TERRE HAUTE —
People can be forgotten. Their lives end, time passes and memories fade.
Often, the only keepers of their legacies are family and friends, who tell and retell their stories, generation to generation.
For Paul Dresser, his fame burned strong enough as a turn-of-the-century, million-seller songwriter to preserve bits of his public notoriety. The westbound half of the twin Wabash River bridges in Terre Haute bears his name. The small village on the river’s west bank does, too. History books note his accomplishments. But personal remembrances of a man who died in 1906 are rare.
Tedi Dreiser Godard has access to such insights.
She is the great-niece of Dresser and his brother, acclaimed author Theodore Dreiser. She’s also a veteran cabaret singer and actress. Godard will rekindle the memory of her great-uncle Paul with an interpretive performance in his beloved hometown on June 6 at the Holiday Inn in Terre Haute, beginning at 5:30 with cocktails, the show and dinner planned.
The event will serve as a fundraiser for the proposed riverside sculpture by Wabash Valley Art Spaces Inc. for the community’s Cultural Trail. Godard and her husband, Joel Godard — a veteran actor and former announcer for the “Late Night with Conan O’Brien” show — will perform some of Dresser’s hit songs and a theatrical readings from Theodore Dreiser’s poignant tribute to Dresser, “My Brother, Paul.” Tedi’s son, Paul Dreiser Andrews, will handle the technical details of the production.
The night will be part of an eventful spring for Dresser’s legacy. The Indiana Legislature is expected to hear a resolution honoring the composer on March 14 — the 100th anniversary of the General Assembly’s adopting Dresser’s masterpiece, “On the Banks of the Wabash, Far Away,” as the state song.
And, of course, Dresser’s talents touch the many activities planned for the 2013 Year of the River celebration, which continues through December.
Tedi hopes the June show, the sculpture project and other festivities tell his story to 21st-century folks.
“It’s great, because through the years a lot of the focus has been on the other brother, Theodore,” she said by telephone Wednesday from the Godards’ home in Costa Mesa, Calif. Theodore Dreiser penned the classic novels “Sister Carrie” and “An American Tragedy,” and lived until 1945 — 39 years after his older brother died and long after Paul’s Tin Pan Alley gems such as “On the Banks” and “My Gal Sal” were sung from coast to coast.
Tedi’s family never forgot Dresser, though.
Her grandfather, Edward Dreiser, was the youngest brother of Paul (who changed his stage name from Dreiser to Dresser) and Theodore. An actor on Broadway, Edward shared a family trait with Paul, Tedi explained. “He had the perennial twinkle in his eye,” she said of Edward. And, like Edward, Paul “was a very gregarious man,” she added.
By contrast, Theodore was “very insecure and shy, withdrawn and didn’t think he was well-liked,” Tedi said. But Theodore adored Paul and his fun-loving nature, just as her grandfather Edward did.
As a young girl, Godard heard those reflections from her grandfather, who died when she was 14. But Tedi, now 69, never knew her famous great-uncles. Her mother, Vera Dreiser, passed down their histories to Tedi. Vera, who lived from 1908 to 1998, earned degrees from New York University and Columbia University, wrote “My Uncle Theodore,” and became a psychotherapist, columnist and radio-and-TV personality. Tedi, her mother and her father, Alfred E. Scott, were New York natives, and Tedi’s theatrical background — with training at Julliard School of Music, among other venues — reflects that. But Paul’s roots in Terre Haute remained part of the family lore.
“Within the family, he certainly was [regarded as a star],” Tedi said.
She’s visited and performed in Terre Haute a couple of other times. In 1971, Tedi sang in Indiana State University’s Dreiser Hall to mark her great-uncle Theodore’s 100th birthday. Earlier this decade, she sang “On the Banks of the Wabash” and the national anthem for a Chamber of Commerce event. The June 6 show will be special. “It’s a wonderful opportunity for all of us to gather in Terre Haute and pay [Paul] homage,” she said.
“We try to bring him to life through the descriptions and Theodore’s words [from “My Brother, Paul”] and Paul’s music,” Tedi said of the performance. “I hope we succeed.”
Mark Bennett can be reached at 812-231-4377 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
TERRE HAUTE —
People can be forgotten. Their lives end, time passes and memories fade.
- Local & Bistate
Purdue shooting leaves one person dead
A Purdue University engineering student opened fire inside a basement classroom Tuesday, killing a teaching assistant and prompting officials to put the campus on lockdown, police and the university said.
Tasting their way to a cure
People appeared to be in high spirits Friday inside the historic Indiana Theatre as they gathered for an evening of wine, food and conversation while supporting efforts to find a cure for breast cancer.
THS grad Miller among students in adjacent building when shooting occurs
Kris Miller and his roommate were in a computer lab of Purdue’s mechanical engineering building Tuesday when they received a call that a shooting had occurred next door.
Bosma moves gay marriage ban bill to friendlier committee
Republican House of Representatives Speaker Brian Bosma sent a bill that proposes a constitutional ban on gay marriage to a more conservative-leaning legislature committee Tuesday, because it lacked support on the first committee to which it was assigned.
We enter the deep freeze again
If you had to step outside to get your newspaper this morning, you might have noticed it’s painfully cold once again.
Levy redirects school funds
If the new “protected levy” legislation goes into effect later this year, it would mean “a substantial reduction” in revenue for Vigo County School Corp. bus transportation, capital projects and bus replacement funds, according to the district’s chief financial officer.
School debt levy redirects funds across Indiana
School officials and state legislators from around the state are searching for ways to keep the school buses running — and children safe on the streets — pending the loss of millions of dollars for school transportation.
More than 50 school districts in Indiana stand to lose at least 20 percent of their revenues for transportation, new buses and other big-ticket projects under a new law that requires them to first pay off their debts.
VIDEO: Sen. Donnelly updates T-S editorial board
Passage of a long overdue U.S. farm bill could be completed by the end of this month, Sen. Joe Donnelly, D-Ind., said Tuesday.
Vigo coroner tries again for salary increase
After being denied last year, Vigo County Coroner Dr. Susan Amos is again seeking to have her county salary increased to match that of several other county office holders.
Same-sex marriage: 4 couples sue state over ban
Four gay couples from southern Indiana sued the state Friday, seeking to force Indiana to recognize same-sex marriages from out of state and issue licenses to same-sex couples.
Time to check smoke alarms
Three years after a house fire on South Nine Street in Terre Haute resulted in the death of three people, a Terre Haute grandmother still wonders if the outcome of that fire would have been different if smoke detectors in the home had been working.
Indiana State Board extends president’s contract
Indiana State University has signed up Dan Bradley, the school’s president, for an additional three years of service.
New animal shelter gets welcome boost
The aging Terre Haute Humane Society shelter is not a place for the faint of heart.
4 couples sue Indiana over same-sex marriage ban
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — Four couples from southern Indiana are asking a federal judge to force the state to recognize same-sex marriages from other states and issue marriage licenses to gay couples.
Vigo County Jail Log: March 7, 2014
The following individuals were booked into the Vigo County Jail by area law enforcement on Thursday and Friday, based on jail records.
Bill for welfare drug testing in negotiation
INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Two Indiana lawmakers trying to pass a bill requiring drug tests for some welfare recipients say they have passed voluntary drug tests.
Book signing March 7 in Crossroads Café to benefit Success By 6
The book “One Day I Could Be ... Careers in the Wabash Valley,” is on sale now and will be available at a book signing today, March 7, during a First Friday event in downtown Terre Haute.
Groups ask regulators to probe plant’s power woes
INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Environmental and citizens’ groups are asking Indiana regulators to launch a formal investigation into problems and delays that have sharply limited the power output of Duke Energy’s $3.5 billion coal-gasification plant near Edwardsport.
Nature trust expands Owen-Putnam State Forest
POLAND, Ind. (AP) — State officials say funding from the Bicentennial Nature Trust has helped the Indiana Department of Natural Resources expand a central Indiana state forest by 84 acres.
Vigo County high school team in FIRST Robotics’ Crossroads Regional
Drivers of remote-controlled robots will match skills, similar to those used in basketball and soccer, to score in the FIRST Robotics’ Crossroads Regional on the campus of Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology.
Benefit planned for daycare fire victim
Veronica Gray never met 19-month-old Emma Lloyd, but when she learned about the child’s tragic death in a Sullivan day care fire, she had to do something.
Winter’s costs add up for Vigo
While still within county and city budgets, the snowstorms of January and February were more costly than a year ago.
Mayor Bennett threatens veto of consultant funding
Mayor Duke Bennett is threatening to veto a measure before the Terre Haute City Council that would transfer money into the council’s budget allowing the body to again hire a financial consultant.
Semitrailer fire slows eastbound traffic on Interstate 70
Traffic on Interstate 70 was slowed Thursday afternoon by a semitrailer fire just east of Terre Haute.
Tests show Skittles had no unusual chemicals
The Indiana State Health Department has given Skittles a clean bill of health.
No problems reported in early 10-digit phone dialing
Just be grateful you (probably) aren’t using a rotary telephone these days.
Cloverdale woman sentenced to 10 years in molestation/neglect case
A Cloverdale woman received a 10-year prison sentence Thursday after pleading guilty to child molesting and neglect of a defendant in Vigo Superior Court 3.
Youth orchestra performs March 9
Crossroads of America Youth Orchestra will present its "Spring" concert from 3 to 5 p.m. Sunday, March 9, in Central Presbyterian Church at 125 N. Seventh St.
Gun stolen by Dillinger gang returning to Nortern Indiana
AUBURN, Ind. (AP) — The FBI plans to return a .45-caliber Thompson submachine gun stolen by members of the John Dillinger gang from a northeastern Indiana police station to the department.
Indiana workplace safety agency addressing issues
INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — An Indiana Occupational Safety and Health Administration spokesman says the agency has cooperated fully with federal investigators who found the agency mishandled complaints, put its inspectors under strict time constraints and didn’t help whistleblowers.
- More Local & Bistate Headlines
- Purdue shooting leaves one person dead