- Raymond Hall (1949–2018)
Raymond Hall was born on March 18, 1949, in Indianapolis. His 69-year life was packed with an infectious zest for finding amazing adventures and then sharing them through his vivid skills as a master raconteur and teacher. After his service in the 173rd Airborne Brigade during the Vietnam War, Raymond went on to serve in a variety of careers, including work as an English teacher and a Spanish teacher, master diver, underwater archaeologist, and deep-sea fisherman—just to name a few of his endeavors. He taught at a number of universities before retiring from Central Washington University on April 1, 2018. He died less than 1 week later. He is survived by his wife, Diane Fishel-Hall, and his two sons, Raymond Hall, Jr., and John James Hall.
Raymond completed his doctoral degree at Indiana University. Although his interests centered on Afro-Mexican folklore, he also completed research and taught courses in a wide range of subjects. He developed extensive research on oral history connected to labor history in the Northwest, and he was integral to Central Washington University's programs for diversity and inclusion. His service to the university included his work with the Brother 2 Brother program, through which he served as an advisor and mentor. Raymond also created a number of documentary media projects, and he was actively involved as an advisor to numerous students throughout his career.
I first met Raymond 25 years ago when we both were students at Indiana University. We spent time together going over notes and papers from various classes, playing chess at People's Park, coordinating a youth program at Bloomington's public library, and figuring out graduate school. After leaving Indiana, I was always excited to pick up the phone when Raymond's number would pop up. I knew he would talk about his new projects, identify opportunities for his students, and just share experiences. I was especially honored when he asked me to serve as an outside reader for his fine book titled An Ethnographic Study of Afro-Mexicans in Mexico's Gulf Coast: Fishing, Festivals, and Food-ways (Edwin Mellen Press, 2008). He followed up this publication with The Archival Records of the African Slave Trade to Mexico at Santiago El Pescador, 1692–1799 (Edwin Mellen Press, 2013). When I first learned of Raymond's research, I vividly remember mentioning to Raymond a visit I had made to the state of Guerrero where I witnessed the Danza de los Voladores. Raymond explained that he actually performed the dance during his own fieldwork in Mexico, to which I replied, "You did what?!" Swinging upside down from a platform that's over 50 feet high just wasn't an activity conducive to my own approach to participant-observation fieldwork.
It was to Raymond. That was Raymond's approach to fieldwork and to living. He was always able to find adventures and then share the experiences through his wonderful storytelling abilities and his interesting reflections on his work. Folklorists who remember Raymond will always remember him with a smile and with a story.