Thursday, January 8, 2009

Just Like That (Rachel Bissex)

The article below is based on an obituary posted on WFDU-FM Ron Olesko’s blog site and used in the FolkWax e-zine with Ron's kind permission - my personal commentary follows...

Vic Heyman passed away on Tuesday (January 6), leaving the Folk community to mourn the loss of one of the most supportive individuals to have graced this international "family." To the thousands who knew Vic and his wife, they were only ever referred to as ‘Vic and Reba’ – one and indivisible.

Committed folkies, they were SO much more than enthusiastic supporters. For a number of years they ran a very successful concert series in the Washington D.C. area, but their love of the music AND the people who make music took them to all corners of the globe. Vic and Reba attended every Folk Alliance conference as well as many regional events. Vic was a former board member of the Kerrville Folk Festival and they attended numerous festivals across the country each summer. Vic and Reba also wrote reviews for Sing Out! magazine.

While the foregoing could be described as their tangible public contribution, behind the scene, Vic and Reba became "parents" to numerous musicians in the Folk community. In nurturing these "children" they helped those artists gather the courage to go out on a stage and realize a dream. The through occurs that their encouragement, maybe, helped those artists write better songs. It has to be said that, in the Folk community, their support and endearing friendship was legendary.

Vic has been in poor health during the past year. Vic and Reba didn’t make Kerrville 2008, Vic was hospitalised at the time, but they attended Falcon Ridge a few weeks later and were at NERFA in November.

At this sad time, the Folk community sends its sincere condolences to Reba and "all’ her children.


It is hard to remember a time when I didn't know Vic and Reba Heyman - I first met them in February 1999 at the Albuquerque Folk Alliance. I was curious about this larger-than-life, dressed-alike husband-and-wife duo who everyone acknowledged and credited... and who even had special seats, front and center, in each major showcase room. I can't recall who introduced us, but we had a chance to chat multiple times over the course of the conference as, having similar taste in folk/acoustic performers, we found ourselves crossing paths quite frequently - at one point, I was in a Standing Room Only situation when Reba caught my eye and patted the empty seat next to her, motioning for me to join her (as I found out later, Vic was napping... :-)

We met again at the Kerrville Folk Festival in May of the same year... and again in July at the Falcon Ridge Folk Festival - that was my only Kerrville experience, but for a while, I knew I could count on their delightful company twice a year (at FA and FRFF). Vic and Reba then began attending our South Florida Folk Festival, with which I was very involved... their visits at first for a week at a time, and then extending for two, three and now four-month intervals - what began as an acquaintance quickly blossomed into full-fledged friendship, as we met up for dinner (restaurants or my/others' homes), chatted on the phone and carpooled down to the (now-defunct) Main Street Cafe in Homestead (will never forget the time Vic brought his new GPS, which had us laughing the entire trip, because I could have driven that route blindfolded!).

Vic and Reba returned to Florida a few days before our John McCutcheon Labyrinth Cafe concert on December 13 and, upon spotting me, he said protectively, "don't hug me - I have a cold"... to which I replied, "too bad - I haven't seen you in six months and I'm hugging you anyway" - so glad I followed my intuition...

Vic had Parkinson's for 14 years, with his mobility becoming more limited in the time I knew them, segueing from cane to walker - he fell a few times the weekend before Christmas, was admitted to the hospital, all seemed fine... and then he took a turn for the worse. At that point, their four children visited over the course of the next week, sitting vigil by his hospice bedside - as I posted on Star Maker Machine last week, I stopped in for a visit, "brought them tangerines, stayed a few hours chatting and had an opportunity to say my goodbyes, staying strong while there and weeping all the way home"...

Vic had a wicked sense of humor, an abiding-yet-innocent love for the ladies (he did give the best hugs)... and an unlimited spirit of generosity, especially concerning folk music. Reba will remain in Florida as scheduled, and we will do whatever we can to support and keep her company during this most difficult time - I've spoken to her on the phone quite a few times, and she knows I'm available, whatever her needs.

As Phyllis Barney, past-present of the Folk Alliance just posted to their list-serve:

"Please join me in thinking of our most wonderful folk angel Vic Heyman. He passed peacefully away tonight (Jan. 6), leaving behind his beloved wife and best friend Reba, their four children, and scores and hundreds of all the rest of us - touched by his light, his generosity, his love of life, and love of folk music. Tributes will come, and they certainly should. He was a tireless supporter of folk music, folk musicians, and Folk Alliance. But tonight, I just want to remember my dear friend."

I second the emotion - R.I.P. dear Vic (now seated in a comfy chair in that Great Song Circle in the Sky... :-)

SONG: Just Like That by Rachel Bissex (Rachel wrote this song about Vic and Reba... and Dar Williams covered it on Remembering Rachel, a tribute put together after Rachel's death, which Vic produced/assembled/publicized)...

Death: The Final Stage of Growth by Elisabeth Kubler-Ross

POEM: For Freedom by John O'Donohue

As a bird soars high
In the free holding of the wind,
Clear of the certainty of ground,
Opening the imagination of wings
Into the grace of emptiness
To fulfill new voyagings,
May your life awaken
To the call of its freedom.

As the ocean absolves itself
Of the expectation of land,
Approaching only
In the form of waves
That fill and pleat and fall
With such gradual elegance
As to make of the limit
A sonorous threshold
Whose music echoes back among
The give and strain of memory,
Thus may your heart know the patience
That can draw infinity from limitation.

As the embrace of the earth
Welcomes all we call death,
Taking deep into itself
The right solitude of a seed,
Allowing it time
To shed the grip of former form
And give way to a deeper generosity
That will one day send it forth,
A tree into springtime,
May all that holds you
Fall from its hungry ledge
Into the fecund surge of your heart.

QUOTE(S): "I shall not die of a cold. I shall die of having lived." ~ Willa Cather

"Hope is grief's best music." ~ Author Unknown

"We understand death for the first time when he puts his hand upon one whom we love." ~ Madame de Stael


  1. I'm sorry you lost such a wonderful friend. [hugs]

  2. Hey, Amy ~

    Thank you - Vic was an amazing man... and he is already so much missed...

    Reba possesses her own quiet strength, especially evident these last few years - it will come in handy during this most difficult time...