The Good Sailor’s Farewell: Remembering Ralph Cole Waddey May 12, 1943 – August 1st, 2019

by his friends

Ralph Waddey.jpg

Ralph Cole Waddey of Gloucester passed away peacefully in the wake of an accident and injury. Ethno-musicologist and a musician himself, social scientist, specialist in International Affairs, Portuguese language interpreter, father, husband and above all man of deep friendships, Ralph was ferociously Ralph. Charming irresistibly to some, dismissive of fools, witty by all accounts and remarkably intelligent, Ralph Cole Waddey made his own way.

He was born in Cincinnati, Ohio, and moved to South Carolina when he was 3 years old. He was a teenager in Florida in the Gulf of Mexico. From an early age, he demonstrated his inclination for science and music. After having had conferred a Bachelor’s degree in Social Science at Georgetown University (Washington, DC,) he went to Bahia, Brazil, as a Peace Corps volunteer in 1965. In 1968, he returned to the United States where he started his master’s program in Economics, Social Psychology and Portuguese and Brazilian Literature at the University of Florida (Gainesville, Florida, USA). He earned a Master of Arts degree in Latin American Studies in 1973. Ten years later, while a doctoral candidate (Ph.D.) in Musicology at the University of Illinois, he returned to Bahia, Brazil. He did important research in the 70s and 80s on the musical phenomenon of the Bahian Reconcavo and was acclaimed by Brazilian authorities, especially from the Department of Culture. He walked into areas unknown to most researchers in order to produce the precious recordings of Samba de Roda and Viola music of that region.  Samba de Roda has proclaimed as an Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity by UNESCO in 2008 thanks to Ralph’s work, the first one and unique in its genre.

Brazil was his second home. He enjoyed official citizenship in Salvador, capital of Bahia, where intellectuals and scholars in the fields of social science, history, archeology, and music would rush to see him upon visits. The country folks of the Bahian Reconcavo, in particular, and where he joined some godbrothers, godsisters, and godchildren, loved Ralph.  It was in Brazil that he attached one of his nicknames, in Portuguese, Bom Marujo (The Good Sailor).

Ralph also loved Gloucester where he decided to live after having served in the United Nations in Angola and Kosovo from 1995-2005. His interpreting, human rights, and management work in United Nations peacekeeping missions earned him respect and deep friendships. Here in Gloucester, he found earthy sincerity, history, friendship and a good life.

He is survived by his wife Ana Alakija Waddey; daughter Anna Seton Cole Crosbie; former wives: Maria do Perpetuo Socorro Davico and Caroline Seaton Crosbie; sister Sharon Cole; cousins Gary Wendt, Sheri Beecher, Kathie Enloe, James Wendt, Chris Rushefsky, Jan and Michael Johnson; Jack Waddey; aunt Evelyn Johnson Wendt; and other relatives.

A Celebration of Life organized by his loved ones, friends, and neighbors will be held in his memory on September 1st, 2019, 11AM at the DES Portuguese American Club, 133 Prospect St, Gloucester, Massachusetts. The organizers ask people who want to join the event to please, park on the street.

2 thoughts on “The Good Sailor’s Farewell: Remembering Ralph Cole Waddey May 12, 1943 – August 1st, 2019

  1. This version of the Gloucester tribute to Ralph has some important additions that round out his character. It is important to know how much appreciated was Ralph Cole Waddey’s recording of Samba de Roda and Viola music of the Bahian Reconcavo region—and how innovative. Even the UNESCO recognized it. More touching is the memory of “intellectuals and scholars in the fields of social science, history, archeology, and music would rush to see him upon visits.”

    The picture caught another aspect of Ralph: how dapper he was this wise Southern Gentleman.

    Thank you, Ana, for writing this lovely remembrance. Thank you, Joey, for publishing it. Thank you, Roz, for your background work on behalf of the best spirit of Gloucester.


  2. Prezados, essa notícia é muito triste. Mas fica a lembrança q teremos de Ralph: amigo sincero, o seu importante registro do samba aqui na Bahia, a sua generosidade, e também seus comentários irônicos e precisos.
    Jocélio Teles dos Santos
    Department of Anthropology
    Federal University of Bahia


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