May 26, 2018
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Colleagues, family pay tribute to late folklorist

By Meg Haskell, BDN Staff

ORONO, Maine — Internationally respected folklorist Edward “Sandy” Ives was remembered Saturday as a devoted family man, a lover of poetry, music and literature, and above all, an important chronicler of fast-fading cultural traditions in New England and the Canadian Maritime Provinces.

About 200 colleagues, friends and family members thronged a conference room at the University of Maine to pay tribute to Ives, who died in August at age 83. The catered event featured music and songs captured by Ives in his extensive catalog of traditional culture, some of his favorite poetry, and fond personal anecdotes.

“Sandy Ives, what have you gotten me into now?” asked master of ceremonies David Taylor, a native of Fairfield and a former Ives student who now serves as a senior folklorist with the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C.

Taylor recalled the first time he asked that question, as a first-year anthropology student on the Orono campus in 1972, when Ives sent him off to interview a farmer in Benton who practiced the traditional art of dowsing — using a forked branch or other “divining rod” to find underground veins of water. He was nervous at the prospect of meeting a stranger and self-conscious about conducting his first tape-recorded interview, Taylor recalled, and considered calling in sick to avoid the meeting.

But the farmer was gracious and open about sharing his mysterious ability, Taylor said, and the exchange set him on his career path. He said the farmer’s apple wood divining rod could serve as a metaphor for Ives’ ability to identify vanishing arts and country ways in the 1960s and ’70s, as long-standing traditions were beginning to fade from the farms and forests of the American Northeast.

Ives taught at the Orono campus for 44 years, retiring in 1999.

Drawing on collections held by the Northeast Archives of Folklore and Oral History, he established the Maine Folklife Center at the University of Maine in 1992. Current holdings at the center include 5,000 hours of tape recordings, 10,000 photos and slides, and numerous manuscripts related to regional folklore and social history. He also wrote numerous books and journal articles related to folklore and the oral traditions of storytelling and song.

In 1991 Ives was presented the Marius Barbeau Medal, awarded by the Folklore Studies Association of Canada for outstanding lifetime contributions. He also received an Award of Honor from the Prince Edward Island Museum and Heritage Foundation in 1998 and the annual Harvey A. Kantor Memorial Award for Outstanding Achievement in Oral History in 1979.

Saturday’s memorial event featured several of the traditional songs Ives recorded for posterity, including the robust “Lumberman’s Alphabet” sung by former student Jeff “Smokey” McKeen.

His longtime UMaine colleague Henry Munson recalled weekly get-togethers with Ives over the past year or so where the two professors would discuss poetry and literature together.

“One evening … we read each other our favorite Yeats poems,” Munson said. “And we enjoyed a bottle or two of Guinness stout that evening.”

Ives’ daughter Sarah Ives Lewis read one of her father’s favorite modern poems, “anyone lived in a pretty how town” by e.e. cummings.

“Along with all the awards he received, he was a world-class father,” she said, “and we all loved him very, very much.”


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