Since its founding in 1971, the Worcester County Poetry Association has served, and been served by, hundreds of poetry lovers. Poet John Donne wrote, “Therefore, send not to know / For whom the bell tolls, / It tolls for thee.” On this page, we seek to honor some of those who have helped shape the WCPA and our programming through the years.
If you have additional suggestions for inclusion, please contact us via the Volunteer form.
Gertrude Halstead (1916 - 2012)
Gertrude Halstead (1916 – 2012) was a beloved member of the Worcester poetry community. A long-time participant in a writing workshop led by John Hodgen, Gertrude was a regular at several local poetry venues. Many of us first heard Gertrude read at Poetry Oasis, founded by Eve Rifkah and Mike Milligan. In 2003, Gertrude was featured in the literary journal Diner, also founded by Eve Rifkah, and the subject of a 2008 documentary, “memories like burrs”. In 2007, Gertrude Halstead was named Worcester’s first Poet Laureate. A memorial celebration of her life and work was held at Assumption College in 2012 when friends and family gathered to read her poetry and share memories.
On Sunday, July 20, 2008, from 2 to 3:30 pm there was an event entitled: On Worcester Poet Laureate Gertrude Halstead at Worcester Polytechnic Institute, Higgins House. This event was to commemorate Gertrude Halstead’s 92nd birthday, and a reception followed the readings. The event was free and open to the public, and the Program Coordinator was Laura Menides, with Felicia Misale as Assistant Program Coordinator.
Angela Dorenkamp (1929-2013)
Angela Dorenkamp (1929-2013) was a long-time member of the Worcester County Poetry Association. She was one of the founders of the Worcester Ramble, celebrating James Joyce’s Ulysses on Bloomsday.
Read her account of Inscribing the Stone: Notes from Worcester’s Hope Cemetery.
Ken Happe (1934-2013)
Ken Happe (1934-2013) gave a Bloomsday-related talk back when WCPA was still located in the PASOW building. He had been invited by Laura Menides; his topic was The Odyssey and the Homeric parallels with Ulysses. The talk was very well attended and well received. The only downside was that our space on Chatham Street tended to be a little swampy at the best of times and on that June evening, it was incredibly hot. It was beyond hot: it was sweltering. Ken heroically stayed the course. He occasionally joined us at Bloomsday sites over the years. It was always a pleasure to have him read (or guide others in reading) the passages in Latin, Italian and other languages. He was a lovely man.
Lynda Johnson (1935-2016)
Lynda Johnson (1935-2016) was a long-time member of the Worcester County Poetry Association and served as WCPA treasurer for several years in the 1980s. Every performer needs an audience, and for many poets who attend WCPA events, Lynda was there. Members of the WCPA appreciated her superior editing abilities. She will be missed.
Eleanor Vincelette (1924 - 2017)
Eleanor Vincelette (1924 – 2017) – During her time in college, Eleanor became a prolific writer of poetry and short stories, a frequent and popular poet at local open mikes and the author of four books of poetry and prose: Ali Anora’s Life Through The Window, The Spirit and Wisdom of a Woman, Our Path is Chosen, and Pages from my Life. She interned at Worcester Magazine, served on the Worcester County Poetry Association and Opera Worcester boards, and illustrated many organizational programs, newsletters, and event posters for all the organizations she participated in.
Dan Lewis (1946 – 2017)
Dan Lewis (1946 – 2017) lived on the edge of Patch Reservoir and is the 2012 Winner of The Frank O’Hara Prize. He published four collections of poetry: Tickets for the Broken Year, and The Garden in 2011, Iconospheres in 2013, and Intimations of the Focal Plane in 2016.
Lewis was awarded the WCPA’s Stanley Kunitz Medal in 2016. He was an active volunteer member of the WCPA Board of Directors for over twenty years. In this capacity, he regularly designed and produced broadsides for other poets and published many editions of The Issue. He served as typesetting and design editor of The Worcester Review from 1999-2011.
Byron Menides (1931 – 2017)
Byron Menides (1931 – 2017) – The poetry community mourns the passing of Bryon Menides, a long time supporter of the WCPA. Byron’s wife, Laura Jehn-Menides, is a long-serving member of the WCPA board. He attended nearly every event the WCPA organized and facilitated a number of collaborations for us.
Marsha Kunin (1949 - 2017)
Mike True (1933 - 2019)
Mike True (1933 – 2019) – Michael D. True, PhD, of Worcester, Massachusetts, died in April 2019. Mike was one of the founders of the Worcester County Poetry Association in 1971 and the founding editor of the Association’s literary journal The Worcester Review. He was the inaugural recipient of the Stanley Kunitz Medal in 2015; the award recognizes the total commitment to poetry as Stanley lived it: teaching poetry, mentoring poets, speaking poetry, publishing poetry, and supporting organizations that nurture poetry.
Mike was a stalwart supporter of Worcester, of peace, and of poetry. His patience and support will be missed by all who knew him.
Ralph Hughes (1927 - 2020)
Ralph Hughes passed away peacefully at his home on April 2, 2020. Ralph pursued his lifelong interest in poetry and music well into his retirement years. His poems were published in Sahara, Diner, and The Worcester Review. He became a frequent contributor at Worcester area poetry readings and workshops.
Friends of Ralph’s have created the Ralph A. Hughes Archive and shared several poems.
Victor, The Old Ram at the End
Phil O'Hara (1933 - 2020)
It is with sadness that we share the passing of J. Philip O’Hara. For over a decade Phil, and his wife Pat, have supported the WCPA’s Annual Poetry Contest: The Frank O’Hara Prize. The contest was renamed in 2009 in honor of Phil’s brother, poet Frank O’Hara. Their support has allowed the Association to recruit talented judges and attract 1000s of submissions. We will miss his presence at our annual Winners’ Reading, his advice, and his friendship.
Below are a few photos of Phil from the past few years. You can read his obituary here.
Mary Pat True (1932 - 2020)
It is with sadness that we must note the passing of Mary Pat True on Thanksgiving morning in Minneapolis. She was with her daughter. Mary Pat was a long-time supporter of the WCPA, the artful hostess at 4 Westland Street for poets from around the world, and spouse of Mike True (the initial Stanley Kunitz Medal winner). Mary Pat was a member of the critically acclaimed Denise Levertov workshop at Assumption College. Her series of art photography featuring Worcester doorways showed her willingness to transcend borders and differences in the community.
Our heartfelt condolences go out to Mary Pat and Mike’s children and grandchildren.
You can read her obituary here.
Laura Jehn Menides (1937 - 2022)
It is with great sadness that the Worcester County Poetry Association has learned of the loss of one of its iconic members, Laura Jehn Menides, scholar, poet, and past president of the WCPA. She initiated over a quarter of a century, many of the programs that cemented the WCPA’s legacy as a major cultural institution in Central Massachusetts.
She was active in the Elizabeth Bishop Society and was instrumental in a number of conferences which featured Bishop scholars from all over the world, such as Thomas Travisano, who visited Worcester and provided insights into Bishop’s work. Laura Menides was the spark that began the listing of homes and locations important to nationally known Worcester poets like Frank O’Hara, whose home is now listed as a literary landmark. Her many years as an English professor at WPI provided the basis for collaborations which helped the WCPA bring poets like Stanley Kunitz back to the city for readings.
The WCPA would not be where it is today without her tireless, voluntary efforts to promote poetry in Central Massachusetts.
Worcester Magazine did a great write-up about her contribution to, and passion for, poetry. You can read the article right here.