Joe Hugh Wyant passed away Sunday, March 8, 2020, after celebrating his 90th birthday with his family.
He was born March 8, 1930, in Bartlesville, Oklahoma to Annaliza (Winn) Wyant and Lynton Dewitt Wyant. He was the youngest of three boys. He spent his early years on his parents farm during the Great Depression.
The family moved to Nyack, NY, where he graduated from high school. It was here that he began his career as a professional musician, obtaining a musician’s union card at the age of 16 and playing with bands in New York City on weekends.
After a brief stint at Colorado University, he earned a degree in music education from Hartwick College, where he was a founding member of the Epsilon Pi chapter of Phi Mu Alpha Sinfonia Fraternity.
After graduating from Hartwick, he enlisted in the US Air Force, and served during the Korean War. While stationed at Plattsburgh AFB, he also worked as a car hop at Nitzi’s Red Hots.
After his discharge from the USAF, he moved his growing family to Willsboro, NY. He began teaching vocal music at Willsboro Central and Westport Central schools. He directed church choirs at the Willsboro Methodist Church and the Westport Federated Church. It was during this time that he and some of his musician friends started playing music professionally. This was the beginning of his well-known band, the Lamplighters.
In the early 1960’s, he began teaching at Elizabethtown-Lewis Central School. He and his three children moved to Elizabethtown in 1963. He earned two masters degrees in school administration from SUNY Plattsburgh during this time, while playing music on weekends with the Lamplighters and raising his children as a single parent.
After arriving at Elizabethtown-Lewis, he formed the first stage band in the region. He also started a men’s vocal group, who toured area schools. Later, a women’s vocal group was also formed. He retired from teaching in 1985.
After retirement, he served on the Elizabethtown-Lewis school board, both as a board member and president.
He was a founding member and director of the Pleasant Valley Chorale. After retiring as director, he sang as a member of the group. In later years, he formed a band made up of friends and family, and played at area venues during the summer months, including the Elizabethtown Social Center and Normandie.
He married Merrice Walls in 1972. They were married for 39 years, until her death in 2011. They were avid sailors, and could be seen on their sailboat on Lake Champlain for many summers. They spent winters in Melbourne, FL and South Padre Island, TX, and summered at their home in Elizabethtown.
More recently, he was honored on two separate occasions, both of which he characterized as highlights of his life. He was honored by many of his former students on E’town Day, July 20, 2014. On Saturday, June 18, 2016, he traveled to Washington D.C. as a member of the North Country Honor flight.
Joe is survived by three daughters: Darby Kennedy of Lewis, Leslie Badore and husband Harold of Vergennes, VT, and Joette Enfinger and fiancé Palmer Panton of Deland, FL; two sons: David of Elizabethtown, and Mark and wife Jan of St. Cloud, MN; one granddaughter: Kysa St. Dennis of Peru; and one great granddaughter: Ava Roberts of Peru.
He was predeceased by his wife, Merrice, a son, James Walls, and two brothers, Reese E. Wyant and J. Dewitt Wyant.
There will be no services. Interment will be in the spring.
Arrangements have been entrusted to Heald Funeral Home, 7521 Court Steet, Elizabethtown.
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