On Christmas Day, 1989, folklorist and writer
Eleanor Long-Wilgus suffered a stunning loss — the sudden
death of 71-year-old D.K. Wilgus, her husband and partner in
research and writing on traditional ballads.
When the two married in 1986 they
expected to have many more years together. D.K. Wilgus, widely
published, was winding up a distinguished academic career at
UCLA, and he and Eleanor were planning many new projects,
including a study of ballads about the 1808 murder in Randolph
County of Naomi Wise by the father of her unborn child.
(Versions of Omie Wise are still sung in western North Carolina
and Tennessee; Doc Watson, Bob Dylan and Clarence Ashley have
Eleanor Long-Wilgus faced many decisions
after D.K.’s death. What should she do with their large shared
archive of notes, correspondence, ballad transcriptions, books
and articles? How could she best honor D.K.? And what would she
do with the rest of her life?
Her dear friend, folklorist Archie
Green, suggested to Eleanor that Carolina’s Southern Folklife
Collection in the Academic Affairs Library would be just the
right place for the archive — especially since he had donated
his own to UNC. Green also had worked with D.K. Wilgus to bring
to Carolina the renowned John Edwards Memorial Collection of
country music recordings and sheet music — music that forms
the core of the Southern Folklife Collection.
In 1992 Eleanor Long-Wilgus gave most of
the Wilgus archive to Carolina, and in 1993 she followed it to
Chapel Hill, where she planned to keep on working. UNC, she
says, has “the most focused collection for ballad study on
this continent. And I’m so pleased when I think of Archie’s
and D.K.’s archives over there side by side.”
To honor D.K. she gave stock valued at
$100,000 to the University’s pooled income fund. This
life-income gift pays her about $6,000 a year for the rest of
her life. (The pooled income fund is much like a mutual fund in
that participants’ gifts are “pooled” for investment.
In return, the net income of the entire fund is
distributed on the basis of the number and value of the shares
held by each contributor.)
At her death, the remaining principal
will endow the D.K. Wilgus Fellowship in Comparative Ballad and
“It seems to me so much more
satisfying than any other way to use the money,” she says.
Long-Wilgus had thought she would not
need the income from her gift. Instead, after being diagnosed
with macular degeneration, she found the income essential for
meeting unforeseen healthcare expenses.
“It really was an unexpected
blessing,” she says.
Meanwhile, her study of the Naomi Wise
ballads is almost complete. And she hopes to see in her lifetime
the founding of an annual seminar to introduce musicians and
scholars to the Southern Folklife Collection archive.
Out of hardship she’s made a handsome
legacy. Like her beloved ballads, it will last.
Ginger Travis ’78
For information on life-income gifts
please contact June Steel at 919-962-3439 (or P.O. Box 0309,
Chapel Hill 27514-0309).
Visit the gift-planning web site at www.dev.unc.edu/Development/giftplan.htm
To visit the Southern Folklife
Collection online, go to www.lib.unc.edu/mss/sfc1/
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