North Olympic Peninsula’s ‘music man’ dies; Dewey Ehling left mark on myriad groups

Longtime conductor of the Peninsula Singers and Port Townsend CommunityOrchestra died Sunday of pneumonia.

Dewey Ehling

Dewey Ehling

PORT ANGELES — A celebrated icon of the North Olympic Peninsula music community has died.

Dewey Ehling, renowned teacher and longtime conductor of the Peninsula Singers and Port Townsend Community Orchestra, died Sunday of pneumonia at Swedish Medical Center in Seattle, his friends confirmed.

He was 87.

Ehling touched thousands of lives and entertained thousands more as a conductor, choir director and stage producer in his 30 years on the North Olympic Peninsula, longtime friend Paul Martin said.

“He would lift people up,” Martin said Wednesday.

“There was a touch of greatness in this guy. He just made people better by being a good man.”

Ehling, aka the “music man,” was also active with Olympic Theatre Arts, Port Angeles Symphony, The Ballet Workshop, Port Angeles Light Opera Association, Readers Theatre Plus, Port Angeles Community Players and Sequim Community Aid.

In 2011, Ehling received a Clallam County Community Service Award for his involvement with theatrical, cultural and community-aid groups.

In his nomination letter for the award, Martin described Ehling as a “force.”

“At the same time, he’s a kind, hands-on, warm human being who has had a positive impact on his community and on the amazing number of singers, actors, stage directors and instrumentalists with whom he has worked,” Martin wrote.

Gary McRoberts said his longtime friend and fellow musician was always kind but expected his artists to come prepared.

“He brought out the best of people,” McRoberts said Wednesday.

Ehling lived in Port Angeles with his wife of 45 years, Lauretta Ehling, who could not be reached for comment Wednesday.

A memorial is being planned. No date has been set, Martin said.

“He was known all over,” McRoberts said.

Ehling was a volunteer conductor and/or director for more than two dozen large-scale productions on the North Olympic Peninsula, Martin said.

The maestro relished leading Handel’s “Messiah” sing-along as a Christmas-season fundraiser for Sequim Community Aid.

“He was very much into helping people,” McRoberts said.

Ehling became musical director and conductor for the Peninsula Singers in 1990 and the Port Townsend Community Orchestra in 1995.

Those groups performed dozens of major works from renowned artists such as Bach, Mozart and Brahms at venues throughout the region, according to information provided by Martin.

“He loved doing major works,” McRoberts said.

In 2010, Ehling was named by the Washington Music Educators Association as one of the outstanding educators of the Pacific Northwest.

Before moving to Port Angeles in 1986, Ehling was a community chorus and youth symphony conductor — and school district music director — in Anchorage, Alaska.

“I was proud to call him my friend,” Martin said.

_________

Reporter Rob Ollikainen can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 56450, or at rollikainen@peninsuladailynews.com.

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