Palo Alto Weekly

Community Pulse - April 25, 2014

Obituaries

Herb Wong, jazz icon and educator, dies at 88

Easter Sunday this year saw the passing of Herb Wong, 88, a longtime Menlo Park resident renowned internationally as a jazz expert and educator.

Wong had strong ties to Palo Alto — teaching jazz at the Palo Alto Adult School for 26 years and co-founding the Palo Alto Jazz Alliance, a nonprofit jazz education organization for which he served as artistic director.

A mysterious box sparked Wong's lifelong fascination with jazz. As young boys, he and his brother Elwood had just moved with their parents to Stockton when a package arrived on the doorstep, addressed to the former occupant.

"As any boys would, they opened it up," said Paul Fingerote, a colleague and friend for more than 30 years. "They found jazz (records) and Herb said, 'This is my music.'"

The two men were collaborating on a compilation of Wong's liner notes and recollections, a project Fingerote intends to complete. "Herb was a living history of jazz. ... His writing was so exquisite, so sharp. It wasn't just the music he captured, it was a sense of the times."

Dubbed a "Renaissance man" because of talents that spanned multiple career fields, Wong wrote about and produced jazz shows for decades, and spent more than 25 years sharing his musical passions with others.

"Before they called it jazz education, this is what Herb was doing," Fingerote said.

He served as president of the International Association for Jazz Education and was elected to the Jazz Education Hall of Fame. Seven original jazz compositions have been written in his honor.

Wong's efforts to share his love of jazz also made a mark on the local community. In addition to his part in the formation of the Palo Alto Jazz Alliance, he taught 78 classes through the Palo Alto Adult School over 26 years. All different, they focused on jazz instruments and greats, such as vocalist Carmen McRae who was the subject of his last course.

Kara Rosenberg, principal of the Palo Alto Adult School, said his classes developed a "tremendous following" and usually had somewhere between 25 and 75 students.

"He knew everybody," Rosenberg said, "and he knew whatever there was to know about jazz. It was actually mind-blowing."

But Wong's accomplishments in the world of jazz are only part of his achievements.

After serving in the Army during World War II, he earned a doctorate from UC Berkeley in zoology and a master's degree in science education at San Jose State University. He went on to teach at several schools during his academic career and published numerous books on learning.

Fingerote described him as a "wonderful friend" who always wanted to know what was happening in other people's lives and "seemed to be excited about everything."

He is survived by Marilyn, his wife of 46 years, of Menlo Park; brother Elwood; and daughters Kira of San Francisco and Kamberly of Bella Vista, Ark., in addition to four grandchildren.

Wong will be buried at Mountain View Cemetery in Oakland. Services will be announced. In lieu of flowers, the family asks that donations be made in his memory to the Palo Alto Jazz Alliance, P.O. Box 60397, Palo Alto, CA 94306.

Lee Harwood

Lee Lewis Harwood died with her family by her side at The Sequoias in Portola Valley on March 2. She was 96.

She was born Winifred Lee Lewis in Evanston, Ill., on May 21, 1917, to W. Lee Lewis and Myrtilla May Cook Lewis. She graduated from Evanston Township High School in 1934 and then went to study at Stanford University, her father's alma mater. She graduated with the class of 1938 as a member of the women's honorary society, Cap and Gown. While at Stanford she met her future husband, Wilson Franklin Harwood, and they married in 1938 in Winnetka, Ill. They were married for 69 years.

Her husband's consulting career allowed them to travel and live abroad. They set up households in many places, including Puerto Rico, the Philippines, Iran, Peru, England, Kuwait, Egypt and both coasts of the United States.

In her work life, she held roles as a social worker, secretary to the Turkish ambassador to Kuwait and a poll worker in Portola Valley. While overseas, she started a band at the American School of Manila, helped establish an orphanage in Tehran and assisted in launching a railroad car health clinic in Peru for the wives of railroad workers.

After settling in Portola Valley in 1965, she became involved with the League of Women Voters and played in the Mid-Peninsula Recorder Orchestra. She also served as president of the Community Committee for International Students at Stanford and "adopted" foreign students each year, many of whom remained lifelong friends.

She is survived by her sister-in-law, Sara Harwood de Bivort of Portola Valley; her three children, Margaret Harwood Milledge of Palo Alto, Sara Harwood Arnold of Lexington, Mass., and Lewis Harwood of Bethesda, Md.; five grandchildren; and six great-grandchildren.

There will be a memorial service on May 10 at 2 p.m. at The Sequoias, 501 Portola Road, Portola Valley. Memorial donations may be made to KQED, League of Women Voters or The Sequoias' Tomorrow Fund.

— Sandy Brundage / Almanac

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