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With Deep Sorrow, We Bid Farewell to Geoff Welch

Heartfelt words by David Pereyra

Ashes to ashes, dust to dust, a prince among us passed away on a quiet Saturday.


Longtime Sloatsburg resident Geoff Welch was a kind and gentle soul with an outsized personality who had amazing reserves of energy and creativity. He loved the Village of Sloatsburg, his singular life at Harmony Hall and found meaning and joy in his work and advocacy over many years.


Geoff's efforts and interests have left an indelible impact on the area - from helping to acquire surrounding green space, including Liberty Rock Park, to helping save Torne Valley and establish Harmony Hall and the Highlands Bluegrass Festival as important local cultural features of Sloatsburg.


Geoff wore many hats - Curator of Harmony Hall, Ramapo River Keeper, organizer and force behind the annual Ramapo River Watershed Conference, educator and historian, photographer, musician, artist, storyteller, curator of talented friends and like souls, whereupon he made each feel like he or she was Geoff's best, most trusted confidant.


Geoff was surrounded by his friends during his last days - Janet, Sue and Kathy, Chuck and Ed - all worked to help his brother Michael ensure that Geoff found comfort and respite from pain and suffering. He was loved. With his passing goes a vast treasure of remembered local lore and history.


Geoff was widely known and appreciated for his good cheer and company, his generosity and kind heart and how he crafted his life into art - a life well lived. He had a wide, interconnected circle of friends in the area who all seem to be the best at what they do.


Geoff loved life in Sloatsburg, the access to the surrounding parks, the village traditions and parades. Some might say he was one of the inspirations to make the village more walkable -- so that he could safely cross Route 17 and shop for food and other goodies at Valley Rock Market. Geoff enjoyed his sort of countrified version of city life, like back in the days of stopping in at the corner bodega and enjoying street life in New York City, where Geoff came of age.


Geoff loved to collect historical tidbits and clues to the paintings and works of Jasper Francis Cropsey, especially how they related to Geoff's beloved Sloatsburg, the Ramapo River and Torne Mountain.


Geoff loved to play his amazing, professional keyboard setup in the airy salon of Harmony Hall, where seasonally his nature slides and historical images would flicker across the large screen to awe and entertain guests.


He loved to celebrate the solstices with gatherings. Geoff loved a lot, he had a big heart. He enjoyed cultural outings to a conference or reading in support of a comrade. He liked to photograph flowers and the ever-changing Sloatsburg skyline, Star the Cat and birds soaring the thermals above Liberty Rock. He liked to hike in the Ramapo Mountains and visit his favorite spots among the area's woods and streams. He especially loved to visit friends, who were frequently out there themselves, engaged in a life off the beaten track.


Geoff could often be found relaxed under the near trees of the Great Lawn, New York Times in hand, taking in the morning or evening sun, ready to welcome a visitor who stopped over.


Many are and were fortunate to call Geoff a friend. His life was an inspiration and a celebration. There was a moment once, when a friend asked him, Geoff, how do you stay so positive, so happy? Well, he said, you do the best you can and sort of shrugged, hands upturned at the tangle of life around him, the river and mountains and view of the village, the immensity of the gift of his life in the Ramapo Mountains.


Geoff Welch is gone but he will live on in the hearts and minds of those whose lives he touched, in the pictures he took and the historical items he collected, in the community he shaped and inspired and in the surrounding mountains and flowing river he loved.


Please join us this Saturday, June 22nd, 6pm-8pm for An Evening of Classical Music.

For years, Geoff Welch arranged the Summer Solstice celebrations at Harmony Hall. He shared wonderful PowerPoint slide presentations of his beautiful landscape photography while performing his original compositions on his keyboard. Geoff often shared his knowledge and love of classical music and composers with friends.


To honor Geoff's tradition, the Hudson Valley Wind & Brass Ensemble will dedicate their performance on Saturday to him. Nancy Surridge and Stephanie Sirico have added summer-themed flute duet selections to the program.

Program includes:

Air on the G String - Bach

Allelluia - Mozart

Brandenberg Concert No. 3 - Bach

Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring - Bach

Eine Kleine Nachtmusik - Mozart

Ode to Joy - Beethoven

Refreshments. Limited seating.

Tickets $20 in advance, $25 at the door

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