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Thursday, February 25, 2010


Haven't blogged for quite a while what with the shit storm that has descended on my body. Truth is I have been on too much of an emotional roller coaster to even consider attempting to be the least bit interesting to read - and as my friend Mr. Raiid would say: "there you have it".

Received word that my old orchestra conductor of the magic years of summer theatre at "Patio Playhouse", Mr. Jack Pingel died. I received a forwarded e mail from my dear friend Matt Capell via Penny Cecchini:

I think all of you remember Jack Pingel? I sadly write to say he passed away yesterday morning.....he had prostate cancer surgery a few years before Andrea and somehow (luckily, in my eyes....) managed to avoid chemotherapy. At any rate, his son, Scott, now principal double-bass with Tilson-Thomas’s San Francisco Symphony Orchestra, a former student of mine – fine fellow – called to say they’d thought perhaps Jack had H1N1 flu....tests/scans showed the usual pattern....the cancer had spread to the bones and was very, very fast spreading throughout the internal organs. Thankfully, then, the worse days were only about two weeks – nevertheless – pain for everyone.

In the event you’d like to get in touch:

Carol Pingel
1276 Virgin Lake Dr.
Stoughton, WI 53589

Scott tells me he will establish a memorial scholarship for contributions in Jack’s memory at UWEC....

Jack was an immensely talented musician from a musical family. His dad was a regional band leader in this area for years. What I remember most about Jack was his enthusiasm, intensity, and wild sense of humor as our director of shows like "A Funny Thing Happened On The Way to the Forum". He would be directing the pit band with the baton and when an actor's singing entrance was due, he would suddenly thrust his baton wildly in the direction of the singer, his bespectacled countenance screwed in total concentration. It got so I would memorize my entrances because if I didn't I would have broken up laughing from his antics.

He loved to direct musical theatre and always looked forward to the summer schedule of shows. It was customary on opening night for cast and crew to head over to Austin's White House for late dinner and cocktails. Jack, still attired in his tuxedo, would hold forth for the entire evening and the fortunate of us shared a table with him and his wonderful wife Carol. He would do most anything for a laugh, the more outrageous, the better. I recall that one night while pretending to be deep in conversation, he picked up a dinner roll, tore it open, stabbed a pat of butter and while talking intently began buttering the roll but then continued on up his wrist and the sleeve of his jacket.

Another time he was giving Carol a hard time so to "top" him, she reached over and grabbed his snap on bow tie, wrenched it from his neck, and without looking, tossed it backwards over her head. It landed in the middle of some startled diners entrees. Jack quickly got up and retrieved the errant tie exclaiming in a very loud voice: "you'll have to excuse my wife. She is very drunk!"

Speaking of very drunk, I don't recall now which show we were doing (I think it was The Fantastiks) but we were all pretty excited when the news broke that the Minneapolis Tribune was sending down a reviewer to cover opening night. Jack was assigned meet and greet. He took the young man out to The White House and proceeded to fill him with potent cocktails. When it got to be time to leave for the theatre, Jack waited patiently at the bar for the reviewer's return from the men's room. After an inordinate amount of time, Jack felt he had best go check on his charge. He found him in one of the stalls, pants around his ankles, totally passed out.

The reviewer never did show up at the performance but the show got a hell of a review in the next day's paper. Pingel strikes yet again!

His musical instincts were always with him. I visited with him in McFarland one weekend. We were in his car, stopped at a red light adjacent to a "Stop 'N Go" gas station and small grocery. The sign was one that the three words "stop" lit in red, 'N lit in yellow, and "Go" lit in green, would flash in sequence. Jack observed this and then began: "Stop and go - rest - stop and go - rest - stop and go - rest!

Here is his obituary for those of us he touched so deeply:

Pingel, John T. "Jack"
The Heavens are rejoicing as Jack T. Pingel, beloved husband, father and grandfather was taken by cancer just before sunrise at HospiceCare on Tuesday, Feb. 23, 2010. He is mercifully, peacefully and joyously reunited in dignity with our ancestors, friends and God. Jack was a tremendous man that blessed thousands of people with his work as a music educator in McFarland and Madison schools and as the associate executive director of the Wisconsin School Music Association. Words cannot describe the joy and humor that Jack brought to all that met him. "Jack Pingel Stories" will live on in the hearts and minds of all that had the honor to know him and work with him. The "Jack Gene" lives strong through his children and vibrant grandchildren. He was an intense man that dedicated his life to helping others with his generosity, endless work ethic, kind spirit and crazy sense of humor. He is survived by his wife, Carole (Elwood) Pingel of Stoughton; and his three children, Anne Pingel-Nichols (Bob Nichols) of McFarland, Greg Pingel of Blue Mounds, and Scott Pingel (Iris Lee Pingel) of San Francisco. His spirit lives on through his five grandchildren, Ethan and Zach Nichols, Allie Rae and Alex Pingel, and Hannah Pingel. Jack was born in Eau Claire on March 7, 1937, the son of Olga (Enger) Pingel and John T. Pingel Jr. Memorial services will be held on Friday, Feb. 26, 2010, at 11 a.m. at CHRIST THE KING CATHOLIC CHURCH, 5306 Main St., McFarland, with Father D. Stephen Smith officiating. The family will greet friends on Thursday, Feb. 25, 2010, from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. at the OLSON-HOLZHUTER-CRESS FUNERAL HOME in McFarland, and again at church on Friday from 10 a.m. until the time of service. In lieu of flowers, memorials may be made to the University of Wisconsin, Eau Claire Foundation Jack Pingel Scholarship, in care of the family, or to the McFarland Education Foundation.
Olson-Holzhuter-Cress Funeral and Cremation Service 5801 Highway 51 McFarland (608) 838-0655 www.cressfuneralservice.com .



My son David, worried about his pops, took some time off the job in NYC and flew in yesterday. I really appreciate his being here as he has a great sense of humor. Yesterday at lunch I was telling him of a recent gig in Arena, Wisconsin, for a farm cooperative and how there was a contingent of Amish farmers present which gave me pause as I have no idea what the Amish find funny.
David asked if I got heckled by the Amish. Well, that got me laughing uncontrollably - I mean what a concept! and mid laughter I said: "GET THEE OFF THE STAGE" which got us both roaring to tears.

It is difficult to express how much I owe my dear wife Kim for her constant love throughout this latest health crisis. She has truly been my shelter in the storm. She has totally dedicated her time and herself to me, arriving at the hospital at 7 AM to be certain to have input with the doctors. I really owe it to her to get out of this current funk and face the music with a positive outlook.

I also want to extend my thanks to all my friends that have e mailed or telephoned their concern about my current health situation. When something like this happens it makes me stop, think, and reshuffle priorities. And be more thankful for having another day.

And as much as I dislike being hospitalized, I want to offer sincere thanks to the nursing staff at Sacred Heart Hospital who put up with my curmudgeonly attitude for three days. And my apologies for being a dick.




1 comment:

KezCaL said...

Mr. Wonderful aka Mr. Pingel was the best choir instructor and extemporaneous speaking coach I will ever know. His animated humor was truly one-of-a-kind...my favorite joke to this day being the regular "my wife is so ugly she has to wear a bag over her head" joke...even though Carol is a beauty. I love Mr. Pingel and he is the one teacher that has left a permenant imprint on my life.