Friday, December 04, 2015

In memoriam: Robert Schuneman

Bob Schuneman, one of several dozen men and women in and around the suburbs of Boston who have been playing soccer together for many years, just passed away after a long bout with cancer.  As our colleague Margot noted recently,  "Our soccer relationships are interesting.  We spend a lot of time together.  We really enjoy each other's company.  We have a ton of fun together.  Yet we know very little about each other."

So for our group and for others, let me tell you a bit about Bob. I fortunately had a chance to visit with him just a few days ago, and I've found these end-of-life conversations to be remarkable in the level of honesty that occurs.  I asked, "How are you thinking about things?"  He said, "I've had an unbelievable 81 years.  Sometimes I can't believe that I've deserved such a good life."  And then I got his personal history, and learned a ton of things I hadn't known.

For one thing, he was a very accomplished musician and music publisher--not something you would ever have suspected as he deftly slipped in left-footed shots if you mistakenly permitted him to be undefended in front of the goal! This article from 2012 gives some details. An excerpt:

After a career which included working with narcotics addicts in Brooklyn; being a church musician in Fort Wayne, IN, Glens Falls, NY, Chicago and Boston, MA; choral and orchestral conductor in Cambridge, MA; and teaching at Oberlin Conservatory, Boston Conservatory of Music, New England Conservatory of Music, and Westminster Choir College, Schuneman gave up all except choral conducting to buy the company that he worked for part-time as editor, E.C. Schirmer Music Company. Since 1985, and contrary to popular opinion, he has not gotten rich as President and principal owner of ECS Publishing Company, the parent company of E.C. Schirmer Music Co., Galaxy Music Corporation, Ione Press, and Highgate Press. Committed to the composers of new art music, he has also mastered and produced over 200 recordings on ARSIS and other labels, and he continues as the conductor of Philovox Ensemble of Boston.

The article notes that Bob grew up in Pittsburgh.  He expanded on this fact with me, noting that when he grew up in Pittsburgh, it was still an immensely polluted city.  He related a vivid childhood memory: From a hill overlooking town, you could see the glow from the steel blast furnaces. The air was so choked with pollution that cars needed to have headlights on during the day.

Bob's wife Cynthia was raised on her parent's wheat farm in Scobey, Montana, where they had been homesteaders.  Also trained as a musician, she later worked with him at the music publishing company. When Cynthia died in 2012 (also of cancer), they spread her ashes on the farm, and there is a marker for her near her parents' gravestones. Bob told me about this as he related that he decided a few weeks ago that he wanted the same to be done with his.  

Bob's last game with us, he reminded me, was July 1.  When I asked if he had any messages for our soccer group, his immediate response was, "Play on!"  Then, "I miss you."  We will play on, Bob, but there will be a hole in our hearts, as we miss you, too.


Anonymous said...

My condolences to you and his family.

Debbie Linder said...

From Facebook:

We will miss him. Both for his soccer and for his friendship.

Carole said...

Probably meant as much to him as it did you, being able to have that very special conversation.....
My condolences to you and his family as well.

Tim Schuneman said...

Paul, those days I would play with him before I moved to Arizona were some of my favorite memories of my Dad. Even later, when running became painful for me (I had my left hip replaced in 2013) I would try to play when visiting on vacation. I truly appreciate the people that were there, for an hour or two the rest of life melted away and all there that was left was joy for the game, and time with Dad. I look forward to seeing you, and thanking you in person!

Unknown said...

Bob told me often about the soccer games in which he played, but I only saw him from the other side of his life. I worked with him for fifteen years at ECS Publishing as Editor. I am still honored to work for the company under new ownership. Each year I spent with Bob I learned more about what an incredibly complex mind he had informed by his amazingly diverse life experience. The knowledge he possessed about music and many other topics was staggering in both scope and depth. I learned so much from him and Cynthia, and I carry those lessons with me onward into the future. The most valuable lesson I learned from both of them by far is how to face life with bravery, dignity and grace. In the end, he was much more to me then a former boss. He was a mentor and, most importantly a friend. I got to bid farewell to him two days before he passed. It was meaningful for both of us. RIP Bob. You will be dearly missed.