Friday, May 30, 2008

Requiscat in Pace

Jane Arden Stoneback

Sparrow-Jane Arden Stoneback-singer-songwriter of
international reputation,
paragon of grit and grace, wit and will, during her long
fight with lung cancer and all her life, passed away May
25th at Cumberland County Hospital in Kentucky. Born in
Carter County, in the eastern Kentucky hill-country,
daughter of Alice and Richard Hillman, she made her home
in the Hudson Valley for the past four decades. Before
moving to Highland in 1969, she lived in Alabama, Florida,
Hawaii, Kentucky, New Orleans, South Jersey, and
Tennessee. She also lived and traveled extensively
abroad, especially in France and China.
She studied at Vanderbilt University, the
University of Paris, and Peking University. She taught and
tutored English language students and lectured on folksong
in France and China. Other work experience included a year
in Hawaii as Executive Assistant to the President of one
of the largest Pacific Rim firms, three years in Nashville
as national troubleshooter for General Electric, and many
years in the emergency room admissions department of
Benedictine Hospital in Kingston. She was also a writer
who published essays, poems, and songs.
During a forty-five year singing career as
the better half of the duo "Stoney & Sparrow," she
achieved national and international renown as a singer
through her powerful and nuanced performances of folk,
country, and gospel songs as well as her own compositions.
She made concert tours and television and radio
appearances throughout Asia, Europe, and North America
under the auspices of the British Council, the Fulbright
Program, USIA (the US State Department), and many other
cultural organizations and institutions. She performed in
Austria, China, Czechoslovakia, Denmark, England, France,
Germany, Greece, Hong Kong, Ireland, Italy, Malaysia, the
Philippines, Poland, Russia, Singapore, Spain, Thailand
and other countries as well as in most of the fifty states
and throughout the Caribbean.
In 1984 she sang all over China and several
albums featuring her singing were major hit recordings
there-said to be the first million-selling records by an
American in China. In 2006 a 2-CD album, "Stoney &
Sparrow: Songs of Place 1962-2006," was released (recorded
live in New Paltz). In 2007 another album-"Overcoming:
Live in Alabama, China, and the Hudson Valley"-was
released, featuring earlier concert performances and
dedicated to the Hope Lodge in Nashville, where cancer
patients at the Vanderbilt Medical Center reside during
Closer to home, Sparrow was well known for her
performances in the Hudson Valley, especially at SUNY-New
Paltz where she performed annually for many years. The
world that she made in her singing was inseparable from
her role as gracious host and adoptive mother to the
extended family of generations of SUNY-New Paltz students
that she welcomed to her home, their home. This community,
this communion of students and teachers, poets and
writers, salutes her as muse:
"Her children arise up, and call her blessed; her
husband also, and he praiseth her."
(Proverbs 31:28)
She is survived by her husband of forty-six
years, H. R. ("Stoney"-Distinguished Professor of English
at SUNY-New Paltz), her son Rick (CEO of the Cumberland
County Hospital in Kentucky) and his wife Robin, her son
Gregg (Professor of English at Westfield State College in
Massachusetts) and his wife Nancy, and her four
grandchildren, Adam and Lee (Westfield, MA) and Rachel and
Richard (Marrowbone, KY).