Nfld. & Labrador

Colleague and friend remembers Peter Narvaez

Dr. Peter Narvaez, a nationally recognised folklorist and musician passed away at the age of 69 early Friday morning after a long struggle with cancer.

Peter Narvaez, a nationally recognised folklorist and musician, passed away in St. John's at the age of 69 early Friday morning after a long struggle with cancer.

Neil Rosenberg, a longtime friend and colleague at the folklore department at Memorial University, said Narvaez will be dearly missed by friends and family around the world.

"He was a person who people liked, who made friends, who reached out, so a lot of people are very sad to not have him around anymore," said Rosenberg.

"I just remember him as somebody who was always friendly and open, who had a smile and was looking for a way to make things happen … he always came to meetings looking for a way to make things happen — I think that was one of his many good qualities."

Rosenberg met Narvaez while both were attending graduate school, and said he encouraged Narvaez to apply for a job at Memorial University in 1974. Narvaez taught at the folklore department from 1974 until he retired in 2005.

"He taught a wide range of courses. He initiated courses in jazz and blues, in popular culture … he broadened horizons within the department of folklore and he conduced research on a wide range of topics pertaining to Newfoundland, but always connecting these things with the issues that made it just not about Newfoundland, but about the world and about life," said Rosenberg.

In 2006, Narvaez received the Marius Barbeau Medal from the Folklore Studies Association of Canada, a lifetime achievement award, in recognition of his contributions to Canadian folklore studies.

Rosenberg says Narvaez had a strong impact on preserving cultural life in the province and a made a lasting contribution to the music industry in St. John's.

"He was a force on the blues scene, was an advocate for blues locally, nationally, and internationally … he was somebody who believed it was an art form that was accessible to all and that good artists in blues could be found in many places — including St. John's," said Rosenberg.

Rosenberg said he met with Narvaez the day before he passed away. Narvaez had been working on a book that features essays he's written throughout his career about folklore and popular culture. Just weeks ago, Narvaez asked Rosenberg to write the introduction to the book.

"I thought I knew everything, but he's done so much, I'm still learning more about him," said Rosenberg.