In planning the birthday of Chifuru Noda for this evening, I remember visiting him at the hospital in Boston on December 11, 2018. In the semi-darkness, an attendant was asking what he’d like to eat for lunch. His breakfast sat still on the movable trolley, covered and untouched. After she left, I asked if I could eat some of his breakfast. I had no idea what he was about to tell me in the next two hours I spent alone with him.
We hadn’t seen each other since our “Beatles Carpool Karaoke” jam session in July 2018. Around that time, he was one of fifteen participants in a group e-mail discussion about what to name our ukulele group. We had started on the night of the super blue blood moon (January 31st, 2018) and met each week to sight read ukulele song sheets of songs of different themes: moon, break-up songs for Valentine’s Day, songs from movies for Academy Awards, etc.
What should we call ourselves, I asked in the e-mail. Later, I posted a blog post about it.
- Baker Choco-LeLe’s
- Baker’s Ukleteers
- Baker’s Chocolate Ukuleteers
- Beantown Ukulele Posse
- Lower Mills Ukes
- Lower Mills Ukuleteers
- Lower MIlls Ukuleles
- Lower Mills Ukulele Club
- Neponset Ukulele Group
Ukels (alt. Ukeles)
With the name like this, you’ll have to straw hat and coverall
We had corresponded during the summer months when I was in London working on my dissertation on ukulele song sheets and communities.
On September 9th, 2018, I sent out an e-mail to all ukulele club leaders, our ukulele group members, and anyone that I thought would like to be involved in a big event at Eustis Estate, the newest addition to Historic New England. Chief responded:
I should be able to join you that weekend if you can use bass. Once the songbook is ready, I can practice!
Happy to hear from him, I asked if he was available to play the bass for the Milton Porchfest on 22nd September as well. He replied,
I hesitate to participate at the Milton gig as I have been unable to attend any practice sessions and I hate to go in unpracticed. For the November gig, I will try to make the practice and study off the songbook.
At the end of September, he e-mailed me that he would not be able to participate at Eustis Estate. He had just gotten out of the hospital after a week and needed to rest. He was sure I could find another bass player.
I was disappointed but not concerned until I saw his Facebook post on October 8th: “I’m alive contact Christina toner or Jenna Or 6176321628.” The various comments under his post were not answered.
On October 10th, 2018, I sent him an e-mail:
Glad you are still alive and kicking
Want to carpool with me to Kiyoshi’s party on Sat 20 Oct?
Concerned, I called the number on his Facebook post. A patient at a hospital in Boston answered and told me to call the main switchboard. Chief was surprised to hear from me and asked how I got his number. We spoke briefly. He said it was a minor digestive issue. Nothing to worry about. He’d be out of the hospital soon.
There was only one more Facebook post from him on 29th October — a video of blue angels — nothing more. It was too quiet for someone so active on Facebook and e-mails. Something was not right.
At the hospital on December 11th, 2018, I asked him to write down his name in Japanese. He scribbled four characters which I later looked up. His surname means “wild rice paddy” or “open field” and his forename means “a thousand elders or ancient” — we never had time to discuss this. To be continued …..
野 田 千 古
No da Chi furu