Remembering Tony Parkes

Tony Parkes — an influential and inspiring dance leader, composer, and author — died on May 6, 2024. His beloved wife, Beth Parkes, wrote, “Tony left us this afternoon. I was able to be with him for much of the day and was with him when he died. It was peaceful.”

Tony was a giant in the traditional social dance community. Humble, skilled, generous, thorough, talented, caring… these are all apt characterizations of the man whose self-described debilitating shyness was overcome through his involvement with square and contra dances.

Tony possessed grace, clarity, humor, poise, depth of knowledge, and a mellifluous voice — all of which made dancing to (and with) him a delight. Among his other traits, he was graced with deep spiritual faith, was a gifted writer, and loved performing Gilbert & Sullivan.

Yes, he is in Wikipedia, although the entry doesn’t mention his latest—and utterly brilliant—contribution to dance leadership: Square Dance Calling: An Old Art for a New Century. Any caller (or dancer or musician, for that matter) can glean valuable skills and perspective from both of Tony’s books on calling; plus, his prose is a pleasure to read!

In an episode of the From the Mic podcast, Tony describes his entrance into the dance world, some early and ongoing influences, and the philosophy and values that guided his leadership practice. A bonus episode features clips from Tony’s audio archives.

Tony was a core consultant for the Square Dance History Project, and you can find more about him there (including these interviews).

The journal entries on Tony’s Caring Bridge website provide a glimpse into his last months, as mysterious health issues were diagnosed as a brain tumor (specifically, glioblastoma) and he navigated treatments before entering hospice care.

The world was a better place because of Tony Parkes, and he is already dearly missed.

Memorial Gatherings for Tony will be Memorial Day weekend:

  • Saturday, May 25, 10:00 am Memorial Eucharist at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Bedford, followed by interment of Tony’s ashes in the Memorial Garden and a reception in the Parish Hall.
  • Sunday, May 26, (exact times TBD, but afternoon into evening) Potluck dinner, memorial, and dance with many callers and musicians at the Concord Scout House

Memorial Donations in Tony’s honor may be made to:

  • The New England Folk Festival Association (Tony attended the annual festival every year, from 1969-2023. In 2024, a special tribute session honored his contributions; Tony watched the recording while in hospice care.)
    P.O. Box 2789, Acton MA 01720
  • St. Paul’s Episcopal Church (Tony & Beth’s home church)
    100 Pine Hill Road, Bedford, MA 01730
  • Tony Parkes GoFundMe will help pay Tony’s hospital and funeral expenses

BFS Board ~ Celebrating Margo Burnham

Margo Burnham joined the Belfast Flying Shoes Board of Directors in June of 2023, at an intense time in the Covid-19 pandemic. As BFS adapted in multiple ways to the upheaval, both the board and the organization itself were blessed to have Margo’s guidance and encouragement. She brought a wealth of nonprofit board & staff experience, and was an invaluable advisor regarding program development, fundraising, and nonprofit practices. We especially appreciated Margo’s ability to calmly listen and give thoughtful feedback, from straightforward suggestions for simple improvements to gentle guidance on systemic change. And her positive outlook is unparalleled!

Margo served as president of the Board, facilitating and participating in meetings with kindness, grace, and, as another board member characterized it, humane leadership. With the return of most BFS programs amidst continued organizational changes, Margo offered to extend her 3 year term by a few more months. On March 26, the BFS Board accepted Margo’s resignation with gratitude for her service to what she dubbed “the best board ever!”

The BFS Board and ED are glad to know that Margo intends to stay connected. While we will miss her leadership presence, we celebrate her taking time to drink many cups of tea, spend time with her family, and focus on other responsibilities — including working as a program advisor for the Nature Conservancy and managing the 87th year of her family’s vacation cottage business. Thank you, Margo, for your devotion to Belfast Flying Shoes!



Remembering Don Osier
“Live a happy, healthy, productive life and help others do the same.”

Maine’s contra dance community lost a broad-smiling, thoughtful presence when Don Osier died on February 8. His partner, Sarah, sent us the obituary that is copied below. She explained that Don had cardiac bypass surgery this past October. In February he had surgery to correct what they thought was a relatively minor issue, but it became a major surgery and he died from complications. Don’s family is planning a celebration of his life in the spring.

On the dance floor, Don was an exemplar of gentlemanly behavior: considerate, polite, and courteous. He had a zesty swing, and delighted in sharing dancing with others (including his work colleagues, for whom he hosted a dance with the Franklin County Fiddlers upon his University of Maine retirement.)

After dancing was paused during the pandemic, Don occasionally emailed items of interest: podcasts about the human experience, songs with lyrics he found powerful, news of fellow dancers, and even an occasional photo. He valued connection, especially through singing and dancing in community with others.

There’s not always time between a do-si-do and allemande left to deeply acquaint ourselves with our fellow dancers — people who are complex, interesting, and multi-faceted. But when we take the time, we realize what a gift it is to connect with them. Don Osier was a person to treasure. He will be missed.

The view of the harbor in winter

Donald Osier Obituary

Donald Osier, 72, died peacefully at sunrise on Thursday, February 8 after a brief illness. Donald was born on September 14, 1951 to Theodore Osier, a New Harbor native, and Lois Osier from a Connecticut farming family. Raised in Manchester, Connecticut, Donald graduated from Manchester High School, then attended and graduated from Bates College in 1973. He also earned a master’s degree in counseling from Michigan State University.

Don lived by the following mission: “Live a happy, healthy, productive life, and help others do the same.” He worked in education his whole life – as a science teacher in Hanover, MA, a guidance counselor in Owl’s Head, and in different capacities in the University of Maine system for 31 years. For many years prior to his retirement in 2019, Don served as the Director of Learning Success at the University of Maine at Augusta.

Don moved to his father’s family home in New Harbor in 1992. He relished his deepening friendships with neighbors and friends, some of whom he had known since childhood. He also enjoyed making improvements to the house, fishhouse and wharf, helping neighbors, and tending his garden. He loved it when people would pull over, roll down the car window and say how much they admired his prized gladiola patch.

Don loved to sing and dance. Over the years he sang classical choral music, barbershop, madrigals, community theater, and opera. He performed with a number of Midcoast Maine’s wonderful choral groups including Tapestry Singers, Oratorio Chorale and the St. Cecilia Chamber Choir.

An enthusiastic contra dancer, Don went to dances all over Maine as well as contra dance festivals and camps in 18 other states, England, and St. Croix. Contra dance was even part of Don’s retirement party.

One of Don’s grandfathers, Elmer, was a lobsterman and, for many years, head boatman at the Audubon Camp on Hog Island. Don carried on those traditions in his own way. In his younger years, Don was a staff member on several Audubon cross country expeditions. Later, once he had settled in New Harbor, Don used the fishhouse as a workshop to repair or restore more than one skiff for friends and neighbors.  He also volunteered at the Carpenter’s Boat Shop in Pemaquid.

Don wrote the following words in a profile for his 50th reunion at Bates last year: “The stairs to the first floor in my house come down to a door looking north across the head of the harbor. I look across the harbor every morning and notice the changes from the day before. It keeps me humble to be reminded that my life is one tiny part of an immense universe that keeps moving on regardless of my day-to-day experiences. And so, the journey continues.”

Donald is survived by his brother, Carl, Carl’s partner Steve Collins; by Sarah Tomasello, his loving partner; and by Marshall Hansen of Northfield, Minnesota, Don’s college roommate and lifelong friend.

A celebration of Don’s life will take place in the spring. In lieu of flowers, please consider donating to any of the organizations mentioned here or to a group or organization important to you.

Condolences, and messages for Don’s family, may be expressed by visiting

BFS Board ~ Fond Farewells and Warm Welcomes

The changing of the calendar brought changes for BFS, including transitions on the Board of Directors. At the end of 2023, Alex Mann & Jennifer Armstrong completed their terms and Sunniva Brady & Bella Salman started theirs. Read about Bella & Sunniva on the Leadership page; we are thrilled they have joined the Board!

We’re deeply grateful to our departing board members, Jennifer & Alex, who both were in the first generation of BFS organizers beyond the co-founders. (Alex served continuously since 2012; Jennifer completed her first term in 2015 then returned in 2022 for a second stint.)

Alex Mann and his spouse, Anne Dreesen

Alex Mann dedicated 11 years to Belfast Flying Shoes, including serving as treasurer. A dancer since the late 1970s, he has a keen interest in the living history and culture of social dance traditions. Alex regularly shared interesting tidbits from the Ball-Room Manual of Contra Dances and Social Cotillons Dance Manual that was published in Belfast in 1863, as well as his own research into early dance musicians in Maine. He also helped create the map of 19c dance venues that’s displayed on the third floor of the Belfast Free Library.

To his Board service, Alex brought a steady hand, thoughtful leadership, humility, good humor, and generosity of time and energy. The latter was evidenced in many realms, including his dependability for setup and cleanup on First Fridays. Alex also possessed an unfailingly pleasant demeanor & positive personality. When complex issues were discussed, his calm and measured manner helped maintain the board’s culture of civility and consensus-building.

Known for his grace and sweet smile on the dance floor, Alex’s commitment to preserving and appreciating the good things in life ranges from dance “chestnuts” (repertoire that’s been around for aeons) to the stand of American Chestnuts he cultivates at his home property in Waldo County.  We trust he’ll be part of the BFS community for years to come.

Jennifer Armstrong

Jennifer Armstrong has been an advocate for music and dance all her life, performing and teaching fiddle, banjo, storytelling, and play party dances. As a board member, she provided the nonprofit with a profound understanding of the importance of participatory music and dance. Jennifer helped keep our collective compass pointed at the bright star of community-based arts.

For several years, Jennifer co-led the All Comers Band, bringing exceptional musicianship, a vast repertoire of tunes, and unfailingly cheerful stage presence. A former board colleague reflected on Jennifer’s contributions: “It’s not necessarily a board member function, but, dang, Jennifer has such a sweet southern fiddle rhythm!”

Jennifer nurtured the local music and dance community in her career, too, including sing-along concerts for older adults, storytelling sessions, and school residencies, including several BFS programs. Read more at Her eclectic repertoire ranges from bagpipes to seated square dances, ancient tunes to original songs. And, of course, a healthy dose of fiddle and banjo! Jennifer moved back to the mountains of Asheville NC last spring, but she will be back in Maine every now and then, including at the August weeks of Maine Fiddle Camp. We hope she’ll keep in touch!

Rays of Sunshine – December 2023

We’re thinking a lot about human connection these days, as an example of goodness in the world.

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At the recent First Friday Dance Series, such bonds were obvious.

  • Parents danced with their children (from babies to teens)
  • Hands and hearts reached out with encouraging smiles… and with belly laughs when things went a little rogue
  • A longtime dancer linked the current celebration with its past traditions, urging us to highlight how fun it is to wear one of the silly hats for the BFS Birthday Party
  • Folks commented on the colored flags honoring each of the 37 musicians who played in the All Comers Band for the first time during the past year

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Virtual linkages are compelling too.

We love to hear when folks are jazzed about BFS programs, and in November, travelers from North Carolina shared how much they appreciate the weekly Flying Shoes Radio Hour on WBFY. They love hearing contra dance music over the airwaves and connecting with BFS from afar!  (The Radio Hour also gets kudos from neighbors, dancers, musicians, and other WBFY deejays.)

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We value partnerships with other organizations, such Bagaduce Music.

Check out the full palette of Scandinavian music, dance & song programs coming up this weekend with Swedish “folk-appella” group, Kongero

Click poster for info

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Some folks “connect the dots” between BFS and things they encounter in their daily lives.

To wit, 5 different people sent us this article! (What’s more, their various identities represent a full spectrum of BFS involvement: committee member, musician, dancer, board member, teaching artist, donor, volunteer, program partner, mentor, and supporter.  Talk about affinity!)

Check out Why Don’t We Dance More? (from the New York Times)  or follow this link to a PDF.

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BFS programs are part of the continuum, as the past flows through the present into the future.

Related to this circle of life is the news we received about two longtime dancers:

Percy Norton would like the Eastern Maine contra dance community to know that Kim Morris passed on November 8 with complications of an infection in her blood. Kim was well known in wildlife management circles, by virtue of her position as Maine’s moose biologist up until she retired in 2007 with MS. Dancing and listening to the music were central to Kim’s and Percy’s lifestyle and enjoyment of life.

Percy and Kim were a pleasure to see on the dance floor, whether at the Blue Hill Town Hall, the Orono dance, or beyond. The couple had awe-inspiring skill and grace as dancers, but also had zesty energy, a wicked sense of humor, and a directness that was delightful (both on and off the dance floor.) In the larger world, Kim’s prominence as a woman biologist in Maine helped break the glass ceiling in that field. We who knew Kim can be grateful to have shared joyful times with her; she was a true gem. Email [email protected] for Percy’s mailing address if you wish to send a card.
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And speaking of couples, Cindy Larock & Don Cunningham met at a contra dance. After being in a relationship for more than two decades, they got married just moments before the December dances! And the wedding couple and their two attendants stayed for the First Friday festivities. Cindy (a pillar of the Maine folk scene) called a Quebecois dance, Don played in the All Comers Band alongside his son-in-law (who played for dancing for the first time ever!), and all four of them waltzed while the All Comers Band played Amelia. Congratulations, Cindy & Don! We wish you deep joy.