Thursday, September 18, 2008

Remembrance: Robert S. Bator 1934-2008

Community Volunteer, Artist and Saloon Singer Searched for Productive Tranquility

Bator wrote his own obituary in the late '80s. Here it is transcribed from handwritten notes. Bator died in 2008:

He was an Army veteran of the Korean Era, serving from January 1955 to 1958. Two and one half years were spent at Aberdeen Proving Ground in Maryland during the height and beginning of the Cold War. Bator spoke and was further trained in the Russian language and sometimes worked in civilian clothes. Aberdeen Proving Ground was and still is a testing ground for ordinance and Army tanks. It hired many civilians that got through the oracles of its top security personnel structure. There were many covert sting operations that Bator was involved in while the McCarthy hearings were taking place. Upon his discharge and duties that satisfied the Army and the government, he went on to Minneapolis College of Art and Design and graduated with a B.F.A in 1962. He came back to his birthplace of Chicopee and took on additional Art courses in the Springfield School System with 'on the job' training with Rich Lithograph, Whittum Printing and Eastern Etching in Chicopee. He developed his graphic techniques in commercial art with photo lab techniques in time exposures. Eventually he branched out in free-lance work in Cleveland, Ohio and designed many Restaurant menus (chain operations on a national level). In the late 60s Bator started creating record jacket covers, when they were an art vehicle for the commercial artist and had excellent exposure in what was once called Record Stores. Bator also followed up on his musical talents doing various voice blends with chorus and duo groups of that period. He recorded with Shaggy Dog Studios* in West Stockbridge -- a Capitol Records affiliate of that time period. Recorded on Rex Records with Larry Chesky and a few pop tunes with Les Barry in the late 50s. Les Barry was a 17-year-old accompanist for the great Al Jolson and tutored Bator on lyric and poise (phrasing) technique. Also supplying him with a few original compositions that were never published but were performed at various U.S.O. tours around the eastern seaboard and various government medical facilities. Bator sang with the Springfield Symphony Chorus in 1959 and 1960. Also performing radio and television commercials for Yale Genton in the early 70s. He tried saloon singing in the early 50s in great showplaces like the former Red Barn and worked with pop singer Dick Haynes back in '54 for one dramatic evening in Chicopee, Mass.* Saloon singing was popular in the 50s and also early 60s -- if you had the moxie to take the rough crowds. Bator said once 'if they’re drinking and heckling, drink and heckle back at them and sing or do your act...whatever.' Sometimes it wasn't too smooth of an operation and early exits were called upon for certain performers. But it was fun and one heck of a head-trip. The music industry supplied Bator with a visual vehicle to perform and design...but alcohol began to take its toll in the early 60s and there would be numerous rehabs and programs in AA that would give him only brief periods of productive tranquility. He explored fine art, abstraction paintings, trying desperately to find a void where Pollock left off. Funding was limited for large canvas attempts in this action art series. Spin offs of Jackson Pollock's style were not always accepted in the 80s when he tried to develop an extension of what he believed the great artist would have liked trying. Bator exhibited once in New York, in Cleveland and Minneapolis at the Minneapolis School of Art and Design Gallery and the Eastern States Expo back in 1962. He was active in community theater groups such as the East Longmeadow Community players. In the mid 70s while freelancing in art, he worked for the City of Chicopee in the Office of Community Development. While block grants were available, Bator did many rehabilitation projects in cost estimates and code enforcement. He was active in rehab work with the mentally challenged on a state level and retired in the field of commercial art. Bator devoted his time to fine art projects and community volunteer work. An active member of the Board of Health, he broke his anonymity in AA by taking part in community related addiction programs for step-by-step recovery and public relations on his own individual effort. He was tireless in trying to reach out for those who had an alcoholic persuasion (affliction). He leaves his wife Joan, and his former wife Celine of Chicopee. His sons Vincent and Yoland of Somerville, daughter Dominique of Chicopee.

*Many pop singers such as Dick Haynes or Don Cornel were on a downward trend because of rock n' roll and played in nightclubs in Western Mass. such as the Red Barn.

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