Jodie Holmberg, a Hood River resident since 2004, died in her home on Jan. 28 of Parkinson’s disease. She was 88. She grew up in New York City’s Greenwich Village and spent most of her life in and around the city. Her first two years of college were at the New York University, and she finished her last two years at the University of Iowa, majoring in education. She later received a master’s degree in elementary education from NYU and was an elementary school teacher in New York City schools for many years.
In the 1980s, she received a Master’s of Fine Arts — a doctoral-level degree — from Godard College in Vermont, writing her thesis on a retelling of Virgil’s epic Latin poem “The Aeneid” and later giving readings and lectures on that topic at colleges around the country.
After moving to Hood River to be near family, she was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, a chronic and progressive movement disorder with symptoms that continue and worsen over time. Nearly one million people in the U.S. have the disease.
She was known for being determined not to let fear and hopelessness dominate her life, but it was a challenge for her to adjust to Parkinson’s, for it affected her mobility and her rich soprano voice, which she had used to sing professionally. Music always came naturally to her. As a young woman, after taking an all-day entrance test, she was admitted to Manhattan’s competitive High School of Music & Art, where she learned guitar and took courses in composition, theory, and performance.
In the late 1940s, she was part of a folk revival in Greenwich Village, sang with professional groups in Manhattan and at labor-hall hootenannies, played guitar and sang in coffee houses, and was the opening act for blues artists such as Sonny Terry and Oscar Brand. Earlier, for elementary school, while her mother attended medical school, she attended Manhattan’s experimental, public-private Little Red School House, one of New York City’s first progressive schools. She benefitted from its rich programs in arts and music — and from famous folksingers who came there to teach. One was Pete Seeger, who taught folk songs and harmony — his leftist activism had blacklisted him from getting work. Another was Huddie “Lead Belly” Ledbetter, whose songs covered a wide range, including gospel music and blues about women, liquor, prison life, and racism. Woody Guthrie also came to the Little Red School House.
Later, Jodie became choir director at Unitarian Universalist churches in Huntington, N.Y., and Boca Raton, Fla. And after moving to Hood River, she led a choral group at the Mid-Columbia Unitarian Universalist Fellowship (MCUUF) for two years. She had a wide support group of Hood River friends, including MCUUF minister Rev. Judy Zimmerman. Jodie said she valued MCUUF’s open-mindedness, theological diversity, and the love and support she had received there.
Jodie is survived by two sons: Mark, an attorney in Boca Raton, and Glen, of Hood River, a retired federal fisheries research technician.
Arrangements are under the direction of Anderson's Tribute Center (Funerals • Receptions • Cremations), 1401 Belmont Ave., Hood River. Visit www. Andersons-TributeCenter.com to leave a note of condolence for the family.
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