Category Archives: Albuquerque

Remembrance of Kris Past

Kris bought this shirt and never wore it, but it encapsulates her quirky sense of humor.

C. Kristine Osnes. I have been sworn to secrecy regarding the C. for more than 30 years. It was a measure of our friendship that Kris ever entrusted me with that small secret detail of her identity.

Kris and her then-partner Adrienne lived in the Summit apartments in Albuquerque in the early 1980s until they bought a house on Las Lomas just west of UNM’s main campus. Kris first got an MA in English. Adrienne reports that Kris often said “I want to go to law school.” Adrienne said, “What does it take to go to law school? Let’s find out.” Kris applied, got in, and started in the fall of 1983. She later told Adrienne, “This is when I really learned to write.”

Kris and I met in 1983 as first year students at UNM’s School of Law. She was a wisp of a girl–very short white-blond hair, barely 100 pounds, shy, quiet, observant. Eventually Kris and I talked. We shared a love of books, words, writing, legal analysis and chocolate. During our third and final year of law school, we were assigned as partners in tax law clinic by our professor Scott Taylor. He and his partner Chris were going on sabbatical, and I think Scott decided that Kris and I needed each other.

Kris and I did tax clinic together for a semester. We represented clients before the IRS, spending HOURS preparing. Scott sent us out there alone to audits and other IRS matters on behalf of our clients. Kris and I were a great team who got excellent results for our clients, but had we been calculating billable hours, no one could have afforded us. We spent so much time together nitpicking every detail, doing extra research, plotting and planning what to say once we got to IRS offices.

Kris and I didn’t have much in common. She was a city girl who loved the urban life, noise, traffic, etc. I was an outdoor girl who loved hiking, camping, and nature. Kris smoked cigarettes to which I was deathly allergic. I loved to bake, cook, experiment with all types of cuisines. Kris, a Minnesotan, once debated that cool whip counted as salad. Kris loved fine, name brand clothes and lots of them (I did benefit from her hand-me-downs for many years, some of which I still wear); I was a thrift store junkie. But we shared important things such as a love of learning, dedication to the law, an ethical approach to the world, a fascination with words and how they fit together, and deep loyalty as friends.

During our third year of law school, we both decided to apply to New Mexico Supreme Court Justice Mary Walters for judicial clerkships after graduation. She had two clerks, and we wondered if we could both be hired. I interviewed with Justice Walters (a former probate judge!) in Santa Fe. At some point she threw up her hands in frustration saying, “I hate this! ALL of you are smart. ALL of you have excellent writing skills. ALL of you are hard workers with impeccable references. How am I supposed to decide?” She decided to go by class rank. Kris graduated #19 in our class, I was #20. Alas, Kris was hired, I was not. But at the end of my interview, Justice Walters threw me a bone. “Have you talked to Judge Bivins on the Court of Appeals,” she asked. “No,” I replied, “I only applied to you.” “Go talk to Bill Bivins. Tell him I sent you.” “Are you saying just show up in his office? With no resume or appointment?” “Yes, go.” she said, shooing me out of her office.

So I dropped by Bill Bivins’ office, telling his secretary Georgia Romero that Justice Walters had sent me, and assuming I would set up an appointment to interview another day. Georgia said, “wait a moment,” disappeared, came back and said, “The judge will see you now.” Oh, dear, for an anal-retentive Virgo, going to an interview unprepared was like being condemned to hell. But I went, we talked, and he hired me. We both had Tennesse and Vanderbilt connections. I think that sealed the deal. At least this meant that Kris and I would both be clerking in the same building in Santa Fe.

We rode the SECA (State Employees Commuter Association) van between Albuquerque and Santa Fe the first year. Sometimes our driver was drunk, so I’d have to drive the van back to Albuquerque. Kris and I rode together, chatting both ways or trying to nap. Our twelve-hour days were brutal, including commutes and working. But we learned a lot and refined our legal writing and research skills. I sometimes created whimsical sketches during the commute. This drawing shows Judge Alarid, who was also on the Court of Appeals, and Kris commuting. I believe Kris is the only friend I’ve ever drawn (10/27/86).

I can’t remember if we walked every day on our half hour lunch break, but I do remember that on Fridays, we would walk around Santa Fe and treat ourselves to the cheapest food we could find/afford–hot dogs, burritos, pastries. It was our reward for surviving another week. I took this photo of Kris in December 1986 in front of the Supreme Court building. This was long before cell phones and social media, and it is one of only a handful of photos that I have of Kris.

Kris, Santa Fe, December 1986

After law school, Kris, Adrienne, my sweetheart Mark and I became a foursome. We played scrabble, shared meals, talked, and hung out. Kris had an Amazon parrot named Lexis who adored Mark and hated me. Lexis was named for an online legal research tool, an invention slightly ahead of its time.


Mark and I eloped in our backyard at noon in late May 1991; Judge Bill Bivins officiated. Eight other people were invited, and they didn’t know it was a wedding until they arrived. Kris was one of the guests:



Kris moved to Minnesota for a few years in the mid 1990s after she and Adrienne parted ways in 1995. I remember that Mark, Kris and I sat under our back arbor, and Mark and Kris shared a cigarette in mourning for her departure. I even had a puff although it nauseated me.

Darcy and Kris got together in 1996 and were together until Kris’s death. Kris moved back to New Mexico to be with Darcy. About a year after they became a couple, Kris was diagnosed with COPD. She quit her filterless Lucky Strikes, but it was too late. As her lungs and oxygen levels deteriorated, she became dependent on 24/7 supplemental oxygen. She was put on a list for a lung transplant.

Kris and Darcy were one of two couples with whom we had monthly dinner dates. Kris was working at a large law firm, and she was not comfortable being openly gay. One day she asked Mark to be her “date” to a UNM basketball game outing planned by her law firm. I argued with her “just be who you are.” “You don’t understand,” she said. “I can’t risk my livelihood.” Mark went with Kris, even though they were both sports-impaired, and they had a good time. Eventually Kris became Mark’s best friend in Albuquerque; he’ll write his own entry about that. Years later it turned out the law firm knew Kris was a lesbian and didn’t care. Her law firm valued her for her brilliant mind, exquisite writing skills, work ethic, knowledge of appellate and insurance law, and analytical prowess. Plus Kris was an avid golfer, so she fit right in!

Eventually Darcy and Kris decided to build a house just west of Old Town near the Biopark. It was a really cool, two-story house with a giant metal heron affixed to the outside. We had fun parties and dinners at the new house, played with the cats, and admired Darcy ‘s beautiful gardens, but after a while, Kris’s lungs were not up to the task of climbing the stairs to her lair. We had a fun 50th birthday party in that house, and my favorite photo of Kris and me was taken then:

50 and Counting!

Darcy sold that house and bought her mom’s old house across from Alvarado Park, just a few blocks from us.

In 2007, Mark and I celebrated 25 years of being together. Instead of one big party, we spent the entire year having small dinner parties, totaling 25 guests, our favorite and closest friends. Kris and Darcy were two of those guests:

Celebrating 25 Years & Darcy’s Birthday


While awaiting a new lung, Kris’s world was forever altered when her brother John, a renowned jazz pianist, was murdered on November 23, 2008 in California:

In 2010 John’s killer was sentenced to 15 years to life for the murder of John Osnes. The LA Times reported, “A jury convicted J— last month in the death of Osnes, a jazz pianist known as a stickler for pedestrian rights, who was beaten by J— and run over by his SUV after a confrontation in a Hollywood crosswalk early in the morning of Sunday, Nov. 23, 2008.” Her sister Mary told me, “John was going to be the person who was to help Kris through her transplant recovery. It was hard on Kris, and all of us for that matter, not having John’s support and help [after he was murdered].”

When Governor Newsom commuted the killer’s sentence in 2020, Kris was horrified. This single act profoundly tainted her notions of justice and fair play. One article stated that the family could not be contacted prior to the commutation. The reality is that no one from the governor’s office ever tried to contact the family, and no one informed them that John’s killer had been released:

Mary said, “When Governor Newsom commuted J—’s sentence, Kris put on her lawyer hat and went toe to toe with Governor Newsom’s office and the California Innocence Project ( who supported that J— was wrongfully convicted. This resulted in the CA Innocence Project removing their insinuations that J— was somehow innocent from their website.”

Now Kris’s family included only her beloved sister Mary,

Sister Mary Beth and Kit, photo by CKO

Darcy, and an assortment of cats and rescued greyhounds and whippets.

Kris’s Menagerie of Pets, photo by CKO

Of course, Kris also had a cadre of devoted friends. In 2007 she and Mark went to Bosque del Apache Wildlife Refuge in Kris’s Miata convertible.

Pre-Transplant Road Trip to Bosque del Apache, photo by MJH

In December 2009 Kris finally got the call that Fairview had a match for a new lung. Darcy reports, “We headed to Minnesota that night in a Learjet provided by Air Angels and, once there, were driven to the hospital in a stretch limo with Christmas lights in the ceiling and white leather seats.” 

I’ll spare readers the details of the transplant, the long scar, ‘roid rage, and other hurdles that come with transplants and recovery. Mary said, “Kris needed to have someone with her 24 hours a day for several months. This was impossible for Darcy, since she had animals and other matters to care for at home. They hired a great young man Tim who would be there from Sunday to Friday. I was with her on the weekends. When Kris finally got the green light to go home to Albuquerque, she and Tim drove straight through without stopping.” The transplant was a success; Kris’s oxygen levels were good enough that she no longer needed supplemental oxygen.

Kris had adventures both solo and with Darcy, driving Route 66 and other roads and sightseeing,

Ocean Raven, photo by CKO

but mostly cocooning at Walking Raven Central, a giant room in Darcy’s house, filled with books, ravens, computer paraphernalia, online gaming equipment, rubber duckies, an assortment of Teletubbies, puppets, and trinkets.

Carson and Teletubby, photo by CKO

Darcy, Kris, Mark and I continued our monthly dinner dates.


My mom died in 2013 and Mark and I adopted Autumn, a papillon mix from Lap Dog Rescue, later that year. Autumn did not let anyone pick her up except us and her foster mom. Autumn would shriek if anyone tried. But in March of 2014, when Autumn was less than a year old, this happened:

Kris and Autumn, 2014, photo by mjh

I have no explanation other than Kris had good dog karma.

Kris and I used to have “girl dates,” mostly lunches where we’d talk about law, classmates, friends, family and books.

Kris was the best librarian I ever had. We both loved reading and she finally convinced me to borrow her Kindle for a long camping trip. I thought that I was one of those folks who loved holding an actual book to read, but it turned out that putting 8 books on a 10 oz. contraption and reading them in the middle of nowhere, Colorado, was awesome. Kris showed me that I love books, no matter what form they’re in. Every book she recommended, I loved. Our taste was eclectic: Louise Erdrich’s The Last Report on the Miracles at Little No Horse, Jasper Fforde’s 4-book Kazam series featuring teenage heroine Jennifer Strange, Scarlett Thomas’s Popco, Willa Cather, Proust, Tolstoy, T.S. Eliot.

Girls’ Lunch Date 2012

In addition to our shared love of reading, Kris pushed me to write. She said it was in my blood and I could be a southern writer like Flannery O’Connor or William Faulkner. I think Kris vastly overestimated my ability, but I did write one blog entry due to Kris’s nagging.
My 2014 Retrospective written at Kris’ Request


Kris made it almost thirteen years with her new lung. Mary reports, “A note on the time Kris lived with her new lung: she truly was happy. She loved her time alone reading, online shopping, Facebook, playing video games, and getting an occasional social fix. She learned to live in the moment and not succumb to any “shoulds.” She listened to what she wanted.” Mary also said, “Kris donned her lawyer cap many times with her health insurance company, especially about prescriptions. She showed me that having a chronic condition practically requires full-time attention.”

Kris was also very proud of her new lung’s longevity (surviving ten years was considered great, so thirteen was exceptional). We would have “another year and I’m still here” parties and celebrations. Kris diligently ingested sixty or so meds daily,

Kris Meds, photo by CKO

endured injections to stave off organ rejection, and dodged several health bullets during those years.

Pre-Covid Kris, Darcy, Mark and I ate out together almost every month. July 2022 was the last time the four of us ate out together. We were supposed to have a joint birthday dinner (I’m a few days older than Kris) in mid-September. But Darcy called that morn and reported she had tested positive for Covid. She and Kris sequestered from one another and Kris was negative for five days. On day seven, Kris sent an email that she had tested positive for Covid. It seemed to be a mild case, she was in the hospital briefly, but returned home October 7. Then Kris experienced terrible pain and was readmitted to the hospital with pancreatitis and blood clots. Darcy sent periodic reports, and Kris was better on October 15. Suddenly Kris sharply declined, was in great pain, and finally was sent to hospice, where she died the next morning, October 19. Mary, who was travelling abroad, got to say “goodbye” via phone shortly before Kris died. Darcy was the only person allowed to be with Kris as she took her last breath.

Kris’s friends, colleagues, and fans are heartbroken. Kris was loyal, cantankerous to those she loved most, smart, smartassed, fierce, funny, quirky, biting, opinionated, passionate, and introverted (one of her many T-shirts proclaimed, “Introverts Unite…Individually”). She knew how to push buttons and escalate conflicts, not necessarily an admirable trait, but she mostly spared me because she thought I wasn’t tough enough to handle her. She was a big fan of Hillary Clinton and so wanted to live to see a female president elected. She believed in social justice, equal rights, and progressive principles. She was passionate about the power of educating women of all ages worldwide and animal welfare issues.  Kris was intensely interested in debate, religious beliefs, and reading. She loved to question and challenge her friends. She was wry and sarcastic, good-hearted and devoted to Darcy, myriad animals, and her friends and sister. She was stoic, enduring many physical challenges, some painful, without much complaint.

Kris’s obituary appears at the Direct Services website:  Kris was cremated there and her ashes have gone to Minnesota with sister Mary for a Viking funeral on Lake Superior. Shhhh… Flaming arrows optional.

KrisE, wherever you are, I hope I did an okay job writing you.

Postscript: January 1, 2023. I finished reading a book called Ordinary Grace by William Kent Krueger. The last lines are profound and beautiful: “The dead are never far from us. They’re in our hearts and on our minds and in the end all that separates us from them is a single breath, one final puff of air.” This morning I read that to Darcy, the first person with whom I spoke this year after Mark and Autumn.

Another Folk Friend Gone Too Soon

I was heartbroken to read that Robert Fleming, “mandolin-playing physicist,” had died recently at home in Los Ranchos, NM. His was the best obituary I’ve ever read:

“Mandolin-playing physicist, Robert McLemore Fleming, 74, died October 31, 2020, at his home in Albuquerque, New Mexico after a brief, but courageous battle with cancer. Surrounded by his beloved wife of 52 years, Diane Fleming, his daughter, Dr. Chandler Todd (of Albuquerque), his son, Swope Fleming (of Boston) and son-in-law, Dr. Richard Todd.

Born June 1, 1946, in Nashville, Tennessee, to Swope and Margaret (“Peggy”) Fleming, Robert spent his formative years on a 300-acre horse farm, Antrim, in Columbia, Tennessee. Everyone who knew Robert, knew about that time he rode a pig, taught his mother’s favorite horse to swim, and landed a plane in a field of cow patties. Everyone who loved him, knew that his antics belied his brilliant mind. While his education began on the farm, he discovered his love of physics at Battle Ground Academy (BGA) as a high school student. He earned his undergraduate degree from Vanderbilt University, and a PhD in physics from the University of Virginia. Robert remained a student of physics his entire life and was a prolific and accomplished researcher. At the time of this writing, he is credited with 262 publications and over 17,000 citations.

In college, he met and fell in love with Diane Davis, of Memphis, Tennessee. His time was divided between parties at the Pike House, classes, and testing limits. Robert attended the Naval Officer Candidate School, graduating in June 1969 and was assigned to Naval Facilities on Grand Turk and Bermuda. His tours of duty included oceanographic research and participation in SOSUS, a passive sonar system to track the movement of Soviet submarines in the Atlantic Ocean.

After graduate school, in 1977, Robert and Diane relocated their growing family to Chatham, New Jersey. He devoted the next 24 years of his life to basic science research at Bell Laboratories as a Distinguished Member of the Technical Staff. His contributions there were wide ranging, from sliding-charged density waves to superconductors. Pivoting to a teaching position in the turbulence following the dot-com bust, Robert took on the greatest challenge of his life, teaching high school physics. The kids loved his creative approach. His problem sets asked them to calculate the electrostatic force needed to attach his first grandbaby to the ceiling, and he took them outside for labs, one time pushing his BMW convertible around the parking lot to measure forces.

In 2003, Robert became a Principal Member of the Technical Staff at Sandia National Laboratories in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Here he made important advances in the understanding of the nature of defects in semiconductors. He thrived working with his talented Sandia colleagues and friends until his retirement in 2016.

Robert was a man of many interests and talents. He was an amateur jockey, self-taught musician, and teller of tall tales. He loved Old Time string music, and played in many bands and pick up groups. One of his favorites was “The Over Educated String Band” which made annual pilgrimages to the Motleigh Musicalia. His best band was his family band “The Second String Band” with Chandler, Richard, Geneva and Caleb Todd. Named for their many second place ribbons, one year they actually won the belt buckle at the Santa Fe Old Time and Bluegrass Festival. Robert’s signature farewell at any jam session was, “one more last tune!”

Robert was known for his community service. He served in leadership roles in his congregations at Christ Church in Summit, New Jersey; Church of the Good Shepherd in Albuquerque, New Mexico; and First Presbyterian Church in Albuquerque, New Mexico. He welcomed refugees, volunteered at Family Promise, counted collection money, taught Sunday School (usually with his guitar “Big Red” and songs such as “Magic Penny”) and served as congregation moderator.

Upon a celebration of their 70th birthday, with friends and family gathered around the pool, grandchildren dancing with sparklers, and green chile on his plate, Robert reflected that sometimes the worst things that happen in life, turn out to be the greatest blessings. His smile, infectious and warm, would light up the room, and you couldn’t help but feel better for the hours spent with him. He never worried and he wouldn’t let you worry either.

Robert loved richly, played music beautifully, and made every room he was in a brighter, better place. He was pre-deceased by his brother Dr. Stuart Fleming, and his parents. He is survived and missed by his entire family, including his wife Diane, his siblings (James Fleming, Margaret Hewgley, and Tami Crawford), his children (Chandler and Swope), his children-in-law (Richard and Dana), and his four grandchildren (Geneva, Caleb, Benjamin and Ashley), and wonderful and beloved in-laws, nieces, nephews, aunts, uncles, and cousins across the country.

Despite careful research, the authors of this piece could find no evidence to suggest that Robert ever left a party early; if he ever left at all. Which is why his family will honor him in person, back home on the farm at Antrim, when the time is right. Robert had many different phases in his life from childhood country boy to international scientist. In all areas of his life, curiosity and optimism were his calling cards. He always had a smile on his face and a song in his heart. He loved life, and especially his family. He is dearly missed and left a legacy of love and joy in his wake.

There will be a virtual service live streamed on Saturday December 12th, 2020 at 2pm mountain time, by Christ Church, Summit NJ on

In lieu of flowers, the family asks that donations be made to the Albuquerque Public Library Foundation in support of the Children’s Room in the new International District library.

The Albuquerque Public
Library Foundation
P O Box 25792
Albuquerque, NM 87125

Published in Albuquerque Journal on Dec. 9, 2020.”

Then I watched Robert’s youtube memorial service:

The memorial is also spectacular and makes me happy to have known both Robert and Diane, however briefly. It appears that Robert and Diane have done a terrific job of launching children who exhibit thoughtfulness, kindness, intelligence, love and joy.

Safe travels, Robert, may the music be loud and plentiful, the laughs uproarious, and the views spectacular.

Hurray for Las Cruces Dancers!!!

I just received a fantastic article in the mail (thanks mi amiga, Laura) that recently appeared in a Las Cruces publication. Lonnie Ludeman and Julie Schmitt, as well as all the musicians, dancers, and other callers, deserve humongous kudos for their fine organizing work. Article, complete with photos, can be read at:

Las Cruces Contra Dancing Soars

Now if we can just figure out how to do this in Albuquerque and Santa Fe…

Merri’s 20th Anniversary as a Dance Caller

December 7, 2011 marks my 20th anniversary as a dance caller. I’ll be calling two dances to celebrate, one on Saturday, December 3, at the Albuquerque Square Dance Center, 7:30 – 10:30 pm with Hey! playing (I just got home from a two-hour band practice with them, and they have planned some fun surprises for the dancers). I’ll also be calling the Second Sunday English/contra dance at the Heights Community Center on Sunday, December 11, 7 – 9:30 pm in Albuquerque with Second Nature (Karina Wilson and Della O’Keefe playing, and since Gemma DeRagon played at the very first dance I called on December 7, 1991, she’ll be joining Karina and Della for this dance). Between these two dances I hope to call my top 20 dances of all time. We’ll have a big chocolate cake on December 3 and would appreciate potluck snack donations for the Second Sunday dance on December 11. If you’ve ever had fun dancing to or with me, please come help me celebrate this big anniversary. Please email or call your dancing friends and encourage them to attend. It’d be fun to have a big crowd at both dances.

I can only say this: those twenty years went quickly! I wrote a long essay in 2000 about calling. Here is a small part of it:

After I started contra dancing in 1981, I sat on the periphery of music, sometimes at a dance, sometimes a concert, sometimes around a fire in the middle of a field, or in a cabin amid piles of snow. I listened to others proliferate wonderful, rowdy, driving music and was unable to participate. I wished fervently to speak the language of music, but I never found the notes, never had any musical ability, never had a role.

Learning to call dances gave me a role. For years I admired musicians and callers and the bridges they created for the dancers. And so I learned to be a bridge. I bridge the music and the dance. I connect the players and dancers. And when it all comes together in a synergistic way, indeed, magic happens.

Getting on stage that first time in April 1991 was the greatest leap of faith I ever made. It took me more than a year to get there, fifteen months after I first attended a calling workshop with Bill "Doc" Litchman one weekend in January 1990. I could not bring myself to get on stage in front of people and interact with dancers and musicians, all alone. I practiced and struggled, and finally I stood on stage, out of excuses.

Even my non-dancing hubby Mark showed up for my debut. I gripped the microphone, I cued the band, and I called Don Armstrong’s "Broken Sixpence." Flawlessly. The dancers and musicians erupted into shouting so loud, so sustained, and so spirited that I tried calling one dance again, a few months later. On December 7, 1991, at the Lloyd Shaw Dance Center with Megaband backing me up, I called my first whole evening of dances. I only knew ten dances, and I called them all.

That first year or two of calling my knuckles stretched white and my hands ached from holding the microphone so tightly. I counted the beats of the music in my head to time my calls correctly, "1, 2, 3, 4, LA-dies CHAIN a-CROSS now…." Several years into it, I realized I knew where I was in the music, which was the second A part or the first B part, or when a tune was irregular. I became not only a dance teacher and leader, but also a band director, choosing dances to complement tunes, setting tempos, cuing the band to switch tunes, speed up, slow down, and finally stop. All of this looks easy when you gain experience. But, believe me, it’s not as easy as it looks.

Once a musician told me, "You are one of the few who thinks the musicians are important. You appreciate us."

"Important?!" I exclaimed, "It is because of you that dance is possible."

And so I became a bridge to what is possible, not a big, commercial, concrete and steel giant spanning a metropolis, but a small, wooden bridge over a babbling, musical creek. Maybe Pan plays his lute on the shore or a Civil War fiddler and banjo player tune up, leaning against an old gnarled tree. And maybe the women are there in gauzy gowns, with flowers in their hair, and the men are bowing to their favorite partner. But there I am, too, figuring out how it all fits together.

Why? Because. Because I finally have a role.

(c) 2011, Merri Rudd, All Rights Reserved

Farewell, Richard Wilson, August 4, 2011

Richard Wilson1

(photo by Stephen C. Mills)

Richard Wilson, longtime dancer, dance caller and folk community icon, passed away peacefully today, August 4, 2011, at home surrounded by his family, wife Karolyn and daughters Emily, Karina, Lily, Laurel and Charline. Although he fought his melanoma cancer with all of his being, biology triumphed and death prevailed, as it will for each of us. Each year the anniversary of our own death passes us by with nary a blip or acknowledgement, mostly because we don’t know that day yet. Cherish life, dance often, support traditional music and dance, honor Richard’s memory by loving well and living with joy.

I first met Richard and Karolyn Wilson around the fall of 1984 at the Heights Community Center in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Emily was already born (and probably snugged to Richard’s chest while he danced). Karolyn was pregnant with Karina and dancing away. Both Richard and Karolyn glowed while dancing together.

Soon after, Richard stepped up to fill a caller void when Pam McKeever left for New York. We were a small group. I think Mimi Stewart and Richard were the main callers back then. Then Richard took a job in California for awhile, and the family moved with him. New Mexico called him and his family back several years later. They’ve lived here ever since.

One vivid memory I have of Richard is from 1991. I was a new caller, terrified of being on stage. So I practiced and practiced and practiced to overcome my fear. I called one dance (out of an evening of dances) in Albuquerque and one dance (out of an evening of dances) in Santa Fe. The Albuquerque caller coordinator then decided I was ready to call my first whole dance—on December 7, 1991 (the 50th anniversary of Pearl Harbor Day). I saw Richard at a dance before my gig and reported that I was about to take the plunge. After hearing the date of my first whole dance, he said, with a gleam in his eye, “Well, then, it’s OK if you bomb!” We laughed and laughed, although 19 years later, he claimed to have no memory of this exchange.

Richard believed steadfastly in giving everyone access to the folk community, be it dancers, callers or musicians. No matter what the skill level of callers and dancers, he encouraged them to learn and have fun. Richard was the first caller I ever saw fly off the stage and into the dance line, calling and dancing simultaneously. Eventually, I too learned this instant access to rhythm and community.

He and I have different calling styles, but we enjoyed egging each other on. He provided an entertaining evening for all in attendance. Once, in the early 1990’s, a new and unskilled caller stood on stage for 45 minutes trying to teach a difficult dance that he did not understand. After the music started, the dance broke down and people were gathering their bags and leaving the dance hall in frustration. Richard leaped onto the stage from the dance floor, took the microphone, yelled, “Line up for a contra, no walk-through!!” and proceeded to gather everyone back into dance mode. He saved the evening. This was the only time I ever saw him assert control over a floundering individual for the good of the group. Otherwise, he reminded everyone to be kind and patient, go with the flow, and not dwell on our mistakes.

An article called “Gotta Dance!” was published in GQ magazine in December 1998. Elizabeth Gilbert wrote about rediscovering lindy hop expert Frankie Manning and going to a dance workshop taught by Frankie, who was in his 80’s by then. Gilbert wrote, “For Frankie, style, dignity, dance and romance are connected….One of Frankie’s best students said, ‘Here I am, this head-of-the-household single black mother, carrying the world on my shoulders. But when I dance with a man, I have to relax and surrender. I have to trust that, for just two minutes, this man is going to take care of me….’”

The article continued, talking about how Frankie once interrupted a class with this statement: “’Fellas, the lady you are dancing with is a queen.’ The students laughed. Frankie said it again, ‘She is a queen.’ He was serious. ‘She is a queen.’ He was going to keep saying that until we all heard him, until we all understood exactly how serious he was. The room got very quiet.”

“‘And what do you do to a queen?’ he asked. ‘You bow to her. When you’re dancing with a woman, you should be bowing to her, all the time. That’s the feeling you should have. She is letting you dance with her. You should be grateful, fellas.’”

Richard Wilson2

(photo by Stephen C. Mills)

That is exactly how Richard danced and taught dance. He treated each partner as a queen. He took care of her, made her shine, guided her gently and grinned (even if the “she” was a guy dancing the woman’s part!). Then he moved on to the next partner with the same focus and flair. When teaching dance he wanted us to take care of each other. He wanted us to look beautiful. He wanted us to flow gracefully and to create synergy from music and dance. That was Richard’s goal: for us all to embrace the elegance that the marriage of music and dance evokes, to bask in the beauty of the moment.

He wanted us to have fun. He was the “pied piper” of dance leadership, often instigating long swirling, weaving, crisscrossing lines of dancers just to get people on their feet. He was a master of the grand march, directing dancer traffic into two lines of individuals, who reunited as couples, then two couples merged into a line of four, then four couples merged into a line of eight, and so on. Everyone could participate successfully and light-heartedly, as Richard subtly led them all to move effortlessly and delightedly to the music.

I’ve learned a lot from Richard, watching him teach dance, watching him share his love of dance, watching him build community whether it be a one-night-stand wedding gig or a regular dance, watching the twinkle in his eyes as he set things into motion. “Get ‘em up, get ‘em movin’” no matter age, experience, gender. Include everyone.

My most poignant Richard story occurred at New Mexico’s annual Folkmadness Music and Dance weekend in Socorro, New Mexico in 2005. Richard was supposed to teach an early Sunday morning English country dance workshop there. But he was in the middle of treatment for his cancer and was unable to do so. At the last minute, I was asked to teach the workshop instead.

To understand this story one must understand that, for almost 25 years, I disparaged English country dance. I heard birds tweeting in every tune, all of which I thought were silly. I lacked the grace and carriage to dance English well. I lacked the wisdom to understand the dance. I didn’t know it at the time, but I disgraced dance leadership.

Meanwhile, Richard loved English country dance exactly as much as I disliked it. He was the grand master of English country dance in his baby blue silk jacket with his elegance and poise, setting and turning and arming and heying with a proper English attitude. He had danced and called English country dance for years and years. He was the obvious choice to lead this workshop, not me.

Richard wasn’t a heavy-handed or judgmental leader. He was gentle. He let you make mistakes, he didn’t lecture. Maybe he believed you’d figure it out eventually on your own. I did.

In April 2004 I abruptly corrected the error of my viewpoint. I was in Nashville, TN staying with Susan Kevra and Russ Barenberg. Susan took me (apologetically, knowing my lack of enthusiasm) to a small English dance in a hot gymnasium with recorded music. She taught Jaque Latin, and I danced it with about 20 others. At the end I said to her, “That was fun!” She looked at me in disbelief, and I clapped my hand over my mouth in shock. I was suddenly inexplicably smitten by the joy, verve, grace, and fun of English country dance. I started my English dance collection that weekend, poring over Susan’s dance collection with her humming tunes to me.

I share these details so that readers appreciate the supreme irony of me substituting for Richard Wilson in leading an English country dance workshop only a year after my conversion.

So it was May 2005 at Folkmadness, and I was emergency-subbing for Richard. I was working with a band called The Cantrells (Emily and Al, more serendipity, from Nashville, TN) who used to play English tunes 20 years ago. We weren’t at all sure about our workshop, so we had a band practice, complete with dancers, under the spreading sycamore tree the day before. The Cantrells brushed up on their English tunes rather quickly; they were great musicians. I figured the workshop was early Sunday morning; usually only 20 or 30 people showed up.

More than 100 people attended my workshop, including Nils Fredland, one of our guest callers for the weekend.

And it was the first time I’d ever taught English country dance. I started with Well Hall, not the best choice for a beginner’s workshop. But I had come to love that tune and dance, the many “moments” of discovery and interaction throughout the dance sequence. The music started and I was observing from the stage many flailing contra dancers trying to master a new dance style. It looked AWFUL until unexpectedly, an amazing thing happened: the music took the dancers to where they needed to be. They settled down, started floating above the floor and leading with their hearts, maximizing the moments. The transformation was beautiful to behold.

This was the only time in 20 years that I have cried on stage.

The dancers (many of whom were startled to see me teaching English) were touched that I was touched. We carried on, not flawlessly, but exuberantly, playfully, and truly in the spirit of English dance. And certainly in honor of Richard Wilson, whose name I invoked more than once.

Richard and Karolyn showed up later for lunch, and Richard sought me out to ask how my workshop went. I cried again, relating the details to him, and he seemed bemused by my emotion.

I went on to teach other English dance workshops at several weekend gigs with a mix of English and contra dance. I reminded the dancers that the great moments found in English dance could be found in other dance forms. Several reluctant contra dancers reported to me (with some surprise) that they “now love English country dance.”

In Colorado in 2008 when I called the Stellar weekend with Notorious and Hands Five, a retired schoolteacher approached me at the end of the English workshop. She said she enjoyed how I captured the dancers’ attention with my enthusiasm and love for English country dance, which she felt was strongly evident. I stood silently for a moment, with tears filling my eyes (I was off-stage). I said, “For twenty+ years, I set a bad example on the dance floor with my disdain for English country dance. And one day about five years ago, I ‘got’ it. I LOVE English country dance now and I’m trying to make up for all the harm I did before.” “Well,” she said, “don’t worry. You’re more than making up for it now.”

I partly credit Richard for this lesson, which took me so many years to learn. He had been quietly leading English dance for years. I think he taught me, just by his example and without me even knowing it, how to be a better dance leader.

Perhaps the greatest gifts that Richard and Karolyn have given to the folk community are their five daughters, Emily, Karina, Lily, Laurel and Charline. Watching Richard dance with each of his daughters through the years is a treasured memory. I suppose those girls had no choice but to grow up lovely, graceful, accomplished in music and/or dance. Karolyn is the matriarch of the family, raising five girls with love, warmth, strength, dance and song. And she has brought many other young lives safely into the world through her midwife practice.

Emily has been a skilled dancer since age five. When less skilled, much older men would try to guide her incorrectly in a dance, she would politely but firmly decline the lead and go exactly where she should be. Eventually, the men came to rely on her to get them where they should be.

Karina, also a graceful dancer, has evolved into a fiddler of extraordinary talent, the notes of English dance tunes hanging mid-air at the moment the dancers’ eyes meet or bodies swoop past. Her contra rhythms excel too. She started as all musicians must start, learning and goofing up as she went, visibly flustered when she made a mistake, forgot an A or B part of the tune, or dropped a phrase. Somewhere along the way, her tunes steadied, her repertoires increased, and she became an accomplished English country and contra dance fiddler.

A bunch of us travelled to Oklahoma City in February 2008 for an English country dance weekend with Bare Necessities. Richard drove with two of his daughters and several other young dancers. He enjoyed dancing all weekend.

My friends Meg, Kit, Mary and I joined the band for lunch on Saturday, and we told Mary Lea about Karina, who was attending as a dancer. Bare Necessities’ fiddler Earl had a high fever and struggled to keep up his energy. On Saturday night, we were waltzing to the achingly haunting notes of one of those “waltzes to die for.” I looked toward the stage and saw Karina sitting in with Mary, Jackie and Peter. I was stunned and thrilled! Earl was lying on his stomach behind the stage with acupuncture needles protruding from his neck. Karina, then age 23 and playing with some of the most talented musicians in the world, blossomed that night. Richard was there on the dance floor, in his blue silk jacket, applauding, proud papa beaming as he watched his daughter soar.

Lily dances wonderfully too. Recently at a benefit dance for Richard and his family, Lily took the microphone and called one of her dad’s dances, flawlessly. I didn’t even know she was a caller.

Laurel is 21 now, beautiful, poised, articulate, a dancer and singer. Her singing is the music of angels. She’s carrying on her maternal grandmother’s tradition of singing old folk songs to her guitar accompaniment.

The youngest Charline attends the Santa Fe School for the Arts, where she is learning to share her gifted voice and love of music. They all obviously doted on “Papa Richard.”

Richard devoted his time, energy, skill, and love to the music and dance community for more than thirty years, with enthusiasm and creativity. He and Karolyn have ensured that the folk traditions will thrive through their five charming daughters. Until the very end Richard continued to encourage our community’s youth and everyone else, to call, dance, play, flow, and have fun. Even when he was too weak to dance, he continued to bask in the therapy of music and community.

Thanks, Richard, for all you did for New Mexico’s traditional music and dance community. We are better dancers and leaders because of you. You will be missed for many, many years to come. May your spirit sprint across the universe and infuse us with joy and hope as we dance, play and sing in your memory.

Also, check the blog for updated information regarding visitation hours and family support.
Cards can be sent to:
Karolyn Wilson & Family
P.O. Box 317
Glorieta, NM, 87535

The Santa Fe New Mexican posted a story about Richard at:–1947-2011-Postmaster-danced-through-life

–Merri Rudd, Albuquerque, NM


Many members of the New Mexico music and dance community know that caller Richard Wilson’s cancer has returned. He and Karolyn are facing many difficult challenges ahead. Albuquerque will host a benefit dance for the Wilsons on Friday, November 12, 2010 at Lloyd Shaw Dance Center, 5506 Coal Ave SE, Albuquerque, NM.

The evening will feature different events beginning at 5:30 PM with a potluck supper, waltzing from 6:30 to 7:15 PM with Mad Robin and any other musician who would like to join them. It will be followed by a contra dance at 7:30 with the Megaband and various callers in the community who will call one of Richard’s dances.

To call one of the dances, contact: Erik Erhardt at: If folks can offer housing or folks are in need of housing, contact Donna Bauer at:

Hope to see everyone there!

Merri Rudd
Albuquerque, NM

Craig Tinney Departs This Earthly World

Craig n Mer, Tucson, 09/19/2009I don’t remember exactly when I met the Privy Tippers or the first conversation I had with each of them. I do have vivid memories of interacting with each as the years passed. I must have encountered them at the very first Dance in the Desert in 1995 when Wild Asparagus kicked off the marvelous music and dance weekend set deep in the Sonoran desert. I do know that I loved the Privy Tippers’ rhythms, loved their humor, loved their quirkiness. I came to love them all, both on and off the stage.

We had numerous gigs together—in Flagstaff, Tucson, Prescott, New Mexico. I thrived on the Tippers’ energy and utter commitment to enhancing the dancers’ joy. They said I was fun. Craig Tinney, the Tippers’ guitarist, called me “Sunshine.” Jerry Ray Weinert, the bassist, honored me by asking me to officiate at his wedding to Marni Dittmar. Dave Firestine, mandolin-maniac, learned new tunes for me just because I said they’d be good dance tunes. Jacquie Wohl (Craig’s wife) and I were both lawyers; we had fun debating issues of justice and conscience. Before each gig I would bake for the band (even carrying goodies onto the plane). Eventually, they would play one tune, then exclaim in unison, “We’re starving. What did you bring us?” I created some very musical and loveable monsters.

At every Dance in the Desert camp that I attended, I would dance with each of the Tippers before the weekend ended. That’s what made them such a great dance band—they all played AND danced. They “got” how music and dance fit together in a wild, synergistic heap.

In the fall of 2004 the Tippers and I were hired to be the talent for New Mexico’s Boo Camp in the beautiful Jemez Valley. There we nestled among radiant yellow cottonwoods along the raging Jemez River. Boo Camp 2004 045We rocked the dance hall. We dressed up. We did a wedding. Mark and I fed the band before the gig, then Craig drove up with me. That was my first long stretch of time with him, talking about hydrology issues and New Mexico’s water use. He was horrified to discover new development along Highway 550; he said there wasn’t enough water to sustain it. It was the first time I ever heard him rail.

Our paths continued to cross in the folk world after that, with more gigs and camps. Over Memorial Day, 2009 weekend, the Privy Tippers were hired, along with Bag O’Tricks from Seattle, to be the guest talent at New Mexico’s annual Folkmadness Music and Dance Camp. I admit, I meddled a little to make that happen. I thought it was time for both bands to have a wider audience in New Mexico. It worked out fine–both bands were wildly popular, and the campers remarked at how wonderful it was that the Tippers stayed up until 2 in the morning to jam with the locals attendees. Jacquie and Craig were so enthralled with the well-organized camp that they vowed to return in 2010 as campers.

In September 2009 I headed to Tucson for my friend Jean’s 90th birthday. After the party, Jacquie picked me up and took me to their home before our gig for Tucson’s contra dance. She, Craig and I made dinner, then went to the dance hall. Dave was out of town, so Dan Levenson and his wife Jennifer filled in. I had the luxury that night of throwing out the entire dance program I had planned on the airplane. The dancers were so skilled that I called dance-camp-challenging dances the entire night. It was so much fun, and I made a few videos of the band and dancers: Privy Tippers Rock Tucson Contra Dance

The next morning Craig took me hiking in the foothills where we saw a sun-drenched deer and quail. We had heart-to-heart talks about karma and nature and music and dance and caretaking and family and one’s inner psyches. We bought bread at Craig’s favorite bread place, then we joined Jerry Ray and Marni for a birthday brunch. Jacquie took me to the airport. That was the last time I saw Craig.

Two months later he had a motorcycle accident that left him quadriplegic. His brain and spirit survived, intact. I can only faintly fathom the profound transition from a physical life to a cerebral life, of not being able to shoo a fly from one’s face, breathe on one’s own, play guitar, hug one’s loved ones. But Craig took the plunge, did his surgeries, started rehab, moved to Craig Hospital outside Denver, thrived on the care and support and cards and jokes of family, friends, musicians and hospital staff. He kept his sense of humor, learned to “sip and puff” his wheelchair around. He must have had some dark moments, perhaps he wondered if it was all worth it. During the course of his treatment and rehab, he learned how loved he and Jacquie were, in the outpouring of hope and well-wishes from around the country posted on their CaringBridge pages. Hundreds of us collectively willed a different, better outcome. Hundreds of us failed to help Craig move even a finger. Goodness knows, we all tried our best. But it was not to be.

How delighted Craig and Jacquie were to return home to Tucson, renovate their home, see friends, eat their favorite foods, settle into the new life the universe sent their way. A multitude of friends and family attended the benefit for Craig and Jacquie in Tucson on June 13, singing and dancing and jamming and celebrating the wondrous spirits of Craig and Jacquie. They posted an entry on their CaringBridge page:

Wednesday, June 16, 2010 8:34 AM, MST

Thank you a million times to all of our friends who organized the Celebration of Friends and who worked for months to see that the event came to fruition.  It was wonderful, attended by hundreds of friends! Such great feelings, great music, great food,  great jamming, and great friends! Craig was there all day, greeting people he had not seen in months, and in come cases, years.  He was energized by the experience.  We both hope to see more of our friends when we can spend more time with everyone.  It was impossible to walk more than a foot without being stopped and greeted. Will write more later and post pix of the event. Just can’t say thank you enough.
Jacquie & Craig

Jacquie had a birthday on June 26, a big birthday. But Craig went into the hospital that day with pneumonia. He recovered quickly and was sent home on Monday, June 28. Tuesday morn Jacquie sent me an email that Craig had died in his sleep in the wee hours of the morning, Tuesday, June 29, 2010. She wrote:

Tuesday, June 29, 2010 7:52 AM, MST

Craig was hospitalized on Saturday for pneumonia.  He improved rapidly and came home yesterday afternoon.  Craig was very happy to be home and had a wonderful dinner of chile rellenos (brought by our friends Liz and Russ) and napolitos (made by Ariel from prickly pear cactus from our backyard) with our family.  He gave me a birthday present and wonderful birthday card and fell asleep.  When I got up at 4 am to turn him, I found that Craig had passed away in his sleep.  He loved all of his friends and so greatly appreciated the celebration that you all held for him 2 weekends ago.  Craig was continually amazed by the responses on Caringbridge.  He loved his daughters, his home, his friends, his community and his music.  Thank you all so much for making these last several months so meaningful for Craig.


I cried. I tried not to. I could kind of hear Craig saying, “Aw, Sunshine, don’t be sad.” But I cried. The world is diminished now that Craig has left this earthly realm. He was kind, he was smart, he was funny, he was politically correct (in my opinion), he was passionate, he was understated, he had a good soul. He was a damn fine musician. He adored life, Jacquie, his girls Ariel and Leah, music, and dance. He loved the folk community and his place in it. He was fully present and gleeful among his friends, all of whom he made feel as if they were the bee’s knees. He believed in the goodness of humanity, even when humanity sometimes didn’t deserve his belief. He deserved a better fate. He deserved many more years among us.

This morning while walking the dog I earnestly looked for Craig, for some sign that he was out and about and having fun. Would I see a ghostly image of him floating and playing guitar? Or dancing with a cloud? Would our local roadrunner appear with a message from Craig? Would I hear his voice in the breeze or the rustling of the trees? He wasn’t here, not yet, at least. He probably has a lot of travelling to do in Arizona first, before he makes his way to New Mexico and points beyond.

He may be physically gone, but his essence will live in our hearts and minds and spirits for the rest of our lives. Craig Tinney had true generosity of heart, the greatest accomplishment any of us can hope to achieve.

Information on Craig’s memorial on July 5 is at: Craig’s Obituary

Merri Rudd, Albuquerque, NM

Merri’s Summer 2010 Folk Enews

Howdy, Folkies,

I wanted to post a short folk enews after a long absence. As many of you know, my aunt died in February 2010, and I have been doing much estate business since then. But I was able to host a very fun open mike dance on June 5, and I’m happy to report that the younger generation of callers is well on its way. This summer’s events include:

ZOUKFEST is underway as I type. Staff members include Doug Goodhart, Roger Landes, Luke Plumb, Moira Smiley, Steve Smith, and Guest Artist Andy Irvine. Irish fiddler Martin Hayes is joining the ZoukFest staff for the first time this year. Two concerts at the Outpost Performance Space in Albuquerque happen Friday, June 11, and Saturday, June 12. Visit and for details.

Albuqueque Folk Festival: June 18 and 19 at the ABQ Expo (former Fairgrounds) is almost here. Performers include: has details and schedule.

Free Baroque Concert, ABQ: The Albuquerque Baroque Players with guests Stephen Redfield, Baroque violin, and Carole Redman, Baroque Flute, will present a FREE concert of Baroque Music, A Musical Feast with Georg Philipp Telemann, Sunday, June 20, 2010 at 3:00 PM. at Central United Methodist Church, 201 University Blvd. NE, Albuquerque, NM 87106 (just north of Central.) For more info visit

Our neighbors in AZ are planning their 2nd annual Ghost Town Chill Down dance weekend in Jerome, AZ on July 30, 31 and August 1. The all-star line up includes the Groovemongers and Lisa Greenleaf, plus astounding and fresh young musicians from Maine, Perpetual e-Motion. Info is at

English Country Weekend with Bare Necessities in NEW MEXICO!: August has competing events. Meg Adams-Cameron and I (and many others) have already signed up to attend the International Folk Dance group’s August Camp featuring English Country dancing with Bare Necessities. Bare Necessities is THE premiere English country band in the world. The camp is Aug. 5-8, 2010 in Socorro, NM at the NM Tech campus (same place that Folkmadness is held). Zeljko Jergan will also teach Croatian dances. Visit for registration form or pick up a brochure at a dance. Scholarships are available for this camp–you can receive half the camp registration fee in exchange for working at camp–cuing music, setting out snacks, etc. Karen Bunch is organizing scholarships. Her email is

Albuquerque Concert: An added bonus will be a special concert on Tuesday, August 10, featuring Jacqueline Schwab, pianist for Bare Necessities. She also played piano on the soundtrack of Ken Burns’ Civil War and National Parks TV series. The concert will be at the Unitarian Church at Carlisle and Comanche, so save this date. Kit and I are organizing the concert.

Wildlife West Music Festival: If you can’t dance that first weekend in August, the Wildlife West Nature Park will have its annual music weekend, organized by Richard Eager, August 6-8, 2010. The Claire Lynch band, Pat Donahoe, Small Potatoes, and Spring Creek are just some of the talent to grace the two stages. Plus the resident bear and mountain lions always enjoy company. Visit for details and prices.

Folk Wedding #15: Longtime dancer Joli Sharp married longtime wilderness activist Michael Soule on Mother’s Day this year. They are having a celebration on Sunday June 27, 3pm to 10pm at the Oak Flat picnic ground, Yucca shelter (From I40 south on 14 at Tijeras for about 6 miles, left at Oak Flat sign, about 3/4 mi to picnic ground). Bring a potluck dish if you are inspired. They’ll have barbecue, fruit, drinks. This party is for everyone, so bring your mate, your friend, your young’uns, and spread the word. They want a fun, folkie send-off!

Ongoing FOLKMADS events, dances in Santa Fe and Albuquerque, continue. has details.

Info on Las Cruces, NM dances is at is Albuquerque Swing and Country Dance Club.

New Mexico Music Links: is neal copperman’s awesome music venue with lots of concert information for music-lovers. Neal also organizes ¡Globalquerque!, which will be September 24 & 25, 2010 at the Hispanic Cultural Center, ABQ, NM. Lyle Lovett on July 29…and much more.

ABQ Biopark & Zoo Concerts: Concerts on Fridays at the zoo and Thursdays at the Biopark. has info on bluegrass concerts around Albuquerque.

The Outpost Performance Space in Albuquerque, mostly jazz and folk, has a web site,

Santa Fe Concerts: GiG is Santa Fe’s non-profit performance space. GiG is located at 1808 Second St. The suggested donation is $7 to $10. All shows are at 8 PM. Check out for more details about each week’s artists and listen to their music samples at the Listen link!

Durango Contra Dance Info: For information, call 970-385-9292, or see the website

Arizona Music and Dance Info: (Scroll down the page to find links to various Arizona dance communities.

Colorado Music and Dance Info:

So it wasn’t all that short, sorry! A lot is going on this summer. Email me other events and I will include them in a future folk enews.

Thanks and happy dancing and playing!


Enchanted Error?

Mark and I just got home from seeing the movie ENCHANTED. Amy Adams’ earnest princessness was delightful, despite the overly swelling score and rather abundant product placement of New York icons such as McDonald’s (I haven’t eaten there since I saw SUPERSIZE ME) and Coca-Cola.

However, I noticed a glaring error in the movie. The plot builds to a climax at the King and Queen’s Ball in New York City. People dress in medieval costumes and dance what appears to be a spastic version of an English country dance (think Jane Austen meets a robot). The Ball’s announcer says, “And now the moment you’ve all been waiting for…the King and Queen’s Waltz.” Partners are gathered, the music begins, and a rather long “waltz” ensues.

Now I’m no musician, although I have spent 100’s of hours on stage with them. And I am 99.9% sure that the King and Queen’s Waltz is not a waltz. Instead it’s something in 4/4 time. The fantastical pyrotechnics that follow, Godzilla-style, may have banished this observation from many viewers’ heads, but surely some musician took note?

What say ye, bloggers?

Remembering Justice Pamela Minzner

High Five
Justice Minzner swears in Judge Rudd, January 1, 2003

This column first appeared in the Albuquerque Journal, Business Outlook on September 20, 2007. Reprinted with permission.

Remembering Justice Pamela Minzner
by Judge Merri Rudd

Over the past few weeks, you have probably read or heard about the death of New Mexico Supreme Court Justice Pamela B. Minzner. A list of her awards, accolades, and accomplishments would fill several columns. From those professional summaries, one might not know that Pam, as she instructed everyone to call her, was the nicest woman one could ever hope to meet.

I know because Pam Minzner cheerfully mentored me for over twenty years.

I met Pam in 1986 when I clerked for Judge William W. Bivins on the New Mexico Court of Appeals. Pam was also a Court of Appeals judge at that time. She treated me, a young, inexperienced law clerk, with inordinate kindness and respect. She patiently helped me to analyze legal issues, offered me her last $5 for lunch, and insisted that I take her umbrella to go to the commuter van because it was raining (I declined). And she was not even my boss.

Over the years she counseled and inspired, prodded and supported me. At times she believed in me more than I did in myself. She encouraged me to strive to be intelligent but intelligible, accomplished without being arrogant, and true to a high standard of ethics, no matter what. She taught me that generosity of heart is the greatest strength any of us can aspire to have.

She urged me to keep trying after I lost two bids for probate judge. She jubilantly swore me in with a few days’ notice in 2001 when I was appointed by the Bernalillo County Commission to fill the vacant position. Again, in 2003, she made time to swear me in before dashing off to attend the Governor’s inauguration. Although I presided over a small county court and she served on the highest court in the state, she made no distinction about our relative positions. Pam’s world view did not include a hierarchy.

How proud she was when I presented two of my former students to the Supreme Court for admission to the state bar as new attorneys. She had taught me how to mentor others.

Pam grappled with each case before her, meticulously crafting judicious decisions and dissents that were well-grounded in the law. Sometimes we debated ethical issues at length, playing devil’s advocate to each other and ultimately adopting the highest standard of ethics, even if that was more than the rules required.

In 1999, when Pam became the first female Chief Justice of the New Mexico Supreme Court, she said in her speech, “This higher standard [of professionalism] is neither a matter of ethics nor a matter of malpractice. It is a standard that we ought to aspire to as a matter of life-long commitment. It is a journey without hope of official reward or fear of official sanction. We are looking for a better way…doing right for right’s sake.”

I have kept this quote on my wall for eight years.

Pam embodied many qualities: generosity, humility, humor, a community spirit, a positive attitude, a simple approach to life, independence, perseverance, and devotion to family, friends, cancer survivors, students, and colleagues. Pam managed her cancer and its complications for twenty years, conducting herself with dignity, grace, and a quiet appreciation for the present. She was gracious, considerate, and nonjudgmental. The arrogance that often accompanies power was absolutely absent in her. Her keen mind melded with a compassionate heart. She assumed the best of everyone, even those who might not have deserved her compassion. As Pam’s son said at her memorial, she lived a life that was meaningful, perpetually reflecting on whether she could have done better.

Pam led always with her heart and her intellect, not her ego. Would that we could all learn to be so selfless.

I was only one of those whom Pamela Minzner mentored. There are thousands of other people whose lives Pam influenced, inspired, and touched. Send your stories and remembrances of Pam, both personal and professional, to me at, and I will compile them for Pam’s husband Dick and her sons, Max and Carl.

The last time I spoke with Pam was May 6 of this year. She called me at home to discuss a work matter. We talked for over an hour about the law, the judiciary, her illness, my future, her future, and her family. Although it was Sunday and we both had other obligations that day, she talked as though she had all the time in the world.

I wish she had.


Chief Justice Mary Mullarkey, Pam’s Harvard Law School roommate, wrote an enlightening article about women at Harvard Law. The article is posted at:

State Bar of New Mexico, Bar Bulletin, Oct. 29, 2007: Scroll down to page 15 for a touching tribute to Pam from many sources.

Selections from Pam’s memorial, held at UNM’s Popejoy Hall on September 8, 2007:

Reverend Albertson or Rath said that Pam worked for justice in the law and for social justice. She lived this extraordinary welcome in both her personal and professional life. He spoke of lessons, such as, “Do not claim to be wiser than you are. Live peaceably with all. Your love must be completely sincere.” He concluded that Pam did all of these in her daily life.

Anne Bingaman remembered that when Pam was teaching full-time at the UNM School of Law and working up until she gave birth, this was no big deal, even though it was in the 1970’s and not a usual choice back then. “Of course, women can do it all. Pam was always directed to others. It was never about her.”

Pam’s son Carl said she knew how to live a life that was meaningful, of service, love, kindness and generosity. She perpetually reflected on everything–could she have done better?

Her younger son Max said that as a role model Pam was extraordinary, the most modest, patient and kind person who always assumed the best of everyone. She never wanted to criticize, was joyful in hope, patient in affliction. He lost his mother, but he will keep her always as his role model.

New Mexico Supreme Court Justice Edward Chavez noted that Pam always ended her speeches with “Adelante,” Spanish for “keep moving forward.” Pam was a cancer survivor and a tireless legal scholar, She did what was right, and she gave the Court the discipline of her editing. She had a reservoir of genuine thoughtfulness and was constantly evalutaing herself. When asked if she had left anything undone, she said “no.”

Pam’s memorial service ended with the Reverend Francis Rath saying, “Harry Lauder, a famous opera singer, used to tell a story of his boyhood in Scotland. He liked to look from the window of his home during the gathering twilight, and watch the work of the lamplighter with his long pole. The man went from street lamp to street lamp as he ascended the hilly road, leaving a trail of lights behind him. Then, as the road sloped downward, the lamplighter disappeared from view. Someone has suggested that THAT is the pattern of a life well lived; someone who has left behind them a trail of lights. Pamela Minzner left behind a long trail of lights. Do not let those lights go out. May her memory and spirit be with us now and forevermore. Amen.”

Amen, indeed.

Save A Snake for Humanity

I grew up in Memphis, during its dark years, when racism and hatred and prejudice were ways of everyday life. Schools and community centers were segregated. Poverty permeated the black neighborhoods. Even as a child, I didn’t ‘get’ it, didn’t understand why you should fear people because of the color of their skin. I tutored reading in the ghetto schools and taught swimming in the low-income community centers during the summer, trying to level the playing field in my own small way.

I hated Memphis, which makes me prejudiced, I suppose. I hated Memphis for its utter disregard of human and civil rights. I lived there when Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated, race riots abounded, and segregation was rampant. I left as soon as I could.

Prejudice lies against people of different colors, sexual orientation, ethnicities. Prejudice invades the non-human kingdom, too. How much killing has been done in the name of ‘erasing predators’ like a dirty chalkboard or ‘harvesting wildlife’ like a corn crop? Snakes and wolves, both of which enchant me, bear the bitter bulk of human prejudice. Perhaps examining our prejudices toward snakes could shed light on our human prejudices.

A vivid memory from childhood involves my mom, a party, some smart-aleck kids, and a snake in east Tennessee. We were at a friend’s house, it was dark, and a kid brought a snake up to my mom. Expecting her to scream or show fear, the kid was suitably impressed when she touched the snake and admired it. Trick tripped up! I remember being stunned that my mother could so surprise me.

After college I lived in a group house in Nashville with three other women. One of them had a friend with a young son Chris, who loved snakes (Chris is now a 40-something herpetologist somewhere). Our newly found ‘independent women pride’ did not allow us to decline the many offers of holding Chris’s latest acquisition. He taught us a lot about snakes, and I grew to like them.

When I was in law school in Albuquerque, we used to housesit for a professor. He and his wife had chickens, dogs, cats and a 6′ python. The chickens would attack your knees with spirited pecking; the cat threw up under the sofa; the dogs jumped and shed on you. But the snake Venom curled around your arm for a long time and watched TV with you.

We have encountered several snakes while hiking, but they’ve never harmed us, even the couple of rattlesnakes we scared up in the desert.

Last week our neighbors across the street called in a frantic panic. “There’s a SNAKE on our front porch! We’ve lived here 54 years and NEVER seen a SNAKE in the neighborhood. We don’t know what to do; we want to kill it.”

“Don’t kill the snake,” I said. “We like snakes.”

Mark and I went over and observed our neighbor sweeping a 3′ bull snake with a large broom. It slithered and zigzagged madly, trying to slide out of harm’s way. On impulse, Mark reached down and picked the snake up quickly, holding him behind the head and down the body. The snake curled around his arm and hung out while we discussed what to do with him. Our neighbors will probably never look at us quite the same again. We handled the slimy, scaly serpent of satan.

But snakes aren’t slimy; they’re sleek and cool. They’re sinuous and powerful. They crave warmth, not affection. This bull snake didn’t hiss or strike, although we’ve heard some of them pack a mighty bite. Also known as gopher snakes, bull snakes are harmless. They eat rodents and smaller snakes. Think of them as cannibalistic cats. Some of them are docile, some mean, kind of like humans. All are protective of their young. When they’re scared, they pretend to be a rattlesnake and shake their silent tail.

Because dark was coming, we took the bull snake inside. The dog didn’t seem to be able to smell the snake. He showed no interest. We called around the neighborhood to see if anyone had lost a pet snake. No missing snakes reported. We put him in a pillowcase, researched the web to confirm identity, and decided to release him to the wilds the next morn.

We hiked up the Embudo Trail a ways with our pillowcase package, picked a sunny, rocky, wild spot. I opened the pillowcase, removed the snake, and off he slid. We were standing right beside him and couldn’t see him. We wished him a long and safe life and returned to our urban world.

The universe rewarded us that afternoon with an unexpected email about a used popup camper for sale. We had been looking for two years. We bought it. If someone asks me about the day of the snake, I will simply say, “it was charmed.”

Snow Day

From our house to yours…wishing you the happiest of holidays!

Taken moments ago, December 19, 2006, 3:15 p.m., Albuquerque

Speaking of snow, check out the oh-so-clever “I’m Dreaming of a White Christmas” at If that link won’t work for you, try

A Splendid Celebration!

The 100 or so musicans and dancers who attended last night’s music and dance party at the Heights know what a fine, festive, food-filled and fun-filled evening it was. Merri called her favorite dances over the past 15 years, including Karen & Greg Tie the Knot, Trip to Phan Reel, M.A.D. About Dancing, and Chuck the Budgie. Ken Cooper called two dances, which allowed Merri to dance with her hubby Mark. The Megaband added the old-time versions of Jingle Bells, Deck the Halls, and We Wish You a Merry Christmas (did you know it was a waltz?!) to their repertoire. We still had two lines of dancers at the end of the night, and many of them were seen smiling all evening in their holiday finery. A smorgasbord of food and drinks lined the entire wall of the other room.

We would love for you to share your music and dance memories (recent or distant), thoughts, good wishes, stories, and/or reflections about last night, etc. by posting a comment on this blog entry (scroll to bottom of this post to comment). To you who shared food and drinks, played rowdy dance tunes, danced beautifully, cheered enthusiastically at each announcement, and recorded the event, THANK YOU! from all your hosts and hostesses: Merri, Melissa, Lew, Bob, Nancy, Ken, Michele, Kelly and Gina.

For those who were unable to attend, here are the anniversaries and occasions we celebrated:

Merri Rudd, 15th anniversary as a caller (called her first whole dance on December 7, 1991 at Lloyd Shaw with Megaband playing).
Melissa Wilson & Lew Suber, 15th anniversary as a couple. (Their 2nd date was at that 1st dance Merri called. Melissa, who was the caller scheduler at that time, hired Merri.)

Here’s Melissa & Lew dancing on December 16th

Bob & Nancy Ford, 15th wedding anniversary is Dec. 31, 2006, and Merri forgot to mention this last night, so sorry! Bob’s been our ace sound guy for years.
Michele Von Boeck & Ken Cooper eloped during our thrift store prom at the 14th annual FolkMADness Camp in Socorro on May 28, 2006. Merri officiated.
Kelly Kellstedt & Gina Jenner eloped the next evening, May 29, 2006, in Anita Shenkman’s backyard, Eva Ceskava officiating.

Karen & Greg, the 1st folk couple to be married by Merri; Michele & Ken; Merri; Gina & Kelly

Honoring the Award-Winning Megaband, who has played for our dances for free for 30 years. We gave them “awards,” which we hope they can wear for years to come. Fiddler Jane Phillips helped Merri figure out all their names.

Megaband members making merry music!

Honorees’ hand-crafted “awards”

It was also Dennis Vik’s birthday on December 17. He is only slightly older than 15.

That’s my brief report on the evening. Look forward to reading folkies’ comments on this blog!

Merri Rudd