Edmund Shay passed away on April 21st, 2020 at Atrium Post Acute Care in Woodbury, NJ.
The son of Andrew and Estelle Shay, Ed was born in the Bronx, NYC and attended The High School for Music and Art in Manhattan. He then attended The Juilliard School where he received his Bachelor’s and Master’s Degrees. In 1962 Dr. Shay won a Fulbright Fellowship allowing him to study in Germany with the renowned Bach performer Helmut Walcha. He then received his DMA in Performance and Music Theory from the University of Cincinnati. His career as concert organist, teacher and composer included teaching at the University of the Pacific, Beloit College, Pembroke State University, Madison College (now known as James Madison University), and Columbia College in Columbia, S.C. where he was loved and admired by coworkers and students alike. Ed always delighted in reciting his favorite expression: “When the Student is ready, the Teacher will appear”. He maintained an active recital schedule while teaching, and wrote many scholarly articles for The American Organist Magazine and The Diapason Magazine. His four sets of “Hymn Harmonizations” inspired by his mentor Eric Thiman and published by MorningStar received a glowing review in The American Organist Magazine in 1995. From 1986 through 1991 he wrote reviews for the “New Organ Music” column in The Diapason. For fourteen years, Dr. Shay directed a Summer Seminar for organists called “Bach Week”; sponsored by Columbia College. Its international faculty attracted teachers and graduate students from coast to coast. Beginning in the 1980’s, Ed would spend summers in Vermont where he enjoyed gardening, daytrips, and hiking, along with the theater and the Clark Museum at Williams College. Upon his retirement in 2003, Ed relocated to a winter home in Washington, D.C. where he was a regular attendee at The Kennedy Center as well as many of his favorite restaurants. As soon as weather allowed, he would head north to his beloved home in Vermont and would not leave until the snow chased him South again. He was always a kind and gracious host to friends and visitors as well as being a superb gourmet chef. His children were the many cats he kept over the years and they had the best of care and love. He was a gentle soul with a tireless sense of humor, sharp wit, understated genius, and a love of laughter. Sometime in 2014 Ed started his battle with the thief known as Dementia. Finally, in mid 2017, after his life partner suffered a debilitating stroke and faced with his own declining health, he was moved to Friends Village in Woodstown, NJ and subsequently to Merion Gardens Assisted Living in Carney’s Point, NJ in order to be near to his adopted family. Dr. Shay was predeceased by his life partner of over 35 years, Raymond Harris, his parents, and an older brother, Burton Leslie Shay. He is survived by his adopted nephew and niece, Dale and DeeAnn Harris of Salem, NJ and all of the people whose lives he touched. Ed’s family would like to thank the staff at Springfield Hospital, Springfield, VT, Friends Village, Merion Gardens Assisted Living, and all of the friends, coworkers and former students for all of the care, friendship and support that was given to Dr. Shay.
According to his wishes there will be no funeral service. If anyone would like to donate to a charity in Ed’s memory, Alzheimer Research or your local animal shelter are suggested.
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