Rocky Rockwell was one of storytelling’s greatest advocates. He could not keep a good thing to himself. A long time journalist, he knew a good story when he came across one, but he could also enhance a story with his wit and wisdom in ways that traditional journalism does not allow.
In the mid-nineties Rocky put together a storytelling troupe for the Barter Theatre. Not only did he secure the Barter’s blessing for this venture, he also convinced the theatre to provide a $2,000 budget for each show (no small feat!). Clearly, this man possessed great powers of persuasion.
I will never forget taking a group of middle school children to see Rocky at the VASA Gathering in Williamsburg in 2000. They were so taken with his hilarious tale of a Yankee’s visit to rural Mississippi that a few of them asked his permission to tell it themselves. Rocky, of course, granted that permission. He was a generous man.
I cannot think of Rocky without thinking of his wife Mimi, as well. Married for thirty-four years, they were a loving couple who clearly made a great team, not only as storytellers, but as partners in a life venture that brought joy to others as much as to themselves. Forward-thinking and open-minded, they preferred to celebrate the unique qualities of fellow artists, rather than pass judgment. As a result, there was some rich storytelling in Washington County. The entire community benefited from Rocky and Mimi’s generosity.
In recent years, I have lost a number of the storytelling elders who influenced me as I was coming along on my own journey as a storyteller. Jay Engle, Pete Houston, Pawpaw Pinkerton, and Brother Blue have all completed their journeys. And now Rocky Rockwell, who left this world on Tuesday, May 11, 2010, has joined them. I have no doubt that they are raising a ruckus in heaven right now, a giant hoedown to welcome storytelling’s newest arrival.
Let us send to someone in need of hope.