, there are the small print columns about the equally loved but lesser-known. Ordinary people who have lived extraordinary lives. Elissa Ely reads between the lines, finding men and women around New England whose stories should not go untold – the lives of those among us.
Is there someone you know, who has died within the last year or so, you would like to suggest for The Remembrance Project? If you’d like to speak with Elissa Ely about a loved one who has passed, send a note or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Dohrn Zachai created textural tapestries, 10 to 15 feet across. Museums sought her work, art schools sought her teaching. But success became too commercial, too compromising. And so, she moved to New England and lived alone, painting landscapes. She died in Vermont last January at the age of 82.
When Peter Walsh’s daughters were young, he would visit their Sunday school class in his firefighter’s uniform, crawling around on the floor to let the kids practice getting his attention in the event of an emergency. He was the retired captain of the Weston Fire Department when he died last April at the age of 70.
“His idea was to help others,” remembers a friend of Michael Jovanovic. “And his specialty was to help others that no one else wanted to help.” Michael Jovanovic died last February at the age of 94.
When Bryan Bernfeld’s cancer was discovered, the actor challenged it the same way he challenged everything — as an intelligent contrarian. When auditions in New York were cut short by treatment in Boston, he responded by enrolling as a student at the American Repertory Theatre Institute. He died last August at the age of 26.
Charisma is the first word that comes to mind when describing the late rower, performer, and philanthropy specialist, Frank Soldo. He died last August of a cancer so rare that it affects only 20-30 people each year.
Sarah Dixon had been battling metastatic breast cancer for 14 years when she died in June, but it never stopped her from walking with the ones she loved.
Ron Wallace immersed himself in the genius of Frederick Law Olmsted. In 1984, he created a guided walk — a kind of performance art — through Boston’s Emerald Necklace park system. “Many people think, how could it be a work of art if you’re just taking a walk?” Ron explained in an archived interview. “What it is that makes it a work of art is that experience.” Ron died in August at the age of 60.
“My dad used to say she could have a conversation with a telephone pole,” remembers Constance Collins’ daughter, Madeline. Collins grew up without a mother, but she became “Nana Connie” to 21 grandchildren and 28 great-grandchildren during her 98 years.
Eugene Myerov of Charlestown couldn’t help but start sunny days by singing “Oh What a Beautiful Morning.” He painted, gardened, carried a solo dentistry practice, and he left an artistic mark on the most mundane details of life.
“He seemed to be continuously researching violence,” Anne Zasloff remembers of her father, Professor Joseph Zasloff, “but still believed in the good in everybody. It was incredible.”
“My husband John was the only true Renaissance man I’ve ever met,” Jill Silos-Rooney recalls of her late husband, John Rooney, who died in February of 2014. He was creative and accomplished, but hovering between illumination and a growing lightlessness.
George Lewis was a symbol of freedom to those who knew him — from his hippie days protesting war, to his homesteading days in Maine. The social conscience that enlarged throughout his life never left him.
“The nickname we had for her was The General ’cause she’d have to keep everything in order,” Lew Lee’s granddaughter, Bonnie, remembers. The Chinese-American mother of 10 was known for work ethic she instilled and tough love she administered while running The China Star restaurant in Quincy.
For Joseph Zalewski, or “Dziadek,” life began amidst the traumatic sounds of World War II in Warsaw, but it ended in Peabody in sheer wonder of his work, his daughters and outer space.
No one who loved Stephanie Eranio thought her death was intentional. She overdosed on heroin during a period last fall when deaths in Massachusetts spiked from heroin mixed lethally with fentanyl. She was 27 years old.
Jack Greico was hit by a drunk driver when he was 14, leaving him a quadriplegic. But Jack went on to live 41 more independent years, and he dedicated his life to helping others do the same.
Wayne Kennen was known to be a quiet, but unwavering leader in his family — a protective brother, a creative father, and a dedicated engineer and designer.
Anthony Mirakian—the first Westerner ever to have earned a black belt in Goju Ryu karate—often reminded his students at The Okinawan Karate Academy of Watertown that the lessons he taught were far less rigorous than the ones he had taken.
Doctors had warned Max Nelson he would be unlikely to live to 50, but he was 96 years old when he died last September. Once polio struck, his leg never worked again—yet his heart became all the stronger.
“We’re two little old people here at the flat edge of the earth,” John Fahy said of his home with wife of 41 years, Emily. They traveled, they cooked, and they wanted for nothing, because they had one another.
“I’m just a humble carpenter,” Charles Donnelly, Jr. used to say. Actually, he was a master craftsman, restoring hundreds of wooden doors and windows in Beacon Hill and Back Bay.
Some men have a public charisma that electrifies crowds. John Harvey, Jr., was loved for his lower-wattage but unfailing devotion to family. Every decision he made in life pointed at all times in their direction. They were his center of gravity.
Balanced on a scaffold, usually with a cigarillo dangling from his mouth, Mike Heffernan painstakingly restored slate roofs around the world — in Hong Kong, Cuba, and Russia, as well as in Colorado and his own rural Vermont.
As a father of young twins, Peik Larsen was fearless. He took them while his wife worked — and joyous, meandering adventures ensued. He and the four year olds would spend hours buying a cooking pan, researching a recipe, and making beef bourguignon.
The world gazes warily on psychiatrists, worried that they possess preternatural secrets about human nature. In offices painted neutral shades, these mythic psychics — these omniscient beings — listen hard, sit silently, and don’t move much. Dr. Shervert Frazier lived in constant colorful motion.
Chris Jones started asking his mother about infinity when he was three. She can’t recall the details of what she said, but its non-specificity didn’t satisfy him. It was a question he asked for years.
No one writes about the life of a poet and musician as well as they write about themselves. Marcia Deihl was born in North Carolina, daughter of a pastor. “My father preached while I drew dancing harem girls,” one poem begins.
“This occasion of my personal extinction,” Colonel John Barr wrote, “is but a small matter, important only in that it affords me one final opportunity to appeal to my surviving friends and acquaintances, to think often on the extinction of our species — and to act accordingly.”
Doug Ashford bought records and CDs like other people buy morning coffee. Friends used to play a game with him they called “Stump Doug,” and over decades, in every style — from gamelon to Celtic to Zydeco to Dan Zanes to Richard Thompson to John Denver — Doug missed a musical fragment only twice.
Daryl Carr died on an icy night in the midst of a historically awful winter. He was 30 years old. As a Peace Corps volunteer, he had chosen to work in a Muslim country — a young black man, bringing with him the open difference of his race and the private difference of his sexuality.
Louis Chako died in Milton, Massachusetts, at 92 years old. His brother Arthur Chako died in November, a year earlier, at 88. Except for death and deployment during World War II, they were inseparable their entire lives.
There are those whose gift for giving has no end. When Susan “Supernice” Pernice was just an infant and her mother held her, patting her back, the shy baby used to reach up and pat her mother’s back in return. After her death, her liver and both kidneys were given to others.
Florence Hagins was a quiet storm of a Boston housing activist. She had been the first enrollee in a mortgage program begun in response to a historic study concluding that banks awarded loans on the discriminatory basis of race.
Fernando Morales kept his life lists in a set of Moleskine notebooks: dream vacations, future professions, college assignments, hours of the day for pain medication, and days of the week for chemotherapy.
Constance Lalikos helped deliver thousands of babies over 40 years as an obstetrical nurse. To patients and their parents she was always Auntie Connie. “You have a son,” she would tell new parents, “and he looks just like me!” Newborn daughters did, too. It was as if she were both Adam and Eve, spawning the world — though she never married or had children of her own.
Practicing Buddhism brought patience and peacefulness to Dr. Jerry Bass’s restless, intelligent mind. It enriched him personally as traditional therapies had not, and became—as much as any philosophy of non-attachment can—his passion.
Harry Gottschalk had many and varied careers over the course of his life. He was a farmer, a chef, an adjunct professor (though he had not been to college himself). He taught furniture-making in the North End – highly segregated at the time – and used to walk his non-white students to the subway after class.
Six mornings a week, at 5 am, Bill Scantlebury walked downstairs from the third floor of the family’s East Boston house, and started to mix doughnut batter for the family’s bakery on the first floor. It was a neighborhood fixture, since 1931.
Growing up in small-town Georgia, everyone knew someone who had fought in the Civil War. Rose Glandorf told stories about taking elocution lessons from Confederate widows in need of income. And darker stories, too.
Thelma Patricia Whalan was in young adulthood when — as she described it — she was “kidnapped” to a famous psychiatric hospital. It was her first psychotic break. That was where, as a patient, she met her future husband, and also developed her life-long hatred of psychiatrists.