Mourning in South Philadelphia

#011SouthPhiladelphiaSBClubhouseWith the start of a new year, many people look for a new beginning in some part of their lives.  This is a good thing.  Most of us do so, not with foolish optimism, but because we are good people.  We have celebrations not because we are selfish or hedonistic, but because we want to improve, to enjoy each other, enjoy the gift of life and we want to encourage that joy in others.

New Year’s Day 2019 started that way for many, many people.  The men, women and children of the Philadelphia Mummers awoke in the early morning hours to rekindle the Philadelphia folk tradition of calling on family and friends and playing together in the streets.  They shared their brilliant suits, unique sounds, silliness and satire, struts and choreography with the world.  We hail Golden Sunrise, Murray Comic Club, Quaker City String Band, South Philly Vikings, the Pirates and all the winners.  It is about competition to some degree, but it’s also about sharing the joy of life and making others smile.  In that competition on New Year’s Day, South Philadelphia String Band finished a very close second.  It was a great day.

It then feels soul-wrenching when word comes that in the hours after that joyful expression, that three young people we knew suddenly died and that another vibrant person lies critically injured.  Young people who have helped you enjoy life are in an instant gone or fighting to live.  It’s just wrong.  Why do bad things happen to good people?

Thousands of people associated with the folk tradition of Mummery are shaking their heads and asking that question.  Some are angry; others are deeply saddened and emotionally spent.  None of the answers seems good enough as we mourn the sudden passing of three good young people and pray for the recovery of another, all victims of a crime.

The emptiness, the feeling of one’s heart jumping from your chest, is incalculably magnified, more painful and intense, for the South Philadelphia String Band family and especially for the immediate family members of Joe, Kelly, Denny and Nicole.

Mummers have been making sure that the Ferry and Palandro families and their extended families have not been alone.  They will continue to stand together, to mourn together, and hopefully to aid in Nicole’s recovery.  All will struggle to try to find the answers that elude us.  If we find a functional way forward, it may begin with faith and with always remembering the passion and joy of these beautiful young people.  For now, we just are feeling lost, and it may be that way for awhile.South Philadelphia String Band with Black Ribbon 2

28 Responses

  1. So well said Mr. Highsmith and thank you for always spreading what is good and pure about mummery!

  2. Peace be with all those who are hurting over this most tragic event.

  3. Many thoughts and prayers going to all of the families during this tragic time! #spsbforeverinourhearts

  4. My heart is broken to learn about Hoe and Kelly who I worked with. I did not know Denny but I pray for his wife and family 💔💔

  5. Sendings unconditional Love & Prayers during this tragic time. My heart hurts for everyone & May God Be With You All

  6. Heartfelt Condolences, Thoughts, Prayers and Strength to the Palandro, Ferry and SPSB Families.

  7. Nicole is my cousin and Denny was such a great guy! Many of my family and friends knew Joe and Kelly and express the same sentiments. Thank you for writing this so beautifully.

  8. Such a beautiful write about a Philadelphia tradition that brings the city together in any kind of weather.
    God bless the families affected.

  9. So very sad. And I can feel your sadness through your beautiful words. It is true, we all felt the pain of this loss, even though some of of us did not know them personally. We pray for their souls and pray that Nicole recovers
    well from her injuries. Even though her heart is broken. God bless them and pray that Our Lord wraps his arms to comfort each and everyone of their families and loved ones. RIP
    And God bless you.

  10. Beautifully said. My thoughts and prayers go out to their families also the spsb and may the lord help the injured recover fully. Family isn’t always blood and mummers show all the love and support from all over. God bless all of you 🙏🙏❤️

  11. Prayers to you all praying for the full recovery of the young lady RIP to the 3 young people who lost their lives

  12. Steve that was beautifully written! It is completely gut-wrenching to say the least! Prayers to all of the families involved in this tragic situation! Prayers for strength for the days following to everyone in Mumland too!
    Elexis Cuculino

  13. Completely gut wrenching. Why o why did this happen? This is terrible. My heart is completely shattered for the Palandro’s and the Ferry family. My thoughts and prayers go out to everyone involved.

  14. Thank you

  15. This is a horrible nightmare. My prayers to the Palandro and Ferry Families.

  16. Sending prayers and condolences to everyone

  17. It’s just not fair. And yes why does it always happen to the good people and not the bad. Questions are always unanswered. May God be with all the families in this horrific tragedy that took those 3 beautiful lives. 🙏🙏🙏

  18. Some of my best memories of South Philly are the Mummers. New Year’s Day standing on the sidewalk as the different clubs passed in there beautiful costumes. The String bands were my favorite. Both my brothers were mummers at a young age and marched and danced with the
    Kline club. My thoughts and prayers go to these families and hope for the one fighting for ther life.

  19. My thoughts and prayers go out too all the families. Much love to South Philly String Band . 🙏🙏🙏🙏

  20. Very sorry in everyone’s loss ,sending my condolences to everyone …..Prayers are being send to Nicole to make a fully recovery ……….

  21. Thank You Steve for saying what all Mummery wants to say to all the lives that were lost and especially for Ms. Palandro for a speedy and full recovery. God Bless

  22. Well said, Steve. Just so, so sad. Prayers for all the family & friends coming. 🙏🏻

  23. Prayers

  24. Nice tribute Mr Highsmith…..Always looked forward to the Stringbands on New Year’s day ..With the costumes,,,groving tones of the Sax and Banjos harmonies…Sad day for the families and the club (which is family) ..Rest in Peace . Sorry for your loss SPSB

  25. So sad Sorry for the loss of these young wonderful people.May they rest in peace with our Lord in Paradise.May Nicole recover praying for her!Prayers n blessings too the family’s of Joe Kelly n Denny..Amen..

  26. Thank you ,enjoyed Reding the interesting article.

  27. Our family and our Mummers group,The Two Street Stompers are so sadden by this senseless tragedy. We will continue with our prayers for Nicole to heal, and for all the families, dear friends and the Philadelphia String Band Club. 🙏❤️The Alley Family.

  28. Devastating for the families, the Mummers Association, and the people of Philly who love and support the awesomeness of the Mummers. Sending prayers to all.

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