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Fond farewell to Emlen Cresson

Emlen on the subway.

The Philadelphia and Princeton area dancers said farewell to Emlen Cresson yesterday, and Jenny Beer sent in this remembrance.

Emlen Cresson danced with a strong arm and a big grin. He was tireless. And as all you who danced with him in Philadelphia, Buffalo Gap, Pinewoods, and other dance weeks know, he never stopped having fun.

He was smiling and singing minutes before he died last week at age 91.  Today we filled his church with song—Eccard, Palestrina, Mozart, hymns–the Episcopal church where he sang tenor for 44 years.

One fateful evening in his early 20s, someone who worked in Merck labs with Emlen persuaded him to attend a ski club’s square dance, and in a “Paul Jones” mixer he met a beautiful woman in a long skirt…. He took to dancing like a duck to water. He joined the ski club. And he shared the next 61 years with his beloved Ruth, who left us last Fall.

Ruth and Emlen

You could always count on Ruth & Emlen – they came to every dance, every event, every dance demonstration, he with a battered money box for the door and taped up dance shoes, she with lemon squares or “Library punch.” They danced contra, English, and Scottish with enthusiasm and grace, and they wowed audiences with their colonial dance performances – all that long white hair (no wigs!). The hair would go flying in the broom dance Emlen did every year for Revels, and whenever Emlen dug into a contra swing.

Until they were very old you never saw them chatting on the sidelines. They danced every dance. And when they weren’t dancing, they were sailing, hiking, birding—he knew every call– skiing, singing, or eating Ruth’s 3 home-cooked meals a day.

For Philadelphia-area dancers, it’s just not possible to imagine our community without Emlen & Ruth’s cheerful and graceful presence. Of course everything goes on… the demo team monthly potluck and the carol sing have moved to other houses, and there are lots of skilled dancers and good spirits at our local events. People still sail their boats on Long Pond and swim au naturelle in Round Pond. But someone’s missing.

The Cressons (Ruth, Tim, and Emlen) at a Playford Ball.

This afternoon at the burial ground when the priest was done, we sang “Dance, then, wherever you may be”, and then danced Prince William next to his grave.  Gone to eternal rest? Rest? Naw, not our Emlen.

Condolences can be sent to their son Tim Cresson, who spent full time this past year lovingly caring for both his parents as they faded away from this long and happy life.  PO Box 25, Princeton Junction, NJ, 08550.

Jenny Beer currently serves as Vice President of CDSS.

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