A blog sponsored by the Michigan State University Museum's Michigan Traditional Arts Program, a partnership with the Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs. Sharing news and information about the Great Lakes Folk Festival, Quilt Index, the MSU Museum's traditional arts activities, Great Lakes traditional artists and arts resources, and much more. Development of content for this blog supported by funding from the National Endowment for the Arts.

Monday, May 4, 2015

In Memoriam: Larry Syndergaard


Friend of the MSU Museum Larry Syndergaard passed away peacefully on April 15, 2015, at Bronson Methodist Hospital due to congestive heart failure following a heart attack in January. He was born in Iowa in 1936, and moved with his family to Wisconsin in 1950 to start a dairy farm. From there, Larry bounced around the Midwest, marrying wife Ardis in 1958 and earning Bachelors degrees in Forestry and General Science in 1959. After the birth of his first child, Larry decided to pursue advanced degrees (both Masters and PhD with a minor in Scandinavian Studies) in English to allow for a more stationary career. 

He took a job at Western Michigan University in 1968, where he taught courses in writing, literature, and occasionally environmental studies for thirty-two years. To quote his obituary - "[Larry specializedin medieval topics and bootlegging in folk and oral-traditional material when he could... From the beginning, Larry was heavily involved in WMU's Medieval Institute and its renowned International Congress. A Fellow of the International Ballad Commission, his research into folklore and the Scandinavian ballads was respected worldwide and resulted in dozens of papers and articles-and an important book, English Translations of the Scandinavian Medieval Ballads (1995). Thanks to a stint as asst. dean at U-W, Larry was drawn into advising and policy roles early on at WMU, becoming associate chair for undergrad English programs as a tender but committed junior professor."

Larry was a regular attendee, supporter, and sometimes presenter at festivals put on by the MSU Museum, beginning with the Festival of Michigan Folklife.  Even as of February this year he wrote to say he was planning to bring a group of friends with him to this year’s Great Lakes Folk Festival. He will be dearly missed. 

To use the language of the medieval world he knew so well: May he rest in peace and may perpetual light shine on him. A memorial service on Sunday, May 31, 2015, 1:30pm at WMU's Fetzer Center will celebrate his life richly lived. Memorial donations may be directed to WMU School of Music (Jazz Studies), Southwest Michigan Land Conservancy, Kal County Democratic Party or Tillers International.

Read his full obituary here.