It is with great sadness that the MBL shares the passing of MBL Associate and longtime MBL supporter Phyllis Switzer Goldstein, who passed away on January 25, 2011 at her home in Woods Hole.
Phyllis was a fixture in Woods Hole, and especially at the MBL Club, where she led folksinging for 45 years. She also helped to lead the MBL’s 4th of July parade for as long as anyone can remember.
The MBL flag will be lowered in her memory. An obituary written by her family is below.
Phyllis Switzer Goldstein was known for 45 years as the “Folk Singing Lady” to multitudes of Woods Hole residents and summer visitors alike. An accomplished guitarist and flutist, she also acted and directed theater for 50 years. Phyllis loved working and entertaining people and it showed in all of her life’s pursuits.
She died of renal failure on January 25, 2011 at her home in Woods Hole. She was with family at the time of death.
Phyllis grew up in the neighborhood of Arthur Avenue in the Bronx, NY. She was fond of telling stories of stickball games in the street and living near the Bronx Zoo. She attended Music and Art High School, which always gave her a sense of pride throughout her life. Her father died when she was 16 and she lived with her brother Jay and her mother Gus until she was married at age 19.
She was married to Sam Switzer, a doctor and researcher at Albert Einstein Medical Center. Sam was asked to join the U.S. government’s Atomic Bomb Commission in 1959 and she and Sam embarked on a two-year adventure of living and working in Nagasaki and Hiroshima, Japan. In Japan she learned to speak Japanese, arrange flowers in the Japanese tradition, and cook traditional Japanese food. While in Japan she gave birth to her first child, Mallory.
Upon returning to the United States in 1961, Phyllis had her second child, Brian. She worked at the Fieldston School in Riverdale New York, where, among other things, she lead the girl’s basketball team to an undefeated season.
Tragically, she and her family were in a car accident in 1967 in which her husband and daughter were killed. She was devastated but continued to live a vibrant life and care for her son, who was the light of her life.
She remarried Moise Goldstein, Jr., a professor of Biomedical and Electrical engineering at Johns Hopkins University and moved to Baltimore, MD. There she began work at the Park School where she had a 32-year career.
At Park School she taught American folklore, music, and directed theater. Throughout her 32 years she produced full-scale Gilbert and Sullivan plays as well as Broadway musicals and straight theater. She directed shows such as Pippin, Chorus Line, and Guys and Dolls. Her passion for her craft came through in her intensity and she was often visited by former students, who explained that it was only after they left Park School that they realized how valuable she had been to their development.
Phyllis spent summers in Woods Hole for the past 47 years. She had a house on Gardiner Rd., which she retired to eight years ago. In Woods Hole she was affectionately known as the “Folk Singing Lady” because on summer Tuesday nights for 45 years, she invited all that wanted to sing to the MBL Club for a rousing singalong.
Over the years she wrote many songs about Woods Hole. Some of the titles were “Woods Hole Town, A Fairer Place Was Never Seen” and “Here’s to You My Woods Hole Town.”
The singalongs always began with the same song (“Some Come To Dance”) and ended with “This Land Is Your Land.” Generations of residents continued to come to folksinging long after they had grown up and many brought their own children when they had families.
Phyllis led the MBL’s 4th of July Parade for as long as anyone can remember. She was a fixture at the front with her piccolo. Other accomplishments include yearly theatrical performances at the Woods Hole Library, many tennis championships at the MBL Tennis Club, and she was an original creator of the Woods Hole Cantata concerts.
She was a member of the Woods Hole Women’s Club and volunteered at Morse Pond School where she taught theater to 5th and 6th graders and was affectionately known to the students as “Mrs. G.”
She leaves her husband, Moise, son, Brian Switzer, and stepsons Claude and Thomas Goldstein, as well as her daughter-in-law, Rachel, and grandchildren Sophie and Elijah. The funeral is private, however a celebration of her life will be held this summer at the MBL and all are invited.
Donations in her name can be made to the Morse Pond School TEAM Program, Morse Pond School, Jones Rd. Falmouth MA 02540, or the MBL, MBL St. Woods Hole, MA 02543.