BIANCA MOREHEAD POSNER (1934-2018)

 

November 4, 2018

POSNER—Bianca Morehead, treasured daughter, adored wife, cherished mother, devoted grandmother, beloved educator and fierce advocate for social justice and human rights whose world view was informed early on by “taking a stand” for Paul Robeson in 1948 and her experiences and friendships at The Corlears School and WoChiCa Camp, died comfortably at home on November 1st after a long illness. She is survived by her daughter, Laurie Posner MD, her grandson, Isaiah White, son-in-law, Jeffrey Levitsky and the memory of loved ones gone: Albie, Riva and Ludie. A private celebration of Bianca's life will be held by her family.

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September 14, 1989

Dear Bianca,

Please forgive my familiarity! I can’t tell you how delighted I was when Sandy told us about hearing from your daughter. We thought you were lost to us forever; little did we know you were so close by—and in Brooklyn, yet!

I gather from Sandy that you did meet Andrew and me...I was so young at the time that I don’t remember, nor do I remember ever knowing our grandmother Bianca, though she was still alive in New York when I was very young and I must have met her. Unfortunately, the generations are so long in the Morehead family that it is rare that any child knows his paternal grandparents. After all, our grandfather died in 1922, twenty years before I was bom!

When my wife Patricia and I were traveling a few summers ago, looking up relatives in a leisurely car trip, we were in South Carolina and thought (with the meager information I had at hand) to try to look up your mother. It was unsuccessful, obviously, since she was already (I guess) living in Brooklyn. And we had absolutely know clue as to where to look for you.

Your father was one of my most favorite people and a truly unique person. (I think his brother, my father, was unique too. Both of them were very special.) I loved to listen to his reminiscences and only wish I had been with him more time than I was. But he was a free spirit. He would occasionally have a photography job in whatever city I happened to be working in at the time; sometimes he would call me, sometimes not. We kept in touch in a rather irregularly fashion; months would go by without communication. But there was no less mutual love for that; I like to think we were very close. He was wonderful with our children, the few chances we had to get them together. The curse of the modem age...we are all so spread out!

I ended up in a field close to your father’s heart—music—and he would help me out sometimes by sending a book from his library, or some piece of information he had turned up. He was in pop music and I am in various areas of classical music, but I get pleasure out of his songs (the few I have seen) and arrangements. My other area of work is a result of my father’s work: I edit reference works. Most of my work in that area has been in revising my father’s books, but I am now preparing a new music dictionary all my own. A lot of work...it may be my last book!

My wife is also a musician, an oboist and composer, currently back in school completing a doctorate in composition at the University of Chicago. Our three kids are all in Canada; two are engineers and the third is a drummer. James is finishing his studies in computer engineering at the University of Waterloo and Keren is working for General Motors. The drummer, Ian, was also studying photography at one time and had lengthy conversations with Jim about that. It’s too bad Jim didn’t live long enough to talk with him about the music profession; if anyone knew it, Jim did!

I have also in the past three or four years gotten interested in the history of the family, and Jim was helpful in filling in some of die innumerable gaps in my information. Luckily, my parents kept a lot of materials, especially about our grandfather. His mother seems to have kept volumes of newspaper clippings about his career as a tenor and choral conductor; they fill two large volumes. I hope I have a chance sometime to show you some of these things, which will probably interest your daughters too.

Excuse me for rambling! As I say, I am thrilled to have "rediscovered" you; I hope we can stay in touch and that I can get to meet you when I get to the New York area. And, of course, if either you or your family are ever in Chicago, I hope that you will look me up and come to the opera! My number is 312-667-0576.

Please write when you get a chance and let’s get better acquainted!

With all the best from Pat and myself,

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October 1, 1989

Dear Philip,

Thank you for your most wonderful letter. After almost a lifetime of being apart from my family, you have made me feel welcomed back into it. I can’t tell you how much it means to me.

It has been so difficult for me to write to you — not for lack of wanting to. I’ve composed numerous drafts in my head (and one abortive attempt on paper) before your letter arrived. I suppose the difficulty lies in the waves of great joy and great sadness that rise to the surface — so be it.

I do remember you. You were a toddler the last time I remember seeing you — on a Christmas morning at your house. Babu called you Phiddie. (Do you refer to our grandmother Bianca as Babu?) She was a warm and wonderful person, and a very great influence on my life, I think. I loved her dearly. I’ve always thought I resembled the Morehead side of the family. (Sandy says it’s the eyes and the nose.)

It has been so exciting for me to learn some of the family history. I knew practically nothing. Sandy calls you the family archivist. My mother always said that Babu avoided talking about her family. She only remembered Babu saying that her father (or grandfather?) had been a Polish gentleman. But that seems not to be the case.

I loved reading Rose Loveman’s diary and Lavinia Morehead’s letters. I made copies for my children.

My mother also said that Amy Loveman, who had at one time been the editor of The Saturday Review of Literature, had been a cousin of Babu’s. I know that my paternal grandfather had been a choral conductor but that was all I knew. I didn’t even know his name. As for having a governor/Senator for great grandfather — wow!

I’m so anxious to learn more.

I’m enclosing my one piece of genealogical information that a friend of mine spotted a few years ago in the N.Y. Times Magazine section. She phoned and said, “Hey Binky, isn’t your name Morehead?” So I ran outside and retrieved it from the trash can and read it.

Let me tell you a little about me.

I’m a teacher of young children. This year I’m teaching seven year olds. I work in a small independent school in lower Manhattan [Corlears School]. It’s a school with a wonderfully dedicated staff and a very caring approach to children.

Some of the family “music genes” have emerged in me. I am, however, only a self-taught folk singer/guitarist. I did some performing with a partner, briefly, as a young adult. Now I sing primarily with children (a lot) (I do have a good ear.) and with friends when I find a group of friends who like to sing. I also paint a little, write a little, love to folk dance.

I didn’t inherit the “tall genes.” I’m 5’3-1/2”.

I’m 55 years old and have been married to Albie Posner (Albert) since 1954. Albie is from Brooklyn and was a printer for most of his life. He’s now retired. Albie’s grandparents on his mother’s side emigrated from the Ukraine after a devastating pogrom and settled first in Canada and were farmers before coming to New York. They left Canada when their four daughters were approaching marriageable age so that they could meet Jewish young men. Albie’s father’s parents came from Leningrad (St. Petersburg) and Vilna, Lithuania. He has myotonic dystrophy which is a form of muscular dystrophy that usually has its onset during middle age.

We have two daughters, Laurie, who is 33 and Riva, 31. Laurie is a doctor and is in her second year of residency at Montefiore Hospital in the Bronx. Her specialty is internal medicine. She married last year. Her husband, Jeffrey Levitsky, is a high school English teacher and a (closet?) poet.

Riva just finished law school and has moved to Hartford, Conn. She’s specializing in real estate law.

Laurie has a beautiful, rich singing voice. We thought she might develop it but she thought otherwise (sounds like a reverse scenario). Riva is very artistic and draws and paints well.

Riva is the one who phoned Sandy. She said she was tired of hearing me talk about my father and do nothing — would I mind it if she just called him up? A friend, years ago, had done some writing for your father for the encyclopedia and had told me my father was living in Manhattan Beach. I had never had the courage to contact him, being so certain that he wanted to have nothing to do with me.

When Albie and I got married, we thought we’d live temporarily in Brooklyn until we found an apartment in Manhattan. Here we still are — 35 years later. Eighteen years ago we bought a derelict old brownstone that had been a rooming house — we put two rooms in livable shape, moved in six months later and are still renovating it. (It took a little longer than we thought.) We are nearly finished, at last.

During the summers that the children were growing up I taught arts and crafts at summer camps [especially Wo-Chi-Ca Camp], and the children had their summers in the country. Once they grew old enough to work at camps themselves (and go on a few AYH [American Youth Hostel] bicycle trips) Albie and I took up camping on our vacations. We fell in love with Maine. One summer, when we were camping at Camden Hills State Park we saw Patricia Morehead’s name on a poster for a concert in town. I agonized over whether or not to try to meet her, sure that she must be a relative — but — true to form, I didn’t. Then, about a year later I saw both your names together in the N.Y. Times (were you both then on the faculty of the New England Conservatory of Music?) and wondered whether you were my cousin Philip.

Sandy has told me so much about my father. I know you and Pat were very close to him. I’ve cherished my memory fragments of him, and I wish I had known him. He sounds so much like the kind of person I would have had such pleasure in being with. We seem to have shared many traits and tastes and ideas. [Riva says, “After all mom, half of you is exactly him.”] I feel a very deep sadness in having missed him.

Sandy is such a warm and caring person. I felt so comfortable with her right away. I’m so happy to know her, and to be getting to know you and Pat.

With very great affection,

Binky (Bianca)