Great old rooms have their own personalities. The Living Room at Keith House is one of the pleasantest places at the Folk School. It is cozy, informal, and timeless. Sometimes it is boisterous and sometimes it is contemplative. It has dignity, but it enjoys a good laugh. It is made of wood and books. You can sit in chairs that arrived in September, 1927. You can stumble across odd old books that people have wondered at for eight decades and more. You can feel the patina of a thousand months of conversations, singing, learning and hanging out. On its door, a sign says

“In honor of William B. “Brad” Coolidge.”

One of the great Folk School friends of all time, he passed away on February 9, 2010. He died peacefully in his sleep at his home in Bethesda, Maryland, age 92.

Brad Coolidge as a child

He was Olive Dame Campbell’s nephew, the son of Olive’s sister Ruth Dame Coolidge. His father, Richard, served on the Folk School board from its inception in 1925 into the fifies. Brad himself served on the Folk School Board for over twenty years. He was a member of the Board at the time I was hired as Director, and I appreciate his trust and support. He was a great source of inspiration, wisdom and knowledge to the School for all these years.

Brad was born in Medford, Massachusetts in 1916, and graduated from Tufts University in 1937. He was a journalist in Japan from 1937 to 1939 during the rise of militarism, the invasion of Manchuria, and the last days before World War II. As a United Press correspondent, he went into Japanese-occupied Manchuria and China. On his return, he earned a Harvard master’s degree in International Affairs. He joined the Army and served as an intelligence officer, using his knowledge of Japanese and other oriental languages in his work as an analyst. After the war, he was asked to join the State Department, where he became a Foreign Service Officer, serving in Japan, Thailand and Turkey. In retirement, he divided his time between Bethesda and Nantucket, with trips to Brasstown at least annually. He was an avid sailor, a fine photographer, and a stellar Folk School student. He was the quintessential Yankee: self-effacing, solid, capable. He was certain of his anchors, and kept his eyes on the stars. He loved to hike in these mountains with his cameras on a hunt for flowers and birds. He enjoyed listening to people and learning about their lives, which is why he was a fine representative of America in other lands, and why he was, as we say in Brasstown, “folk school all the way.”

“Home is the sailor, home from the sea,
And the hunter home from the hill.”

 

Brad in Madaket Harbor