No matter how you slice it, the Arts Festival is a family event. We aren’t the venue for outlandish performance art or music that would make Tipper Gore raise an eyebrow. Our audience members often make a tradition of attending, if not with their biological family, then with close friends from their Penn State days, co-workers, church folks, or neighbors.
The Festival is a family event in one other way too. The folks behind the scenes are a family, too. No, we’re not all genetically related, but many of us have been working together long enough to form what social scientists call a family of affinity. I started volunteering in the mid-1980s, and some of our senior volunteers predate me. Sure, there are lots of newer folks. Like the more senior members of the clan, they’ve earned their stripes working long hours in sometimes adverse conditions during the Festival in July, or at First Night State College, the Festival’s junior sibling. And as is the case with biological families, we’ve had lots of laughs and tears along the way.
And so it was that we were especially touched by the death last week, of one of our special volunteers, Dick Baney. Dick was the father of Carol Baney, our Director of Operations. Dick and his wife Shirley were an added bonus when Carol joined the Festival’s paid staff 20 years ago. For twenty years, they were two of our go-to volunteers. They specialized in “other duties as assigned”.
Dick and Shirley were such good volunteers, that last summer, Mr. and Mrs. B (as I call them) received the Festival’s Brian Ebright Award—given for an appetite for hard work, AND a zest for life. Trust me, the award was long overdue.
Dick Baney was a local guy, born in Bellefonte, the county seat, in February 1937. He was a graduate of Bellefonte Area High School, and while in high school, played in the Bellefonte American Legion band. That’s where he met his wife-to-be, Shirley.
He subsequently served in the 442 Quartermaster Corps of the U.S. Army, and worked at Cerro Copper and Brass for thirty-three years, prior to his retirement in 2005.
After retirement, he delivered flowers for Avant Garden, a retail florist here in State College, and owned by his son, Allen. The gig proved to be the perfect job for a kind man with a ready smile who knew the quickest way to drive from point A to point B anywhere in Centre County. Nothing could make grown women beam like the sight of Dick Baney ringing their doorbell with a beautiful flower arrangement in hand. Dogs liked to see him coming too. He learned to not only say it with flowers, but with Milk-Bones, too.
Mr. B loved to fish and enjoyed teaching his children and grandsons to fish. He loved fishing with them both after and before they learned to bait hooks and untangle their lines. He even managed to teach them the lesson my father wasn’t able to teach me: fishing is fun even if the fish don’t bite. He particularly enjoyed camping with his family at Little Pine State Park and at Centre County’s other summer institution, The Grange Fair.
Mr. B did his part to make his hometown a better place. He was a life member of the Undine Fire Department, the Central District Firemen’s Association, and St. John’s United Church of Christ. No one else could make oatmeal for the Lenten Breakfast quite like Dick Baney.
When we recognized his and his wife’s years of service to the Festival, we noted that as fork lift driver for First Night State College, that over twenty years, he had forklifted into place about 480,000 pounds of ice—that’s the equivalent of 32 elephants. Our ice carvers couldn’t start to work until Dick got that ice into just the right spot.
Mr. B is survived by his wife Shirley (Mrs. B.), daughter, Carol, son Allen and his wife Katie, and grandsons Ross and Ian, along with seven nieces. I have one niece, how the man managed seven is beyond me!
Carol Baney and I often say that the Festival depends on her family and my friends. Dick was both of those things.