Di and Burt Meyer

by Adam McKinney for OLY ARTS

It’s a dream, for many, to have their presence keenly felt in their community. Whether this be through the simple act of offering a friendly face, lending a hand in civic projects or providing beauty through the arts, leaving a positive impression is an admirable goal for anyone to pursue. Burt Meyer achieved this dream: he was a man whose legacy will long linger in the musical community of Olympia and the greater Pacific Northwest.

Meyer, born in 1941, died suddenly on Thursday, July 13 while hiking in Mount Rainier National Park. For those involved in the Northwest’s folk and Celtic scenes, this was a devastating blow. Over the course of over five decades, Meyer established himself as a guiding force for local folk events as an organizer, fellow traveler and host of countless jam sessions and musical events. Meyer also performed in a host of bands including Cricket on the Hearth and Snake Oil and in ongoing musical partnerships with his wife, Diana.

Beyond creating his own music, Meyer fostered the folk music scene in Olympia and its surrounding areas. He helped to create the Applejam Folk Center, the Olympia Folklore Society and the Tumwater Bluegrass Festival.

“It’s difficult to speak of Burt in the past tense,” says fellow musician and friend Ingrid Ferris Olszewsky. “He was a man so alive that you just know his spirit will never go away. I imagine someday I will hear his voice on the wind calling out hearty and hale words of encouragement: ‘Come on, pull on that sail!’ or singing a sea shanty for all to sing along with — Burt the dashing pirate. Burt was also the older brother to us all, coffeehouse ’60s folk musician, high-spirited Irish musician, a man of great heart and sympathy, strength and tremendous love — the greatest of which was for his wife, Di, whose death he struggled to come to terms with, finding solace in the mountain they both loved until that mountain returned him back to her.”

The folk music scene in the Olympia region is a tight-knit community, and the artists and friends who were touched by Meyer’s work in their community now find themselves mourning and paying tribute to his memory. A memorial is being planned for August 5, with details coming soon. Members of the community already know that they can expect a fantastic celebration and an abundance of heartening music to bid Burt Meyer a fond farewell.

What: Burt Meyer memorial

Where: Olympic Flight Museum on Old 99 near Olympia Airport

When: 2:30 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 5