In Memoriam: Chuck Wentworth and Mary Lee Partington

Chuck Wentworth; Mary Lee Partington

Cancer sucks. In the past couple of weeks a couple of titans in the RI music community passed away. They were both friends who I have known for decades. Chuck Wentworth and Mary Lee Partington, both wonderful, talented, and dedicated supporters of music and more were taken away by cancer. Chuck Wentworth was known for founding the Rhythm and Roots Festival, former WRIU Folk Radio host, Lagniappe Productions, The Mardi Gras Ball…too many things to list. I was in shock when I found out about his passing. Chuck and I had been friends for 35 or so years and he, and his family, considered me part of his extended family. I worked with him on Rhythm and Roots Festival for 24 years as well as Grey Fox Bluegrass Fest, Mardi Gras Ball, and a few of his other projects. I saw his kids grow up and have kids. What started as a friendship with Chuck turned into a family affair. I was fortunate to have a good visit with him last month but I was still not prepared for the loss. Chuck leaves his festival legacy and a large and loving family behind.


I met Mary Lee back in the mid ’80s when I first saw her Celtic-inspired band, Pendragon. Her band-mate, Russell Gusetti (Blackstone River Theatre) and I were in the same art program at RIC and he introduced me to Irish music and the band. The first thing I noticed about Mary Lee was her strong, powerful voice, and stage presence. She was also a big supporter of music with traditions and the culture of The Blackstone Valley. Mary Lee was involved in far too many things to mention but if you knew her or about her, you knew she was always busy doing something. I hadn’t seen her since late last year when she popped by one of my gigs and we had a good chat. I honestly thought Mary Lee would power through her battle. Her passing is shocking.

What Chuck and Mary Lee contributed to music and culture went far beyond the bounds of this little state. They both will be long remembered for their gifts, talent, and their friendship. RIP.