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Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Keith Pitzer's passing.

Received some sad news today from friend of WV Writers, Pops Walker, regarding the passing of another friend of our organization, Keith Pitzer.

Pops writes...

Friends and loved ones….

It’s with a heavy heart that I write to you today, for we have lost a great friend and performer, Keith Pitzer. Keith passed on this morning after a courageous fight with cancer. His wife Joan, and his four grown sons mourn the loss of their loved one, as do I, Bobbi, and anyone who knew Keith.

I first met Keith in 2003 at the Mountain Stage NewSong Festival. After hearing him play, and jamming with him, I knew I’d found a kindred musical spirit. After talking with him for a while, I knew I’d met a dear friend.

He and Joan played at two of our events at the river, and another at the performing arts center in Luray. Each performance was special, and folks who had the good fortune of listening to them walked away richer for the experience.

We shared some stages together in West Virginia, and while on the road in that region, the Pitzer farm became our home-away-from-home. His hospitality was warmer than a fresh buttered biscuit, right out of the oven. And when dinner was done, and the dishes put away, the instruments came out. My oh my – did we have fun. Some of the best music I ever played was with Keith – he was such an accomplished musician, he brought out the best in me. And we laughed. Oh, did we laugh. I love him for it.

While driving today, taking care of some Christmas errands, Bobbi and I were amazed by the amount of snow still on the ground from this past weekend’s blizzard. We saw many cars still snowed-in, and many by-roads that looked impassable. Bobbi mentioned that it reminded her of Keith’s instrumental, “Loudon County Snow”. He wrote the song some years ago while at Drew McKnight’s place. They were snowed in that weekend and hadn’t much else to do except play music. Apparently, the snow brought out something deep within Keith’s soul. If you’ve ever heard him and Joan play it, you’ll understand. Quite simply, it’s a masterpiece of picking. How strange, and perhaps fitting, that he passed while so many of us were snowed in again.

There will be no public ceremony for Keith in the coming days. Rather, Joan and the boys will mourn with loved ones for a while, and in the Spring, host a celebration of his life at the family farm that he so dearly loved. As Joan told me this morning, Keith wouldn’t want a mournful event. Rather, a celebration is in order. And the timing of Spring will be just right. It’s a time of new life. No, gentle people, we don’t have a date yet.

One last thing … Keith was the Executive Director of “Friends of the Cheat”. The Cheat River in West Virginia had been abused and pillaged by industry for years. “Friends of the Cheat” are dedicated to restoring it and protecting its future. Keith took his job seriously and loved that river. So, rather than flowers or sympathy cards, I ask you, on behalf of Joan and the boys, to send a small donation in Keith’s honor to:

Friends of the Cheat
119 South Price Street
Suite 206
Kingwood, WV 26537-1478

I can hear Keith’s voice now – “Shucks Pops, just a couple of bucks each from a slew of caring folks could make a big difference”. You’re right, Keith – it would.

He was one of the gentlest souls I’ve ever met, and having him for a friend made me a richer man.

Your friend in loss,

Pops Walker