Peter Stanley




Peter playing at Royal Orchard, at Sara and Stephen's wedding in 2006

 

Peter Stanley Movie

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Peter & Christopher playing Ruben James, Fun with Sam, Kakee & Peter

 

 

Peter Stanley died on February 7, 2012 with Ginny and Meredith by his side.
This is a good place to pull together some notes people have sent.

We grew up at the Briary, the farm which is located directly across the Rapidan River.  Most of you may think that the life of three brothers all born within a five-year time frame, living on a farm must have been a blissful experience.  It was.  But we had occasional fights—no more than six or seven within any given day.  So, early on Dad established some rules: No biting and no clawing.  Broken arms were okay so long as they were broken legally.
         Whatever we did, Dad wanted us to do it to the best of our ability.  He would tell us that he didn’t care if we aspired to be a ditch digger; we simply needed to be the best ditch digger we could be.  Therefore, he ensured we were all enrolled in wrestling.  Not only could we wrestle each other and inflict lots of pain but we would also be able to grapple the problems life would throw our way.
         I was the youngest so I became used to having my face serve as a mop.  I remember one particularly brutal fight with George.  I had blood streaming down my face and felt like I was going to die of asphyxiation.  Managing to break free in a moment of strength, I was able to get George into a headlock.  Immediately, Chris and Dad, who had been enjoying this spectacle for some time, swooped in and pried me off of George.
         You see, not all headlocks are equal; I had put George in an illegal headlock which is illegal because you can break someone’s neck.  While admittedly that may have been my intention, all I could do was sit restrained and in frustration brood over the injustice of it all.
         Dad had the ability to boil things down to the essentials and defuse any situation.  He would tell us: “I can’t keep you from fighting but I wish you wouldn’t because you’re really going to need each other someday.”
         Probably Dad’s greatest gift to us was each other.  He ensured we were constantly working as a team from running Rapidan Fur Traders, a business we started where we ran a trap line and sold animal pelts, to going on camping, hiking and canoeing trips together.  He reinforced the lesson that we could do more together than we could on our own.
         Outdoor adventures were his favorite pastime.  After we moved to Richmond, he would often call on a Friday afternoon from his office and tell me to load up the packs and get ready for a weekend of hiking and camping on the Appalachian Trail.
         Dad was clearly more at home in the woods and open air than anywhere else. He and I traveled many miles together on long bicycle trips.  One in particular was a 90 mile ride from Richmond to Urbanna.  I think I was thirteen.  We got a late start and on a remote country road after the sun had set, we accepted we were lost.  Wearing nothing but our cycling clothes, we found a patch of woods and laid down on the forest floor to wait out the night.  Dad had a small pouch on his bike which contained a knife, matches and cheese.  We built a campfire and the next thing I knew Dad was trying to wake me from my frozen slumber.  He had brushed the dying embers aside and we slept on the warm patch left by the fire.  We may as well have been sleeping on an electric blanket.
         He taught us that the most important element of wilderness survival is maintaining a positive attitude and to recognize what can and can’t be done to improve one’s situation.
         He carried that mindset with him throughout his life and it was memorialized at his AA meetings with the Serenity Prayer (many of you know it well):

                  God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
                  The courage to change the things I can,
                  And the wisdom to know the difference.

Jimmy Stanley
February 18, 2012

 

My favorite memories of Dad were when our family lived at the Briary farm here in Rapidan when I was a kid. He was working intermittently as an alcoholism counselor, a musician, and in his guitar shop, which allowed him a great deal of time for me and my brothers. He taught us many things such as hunting, trapping, astronomy, bow and arrow making, blow gun making, pipe bomb making, distance shooting, rock climbing, canoeing, camping, music, woodcraft, knife making, animal training, wild bird raising, survival skills including tad pole swallowing, snake catching, wild mushroom eating, and more….
         I remember him waking me one summer night with a flashlight shining down on my bed and he whispered into my ear that he could hear the big one. My brothers and I would put on various army fatigues and drive with him through the moonlit fields to a cow creek to wade into the muddy water. He always told me to “think like a frog” and I would crouch up to my nose in the water with my flashlight to sneak up into the alcoves in the banks to grab the biggest bullfrogs.
         We started our first business with Dad called the Rapidan Fur People. We placed 25 steel traps along the Rapidan River, and worked to catch raccoons, foxes, and beaver to sell in town. I remember one winter morning Dad and I checked the trap line, and we caught two raccoons and a possum. That was a big day. The raccoons sold for $42 each and the possum sold for $5.
         He built us mouse traps to catch live mice in our farmhouse. We would tie them with yarn to our shirt buttons and take them to school in our pockets. We drew a lot of attention on those days.
         Another time, Dad spotted a crow’s nest in the top of a tree.  From a nearby hill, we observed the nest for weeks with binoculars until the time was right.  I watched Dad climb to the top of that 75 foot tree with only a short rope to shimmy up the trunk. He came down with one baby crow which we raised and then a couple of weeks later he climbed the tree again to get the last two crows so my brothers and I could each have one.
         I am very lucky to have had a dad who had so much time for us and who had such unique interests and perspective on life. He loved his family. I love and miss him and will always be proud that he was my father.

George Stanley
February 18, 2012

 

The Road

Dad was always the one in our family to make the speeches—not that the rest of us were particularly adept at being quiet, or ever at a loss for things to say.  It was more a timing issue.
            Dad always seemed to know when to say things. He had the uncanny ability to tell a relatively basic story, and upon conclusion, you would find yourself pretty convinced that you had not only learned the meaning of life, but were quite positive you had learned it from the smartest man in the world.
            And somehow, he had not only imparted this wonderful wisdom upon you, but had covertly snuck between the lines of his conversation some interesting tidbits about himself that helped to justify the fact that you should sit down, listen to, and strongly consider taking his advice.
            Dad would say things like “Between my tenure at Harvard, and working on a top secret mission in Vietnam, I canoed across Norway with my close friend Sam Huntington, who later I climbed Denali with, so I would have to agree with you, that the snow fall in this part of the world is truly beautiful. And it’s nice, that in this area, we don’t have to worry as much about the load bearing physics of snow and ice on roof structures, like I had to when I designed and built my cabin in the the Alaskan wilderness….”
            Well, this kind of response would send your mind soaring, and you would instantly forget about the fact that you had simply made a comment about the snow fall in Virginia. You would find yourself confused upon which topic you wanted to tap into first, and you’d ask yourself:  Did he just say canoeing across Norway, top secret mission in Vietnam, Denali, Harvard, cabin in Alaska? Then he had you!
            Next thing you knew, you were sharing visions of flying down a frozen moose trail on a snow machine through the Alaskan Wilderness at 2 AM under a bright moon with the slopes of Denali in the background. Your mind would dance with thoughts of unending adventures.
            And somewhere during the course of the conversation, you would notice that behind him, there was a guitar leaning up against the wall, and you’d say something like. “That's a pretty neat looking old Martin, do you play guitar?”
            You see, Dad was a little different. For most of us, we tend to find ourselves dealing with situations that create experiences. We tend to put a limit on our willingness to put ourselves into situations, and that, ultimately stifles our ability to have different experiences. 
            There's a difference between adventures and situations and, while experiences are the result of both, to Dad situations were things that happen in everyday life.
            They were not the road itself. While some roads are paved, some are gravel, and some are paths. Some don't look like a passage at all. In life, it’s inevitable that you find yourself scrapping with a situation that is the result of a road that you may have blindly meandered down, and may have had no intention of traveling in the first place.
            These situations—that are only applicable to that road—tend to give us experiences that can be less than fulfilling. Dad somehow, had the foresight to pick the road—or passage—that allowed him to battle the situations that he was more comfortable with, and that road—or passage—would usually have a little sign over it that simply read, adventure.
            This in turn would create a whole different set of situations, thus creating a totally different experience. He occasionally would break through the woods, and find himself back on the main road, dealing with situations that are again only applicable to that road. It was only a matter of time before he would take a turn off the road and bushwhack if necessary.
            I think to Dad, the main road was relatively predictable, and he found himself internally fighting the mundane travel that can only be afforded by the pavement that most of us use. It sapped his energy—like it does for most of us—and from somewhere inside, he could not hold back the urge to take the road less traveled.
            Dad received his share of scars from the road less traveled. While it could be argued that it’s easier to stay out of the brush and avoid the scars, I think Dad was looking at the people who had traveled the paved road before him, and came to the conclusion early, that all routes lead to the finish line.
            I believe, in his mind, it was more a question of how you want to get there.
            As I walk down the road of my life, dealing with everyday situations, I occasionally look off to the side and notice Dad’s footprints heading off through the underbrush. And I am left in admiration, for the charisma, and personal fortitude of my father.

Christopher Stanley
February 18, 2012

 

My uncle, Peter Stanley, died last night. He was a hero to me and to most people who knew him. He was an exceptional athlete, an adventurer, a gifted musician, and had a serious intellect. He loved his family, he loved to push his body to its limits, he loved to sing and play, and he loved a good laugh.

Sara Scott Adamson

 

Jimmy's dad, the invincible Peter Stanley, passed away peacefully last night. I wish I could hear the campfire songs being sung in heaven this morning...

Annie Plummer Stanley

 

Goodbye Uncle Peter. We love you. He set the tone for our family—and he had perfect pitch.

Kakee Scott

 

RIP Uncle Peter. May new adventures and songs await you where ever you are.

A tribute to one of the most remarkable men I know and a childhood hero: my Uncle Peter. A Harvard man who climbed Denali, built a cabin with his bare hands, and shot down a charging bear. He told the most fascinating stories and sang with the most amazing voice. He lived his 73 years on Earth to the fullest and will always be my inspiration to drink life to the most.

Richard Stanley

 

Dear Uncle Peter,

I know I've told you this before, but it can't be said too many times: you're the reason I became a musician. I wanted to play and sing like you did. Twenty-seven years of playing guitar later, I know that I will never play like you; but your music is in my heart and my head, always, and the longer I play, the more I get back to the place where it all began: sitting around a campfire, wrapped in blankets, over-full of Smores, listening to your beautiful voice and amazing guitar playing.

On my altar at home I have a number of beloved objects—pictures of me with my grandparents, the old coffee jar that my Grandfather Scott used to keep M&Ms in, various treasures found throughout the years—and one of the most precious is a picture of you and me playing guitar together in the barn at Royal Orchard (taken in 2004, I believe). I look at it every day and I think about the gift you gave me, when I was just a little girl sitting by a campfire, singing along with you & thinking you were the coolest guy in the universe and soaking up inspiration from you. Sometimes when I see it I remember seeing Christopher's little daughter Harper toddle across the firelight and kiss him while he played guitar—also at Round The World Rock, in 2009, the last time I saw all of you—and it makes me realize how this music has held us together across generations, even when other bonds have grown weak. Someday, sometime, one of my records is going to be called 'Hard Times In the Country', and that one will be dedicated to you.

You inspired me with your music and your musicianship, with your knowledge of the outdoors, with the amazing lists you made for your camping and climbing expeditions (I remember studying them in fascination when I came to stay with you as a teenager, and to this day, I don't pack for a trip without making a list first), with the easygoing happiness of your family—and with your constant kindness and sweetness to me.

I wish I had seen more of you, and I wish I'd told you more often how much you mean to me. You will be missed, and remembered; but I hope most sincerely that what lies next for you is another journey, another adventure, one without pain and full of joy. I send all my love to you and to your family, and I hope that all this night, in peaceful sleep, you dream of shady summertime, and old dogs, and children, and watermelon wine.

With love, your most devoted fan and almost-niece,

Alexandra Scott

 

Dear Peter,

I just heard from my mother that you are not doing well. I would preferred to have written you a letter, but given that I am in France for the year, I thought that an email was the best way for you to get something quickly.

I want you to know,first and foremost, how much and often I think about you. One of the defining chapters in my life was when Billy and I moved to Alaska to build our cabin. My whole life, I had heard about your and Ginny's experience building your cabin, and it had always been a wonderfully entertaining and inspiring story. After we decided to try to follow in your footsteps, I remember coming to your house with Marianne, Billy, Philip and Mike Millner to watch a slide show and to talk to you about your experience. That was the first time I had really heard your whole life story—from riding a moose at Keewadin, to wrestling at Harvard, to Army intelligence in Vietnam, to the protest movement in Boston, to Merrill Lynch, to Alaska, and then back to Virginia.

Since then,whenever people people have asked me how we decided to build a cabin in Alaska,I always start with your life story. I don't claim to possess the talents that you do, particularly on the musical front, but there is something about your life story that has always made me feel a special kinship to you. Other than the obvious connections of wrestling and Alaska, there was a restlessness about you, a desire to have non-conventional experiences and chapters in your life, that I see in myself.

I will always remember when you kindly joined us at our cabin in 2001 for the 10 year anniversary of the building of our cabin. I remember seeing 15-20 people gathered around the campfire listening to you and the many other musical people play songs until the wee hours of the evening. While I will always wish that I could have heard you play in the Fairview Inn when you and Ginny lived in Alaska, I consider it a great honor to have had you visit and play in our neck of the Alaskan woods.

The last time I heard you play was at Royal Orchard in September of 2008. You were staying in Clover Cottage with Alfred. After the picnic, Dad, Jack and I sat on the front lawn of Clover and listened to you and your boys play and sing. It was a beautiful evening. It may not have been that different from many of your musical sessions with your family, but it was magical for us. We knew that Dad would probably die shortly and that this was probably our last time at Royal Orchard with him. He had such a wonderful time listening to you that night,as did I.

Thank you for that night, and for the inspiration that you have provided for me over the years. You are one of my heros and I will never forget you.

Love,

Alex Bocock

 

I am very sorry to hear about Peter. He was an inspiration to me in so many ways and I considered him a good friend. He was always the first person I would seek out at the Christmas party. I wanted to hear the stories I had heard before, new ones, or just talk about what was happening in the world. We had so many common bonds and interests that it was great to be with him. Alaska represented so many important things that I admired in Peter. It was a place that welcomed free spirits, let us experience new things, gave us true adventure, and allowed a special camaraderie with friends that can only be found by living simply. Peter stood so tall in my eyes, and he resonated with me on so many levels that I never saw him in the context of his family or community, I only saw him as a true individual and a deep source of imagination, light and strength. I liked knowing him and being around him. I will miss him but he will live with me for the rest of my life. Thank you and thanks Peter.

I wish you well over the next few months. I know once you have grieved he will sit with you as a source of inspiration and strength.

Love,

Billy Reed

 

Meredith, Sara and Kakee,

We are so sorry to hear about Peter's death. He was an awesome man, and speaking as someone who loves music, family, adventure and nature, I mean that quite literally: he was awe inspiring to me. He inspired thousands of people who want to live a life closer to music and family and nature but may choose not to because they are afraid or lazy or distracted. He was none of those things. He was courageous and energetic and laser-focused on what really mattered in life. At least that is how I saw him and will remember him, and I suspect most will agree with me. He would be on my short list of "men who I would like to be like" and even though I know it is better now that he (and others around him) can rest from his struggle, it is still a hell of a loss to this world and our family and our community. I really really hope that in his death people will be reminded of how much courage and energy it takes to be our best selves, and will rededicate themselves to that purpose in his honor.

I cannot imagine that we will see you all this Sunday at home here in NYC or Monday at school, but please know that we love you all and I really feel sadness that Peter Stanley is gone. That said, we will rejoice in his memory and I am going to try to learn some of his songs on the guitar.

Murray & Em Fisher

 

Dear Meredith,

Not long after we talked Peter moved on, and as hard as it is to realize he isn't with us anymore we have to be glad for him to be released from that atrocious, life-sucking disease.

Mary Buford

 

Darling Meredith,

I am deeply saddened to hear that you have lost your precious brother Peter. What a guy. What a talent. What talent you were together and what a very special family you all made together with your love of music and family. I will always hold Alfred's cd of your music as very special, and I got one for Erin and Jesse out on Salt Spring and I have heard them play is it with pleasure. A true legacy made with respect, affection and love.

Peter will always stay on in the hearts and minds of those he touched in his not-quite-long-enough life. He is not gone. Just departed.

With love to all of you and mostly to Ginny with whom I will be in touch once I get my new hip in ten days.

Leezee Porter

 

Dear Ginny,

I just saw Peter's obituary in the newspaper, and I regret that I cannot come to Rapidan on Sat. I will be out of town.

I know the recent past has been a long, hard slog for both of you, and I am glad that you both will finally get some peace from those troubles.

But, I know you and your family must be grieving for Peter's death, and I guess it must have been frustrating to watch Peter struggle so in recent years, given all that had gone before.

My earliest memories of Peter are of this banjo-picking wizard who showed up at the Philadelphia Quarry Club one day (where I was lifeguarding) and proceeded to dazzle all of us with his banjo skills and swimming stamina. I will never forget that! I shall truly miss the person who so impressed me so long ago. Peter was also the first person I ever knew who had a recumbent bike, and I was sorely tempted to buy one for myself after talking to him at length about it. I decided to just give up bike-riding instead!

I will be thinking of all of you these days, and I am truly sorry for your loss.

Wat Ellerson

Dennis Brown, Ginny and Peter Stanley

Peter has been on by mind lately. I wrote the pilot for Northern Exposure. Your dad's character is Walt. I never got to tell him. I always thought I would get around to it and now I can't. Carol and I spent the day crying and listening to his music when we discovered he was gone. You have wonderful parents. Your mom was the prettiest lady I've ever met. I am so sorry for your loss.

Dennis Brown

The Northern Exposure character based on Peter was "Walt Kupfer" played by Moultrie Patten. Walt appeared on the show in the following episodes

Season 4 (1993)
Episode 17 "Love's Labour Mislaid"
Episode 20 "Homesick"
Episode 23 "Mud and Blood"
Episode 25 "Old Tree"

Season 5 (1993-1994)
Episode 4 "Altered Egos"
Episode 5 "A River Doesn't Run Through It"
Episode 8 "Heal Thyself"
Episode 9 "A Cup of Joe"
Episode 10 "First Snow"
Episode 11 "Baby Blues"
Episode 12 "Mr. Sandman"
Episode 15 "Hello, I Love You"
Episode 16 "Northern Hospitality"
Episode 17 "Una Volta in L'Inverno"
Episode 18 "Fish Story"
Episode 19 "The Gift of the Maggie"
Episode 20 "A Wing and a Prayer"
Episode 24 "Lovers and Madmen"

Season 6 (1994-1995)
Episode 1 "Dinner at Seven Thirty"
Episode 2 "Eye of the Beholder"
Episode 3 "Shofar, So Good"
Episode 4 "The Letter"
Episode 5 "The Robe"
Episode 6 "Zarya"
Episode 7 "Full Upright Position"
Episode 8 "Up River"
Episode 9 "Sons of the Tundra"
Episode 10 "Realpolitik"
Episode 11 "The Great Mushroom"
Episode 12 "Mi Casa, Su Casa"
Episode 13 "Horns"
Episode 14 "The Mommy's Curse"
Episode 18 "Little Italy"
Episode 19 "Balls"
Episode 21 "Ursa Minor"
Episode 22 "Let's Dance"
Episode 23 "Tranquility Base"

Dennis Brown also wrote the book "Talkeetna Good Time" about his experiences in Talkeetna.

 

Peter and Ginny Stanley built a cabin in Talkeetna in the 1970s and when we did our first record in 1975, we needed a 'record company'—so we called ourselves Talkeetna Records. When we created the Peter Stanley Collection of his music in 1998, we started the Talkeetna.com website to promote the music.

With the advance of Parkinson's disease in Peter, we decided to shut down Talkeetna Records. We are leaving these stories of Peter on the Rosegill website.

Peter Stanley's music is available in the iTunes music store, and you can hear samples on YouTube—just search for Peter Stanley, and you'll find it. To purchase a Peter Stanley Collection, please contact Alfred Scott at alfred@seqair.com

Peter Stanley

Growing Up     To Alaska     Union Grove     The Briary

Marathon     Mount Ranier & Mount McKinley     Nepal

Chris Stanley

Growing Up

 

YouTube Videos

Peter Stanley
The Golden Vanity
Old Dogs & Children and Watermelon Wine
A Capital Ship
I Went Downtown To Get My Purse
Sioux City Sue

Chris Stanley
Unwed Mothers

Libby Dunton
Lord Franklin
Streets of London
Banks of the Ohio