Autumn in the North Cemetery.

Sixty miles west of Boston, Massachusetts there is the small New England town of Sturbridge. Located at the junction of I-90 (The Mass Pike), and I-84 it has become known as the "Crossroads of New England". The town was first settled over 300 years ago, and like other small New England towns it has grown just enough over the years to be in a difficult place today. How do we embrace the future without forgetting how we got to our present? How do we attract the right kind of growth, and maintain who we are? And, what about our culture out here in Central Massachusetts?

These pages will cause one to think about how to protect what we have, our future direction, and how to move on in the very best way.

Those thoughts, and other ramblings, will hopefully inspire more thought, conversation, action, and occasionally a smile...

...seems to be working so far

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Forever The Teacher

This past week I spent some time in Medfield with the family of a local icon that had passed away on  the first full day of spring.  He had come to town in 1958 as a young music teacher intent on teaching his craft in a way as to inspire everyone around him to listen, and learn.

He succeeded.

He taught thousands of students from his arrival until his retirement from the school system in 1995, and  continued to teach his students privately, in his home, until just three weeks before he passed.  He loved teaching that much.

This teacher introduced that small town to music that few had experienced before, never mind performed.  He taught the youngest students the flutophone in order to inspire an appreciation of making organized noise sound good.  He started choruses, glee clubs, concert, jazz, and marching bands at all levels within the school system.  He directed dozens and dozens of Broadway musicals every spring at the High School, and exposed generations to not only the music of Broadway, but to acting as well.  He expanded the role of the music department so much so that others needed to be hired to take some of the load as time went on.

When he wasn't teaching in the schools, he was teaching privately to students after hours, and in the evening he would play the piano for their parents at a local restaurant in town.  On Sundays he played the organ in one of the several churches that stood around the town square.  There were the countless weddings he was the organist at as well, and as the horn man, or piano player in a band at the receptions.  He played every instrument there was, with exception of the oboe he once told me.  He didn't play everyone of those instruments perfectly, but he did make wonderful music when he did play.  On the piano he was fantastic, but on the trumpet, the instrument that he earned his Masters in Fine Arts on, he excelled.

He had an actual love affair with sound.  All kinds of sound.  He could hear a melody in the yard when two branches rubbed together on a windy day, and the wind chimes and Mourning Doves played backup.  He could hum a familiar song to the rhythm of a tire on the pavement.  He found music everywhere, and when he found it, he shared it with others.  He would call his kids home in the evening with a shout from his trumpet, or a "secret whistle" from his lips.  He wrote songs for his children after they were born, and sang to them to soothe them at night, or during fussy moments during the day.  He planted  fine seeds of appreciation of music early on in their lives, and coupled those lessons with more worldly instruction for life to come.  That appreciation of a softer, sweeter side of life helped to guide them along the harder, bitter edge of life.

There was always a lesson to be taught, and to be learned, if one was willing.

Most towns have a person that comes along once every once in awhile that affects the generations around them in a positive, lasting, life long way.  Medfield  has had several, and Sturbridge has had them as well.  We appreciate them them when they are here for how they touch us individually, and it is only after they are gone do we truly realize how wide that touch was.  How many others were affected by the touch, the inspiration, and the lessons taught as well.  People like this stand out.  They stand out against the bland background of existence like a bright birch among the duller oaks.  They are different, and we are not only lucky to have been touched by them, but also blessed.

Medfield will miss this amazing music man, this incredible teacher, as will I.

I miss you, Dad.

Photo © 2005-2011 
W. Hersee


  1. That is beautiful Wally. These words and those you shared at Dad's funeral give us all comfort and joy during this time. Kirk

  2. Barbara HarrringtonSunday, March 27, 2011

    Beautiful Wally! He will be missed by many and never fogotten.

  3. One of my favorite memories is turning the pages for Mr. Hersee as he played the piano. He was so passionate in all he did. I can still remember being put in first clarinet, his excitement in my hard work to get there, and the May-mi-mom-mo-mu of concert choir.

  4. I was one of those he affected so deeply. I am nearly 57 years old now and I kept in touch with this wonderful teacher (and wonderful man) over all these years. I have made music my life as well and will never forget the joy and excitement he showed me that music can bring. I will always remember not just WHO he was but WHAT he was and will do my best to my children and to my students to follow his example. Thanks Mr Hersee. Rest in Peace.

  5. Kathy (Tuttle) OsiekSunday, March 27, 2011

    That was truly touching Wally! He was truly an amazing man and each of us touched by his uniqueness will never forget "The Music Man". He'll live forever in my heart!

    Kathy Osiek

  6. Wally, what a beautiful tribute to your dad. He will always be a wonderfully treasured man. I'm sure he's still enjoying his beautiful music, now amoung the angels. I believe they never REALLY leave us, they simply step beyond the veil, and each time they come to mind, it is their way of telling you that they are right beside you. Blessings...

  7. Wally, we who never knew your father have, without knowing it, gotten a sense of the the man all the while we have been reading your writings. The caring, sensitivity and willingness to share, or rather the need to share with others rings out clearly in your words, as it did in the music of your father. God Bless You, Your Dad and all his Kith and Kin.

  8. Jamie Spittel SaganeyMonday, March 28, 2011

    Your Dad was one of those rare people who could inspire others. He touched and changed so many lives. He knew music had a way of bringing people together with no barriers. What better way to live? When I hear music I think of love, grace and passion. I have your Dad to thank for that. Thinking of you all and hoping your hearts will heal...

  9. Thank you all for your thoughtful comments about Dad. For those of you that knew him, we will be forever smiling when a memory crosses our mind, and that is the very best tribute. :-)

  10. Wally, I am so glad I found your tribute to your father! Your ability to express in the words you use here, remind me of the way I remember how your father expressed himself through his music. As a young musical student I enjoyed the way your Dad would "sound" his trumpet or the way he "talked" on a piano's key board. But it was his smile I will remember most. It was always there for us no matter how many notes we were flat with or sharp with; his greatest gift for me,was his patience.


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