Obituary for George Calden
January 27, 2007

George Calden, age 91, died surrounded by family on Sunday, January 7 at the Don and Marilyn Anderson Hospice Center in Fitchburg, WI. George relished life and even during his last weeks had moments of joy; tapping his toes to music, greeting familiar nurses and creating humorous poems about his condition.

He was born February 22, 1915 in Philadelphia, son of Samuel and Bertha Levine Calden, but he spent his boyhood years in Brooklyn, N.Y., the scene of some of his reminiscence stories. His Uncle Max gave him a mandolin which became a principle source of enjoyment in his later years. George's parents suffered many economic hardships during the Great Depression which made him sensitive to the plight of the poor for the rest of his life. Because of working to help support his family it took George eight years to graduate as a history major from Brooklyn College.

Feeling lucky to be employed, George worked as a railway mail clerk on the Long Island Railway and the New York to Buffalo run from 1939-1943. He enlisted and served in the U.S. Army from 1943-1946 in the Signal Corps as a cryptanalyst, deciphering and translating top-secret German coded messages. As part of the Army Special Training Program (ASTP) George came to the UW Madison in 1944 to study Norwegian. Later he studied Japanese cryptography for the army at Stanford. Languages and the origin of words and last names fascinated him for the rest of his life.

After the war, George returned to New York and completed a master's degree at Columbia University in psychological services. George credited the GI Bill for making it possible for him to earn a PhD in clinical psychology at the University of Michigan (1951) and to launch a professional career. It was also in Ann Arbor that he met the love of his life, Ruth De Bruyn, a literature student, and they were married September 9, 1949. Because of George's fondness for Madison during his army years, he and Ruth settled here in 1951.

George was the chief psychologist at the VA Hospital in Madison (then a TB Hospital) from 1951 to 1959. George's job was to convince patients to stay until they were healed. As an adjunct to this work he wrote 33 articles on psychological testing, pychosomatic medicine and tuberculosis hospitalization.

In 1959 George joined the Madison Psychiatric Associates where he worked as a clinical psychologist doing psychological testing, psychotherapy, marriage counseling and hypnosis until his retirement in 1980. Marriage counseling became his specialty and out of this came his book on couple communication, I Count, You Count, published in 1976. During the era of "open marriage" he tried to strengthen marital ties and improve communication.

George was an original member of the Prairie Unitarian Universalist Society and served as lay minister for several terms. He also compiled a songbook for the congregation and took part in countless musical events.

Music was a central passion for George. An accomplished mandolinist, he played with a bluegrass group, the Prairie Chicken Pluckers, as well as a combo called the Martin Buber Trio during the 1970s. In 1982 George and his wife Ruth helped form The Ethnic Connection, a four-person ensemble specializing in international folk music and performing over 500 gigs for various Madison organizations. For the past ten years George was also a member of the UW Russian Folk Orchestra where he played the domra, a Ukranian folk instrument.

Perennially curious, George enjoyed a particularly enriching retirement. In addition to his musical involvements he was one of the founding members of PLATO (Participatory Learning and Teaching Organization). He taught three courses for PLATO members: "American Folk Music", "Famous Composers" and "Unforgettable Videos". As a result of a PLATO reminiscence writing class he wrote 60 witty, ironic and insightful stories about his life which he self-published as Leaving Tracks. George loved to read his stories aloud to any available listener. He also enjoyed telling jokes, writing doggerel and composing humorous songs for The Ethnic Connection like "Never Call a Bagel a Doughnut."

Despite declining health in recent years, George retained his characteristic wry attitude about old age. His warm presence, his humor and his stories will live on in the hearts of his loving family and a host of friends.

George is survived by his wife Ruth and their four children, Lisa Calden of Berkeley CA, Dr. Martha Calden of Chicago IL, Virginia (Ginny) Calden and Tom Calden of Madison and his brother Eugene Calden of Boynton Beach FL. He was preceded in death by his brother Morris Calden. He is also survived by brothers-in-law, Rev. Richard (Tilli) DeBruyn of Arroyo Grande, CA and Jack (Joan) DeBruyn of Raleigh, N.C, and five nieces and four nephews.

A visitation to greet George's family will be held at Cress Funeral Home, 3610 Speedway Road, on Friday, February 2 from 4:00-6:00 p.m. A memorial service to celebrate George's life will take place at the First Unitarian Society, 900 University Bay Drive, on Saturday February 3 at 12:00 noon.

In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to the Capitol City Band, P.O. Box 258007, Madison WI 53725-8007, Amnesty International, 5 Penn Plaza, New York, N.Y. 10001 or to Prairie UU Society, designated George Calden Music Fund, 2010 Whenona Drive, Madison, WI 53711.

The family wishes to thank Dr. Thomas Ansfield and his nurses, Sherry and Lisa, and the nurses and aids at Hospice Care Center for their compassionate care of George, dear husband and father.