Peter Bacon Hales

A good friend from college days died on Tuesday.

Peter was an extraordinary person: historian, raconteur, musician.  His ability to assemble enormous amounts of historical information, and connect all of the pieces, was always beyond my ability to digest.  His stories, always entertaining.  But it was as a musician that we connected the most.

While I have dabbled with music most of my life, Peter created bands and played gigs for much of his life.  He was as proficient on acoustic guitar as electric, and played a mean pedal steel, but it was as a slide guitar player that he really shined.  He brought not only his versatility to our band, but also his organization, broad recollections of styles and pieces, and good taste.  We are fortunate in that we played together just 2 weeks ago.  It is hard to imagine our band continuing on without him.  It certainly will be savagely altered.

Peter traveled the country, photographing and experiencing the US in a way that few of my other friends seem to have done.  And he did not just let those experiences wash over him: he correlated and integrated and synthesized. He offered his observations for others to consider.  He was actively engaged in life, on many levels.

A chain smoker in college, he abandoned that in his 20s and started bicycling competitively.  He thought nothing of a 1 or 2 hour bike ride, just about every day, and was strong and fit.  It is ironic that he was killed when a car hit him from behind.  He never made it to the hospital.

He had just retired, had purchased some land with his wife, and was in the middle of creating a long-term sustainable farm.  This is a stunning loss to us all, but most of all to Mo, his wife.  They had decades of happy living ahead of them.  What a crushing blow.

I am at the age where it is clear that I will either start to lose friends, or they will lose me.  That reality seemed distant until yesterday morning.  Words cannot express how sad and devastated I feel.  Moments like this focus one on the fact that life is precious, that each person is unique and irreplaceable, and that one must live life now, and not defer it to some vague moment in the future.

I will remember Peter, fondly and with great admiration, as long as I live.

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Classic Peter, with guitar, white tee, and ripped jeans

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Peter smiling nicely for the camera, while I try to act the curmudgeon.

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3 Responses to “Peter Bacon Hales”

  1. Bill Mock Says:

    This is a wonderful tribute, Jon. I’m glad that Chuck shared this link in his message about Peter. Peter and I were not close friends, but we knew each other well enough to know that we shared community through people such as yourself and Matt, and I greatly admired his photographic work. The world is a poorer place for his passing, but a much better one for his having lived among us.

  2. Ken Read-Brown Says:

    Jon,

    I didn’t know Peter, but through your post I feel now I do. A beautiful tribute. Thank you.

  3. Craig Lambert Says:

    So well said, Jon! I remember Peter as a very good guitar player in Barclay our freshman year, he was one of the cool sophomores.

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