Remember When: Remembering Joseph Erwin

Published 10:00 pm Thursday, June 15, 2017

Joseph Erwin first came to my attention when he played a dedicatory recital on the Steinway concert grand piano given by public subscription to the high school. I thought maybe his selections were designed to show off the piano, not so much Joseph. He made it a very informal gathering, and I liked what I heard, both from Joseph and from the piano.

It was not long before Betty Frost made me president of the Polk County Historical Association and I suppose Kathleen Erwin was its secretary even then. At any rate, the Goodwins and the Erwins were fast becoming friends, or becoming fast friends!

Joseph kept telling me how much fun he was having with the Microsoft Flight Simulator program on his computer. He was “flying” a Learjet to airports all over the country! Joe had only the standard computer keyboard for his inputs, no joystick or anything such as the “pro” gamers employ. He said his airline pilot friends did not do so well with it, and he wanted me to try my hand.

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I chose a WWI Sopwith Camel as my airplane and got it off the ground okay, but not without endangering the runway light fixtures. I had chosen the Hendersonville Airport since I was familiar with it. I got lost (disoriented, right?) but finally found the airport. I entered airport traffic over Hwy. 176 and tried to look to the left to judge when to turn toward the runway. Big mistake! Apparently the computer did not like my looking around and I lost control and crashed! The next time, I just did a straight in approach, but was unable to keep my bird straight on rollout using the keyboard inputs, and crashed again! Joe made no attempt to hide his enjoyment of my ineptitude, and I changed the subject.

I remember going to hear Joseph play the organ and lead my favorite church music, the Brahms Requiem. I had talked our organist/choirmaster in Hampton into letting us perform it. I told him we would gladly work on it as long as it took! It was good to hear it again, live.

Joseph was also a champion of Bach’s music, and when I mentioned that the jazz piano players at the Piano 300 commemoration by the Smithsonian also played Bach, he asked whether they played any of Bach’s three-part inventions . . .

He and Kathleen have been playing joint recitals in recent years. They always made beautiful music together. When I tuned for them to play a program at ICC, he complained about the regulation and voicing of the Steinway piano, also donated to the school by public subscription. ICC pays only for tuning, but I went back and voiced the hammers and regulated the action for Joseph. He then told me that it was “smooth as glass.” I took that as a compliment.

Kathleen just sent me the following e-mail message: To let you know, by this paraphrase of Thomas Wolf, which he had set to beautiful music: Joseph “left the world he knew for greater knowing” on June 1, 2017, at eleven fifteen pm. Before dinner that evening, he played his Debussy repertoire and commented:

“Not too bad. I remembered most of it!”

I will end this writing with another quotation, this one from General George S. Patton: “It is foolish and wrong to mourn the men who died. Rather we should thank God that such men lived.” Can’t say that I agree with the first line, but I certainly second the second one.