Wendy Christine Losh
Caring mother, passionate musician
Wendy Christine Losh died December 23, 2013 after a long fight against cancer. She was 63. Her final days were spent surrounded by family and the music of Bach, Debussy and two of her favorite composers, Morten Lauridsen and Shawn Kirchner.
Ms. Losh was born on January 22, 1950 in Kansas. Born into a family devoted to ecclesiastical responsibility, her father, Reverend Kenneth Losh, was giving his Sunday sermon as his wife, Marie, went into labor with Wendy.
The family moved to Anderson, Indiana and Ms. Losh took on a lifelong role as the responsible, eldest sibling in a family of five children. In 1957, her father became a pastor of the Central Philippine University, moving the family from the US to the Philippines at the height of post-World War II reconstruction, where she would spend a majority of her adolescence.
At 8 years old, she began her first piano lessons. She made rapid progress and, by age 12, had developed a knack for playing the organ. “Her feet naturally found the proper position on the pedals,” family recalled. She had her first paying job as church choir accompanist to her father’s worship services at age 14 and, by 16, had outgrew her teachers, family shared.
Her musical studies continued with Albert Faurot at the Silliman University in Dumaguete City on the island of Negros. Despite her unconventional schooling, Ms. Losh auditioned and was admitted to the Oberlin Conservatory of Music in Ohio. Her college audition tape was recorded near the docks, with the sound of ships whistling in the background.
After returning to the US to study at Oberlin in 1968, Ms. Losh immersed herself in the politically-active campus, which was fueled by the deaths of Martin Luther King Jr. and Bobby Kennedy. She also sang with the Oberlin Choir in Washington DC at the National Cathedral in memorial to the Kent University shootings. She graduated in 1972 with a major in organ performance.
While at Oberlin, she forged some of her closest friendships. Many family vacations were spent roaming the country, visiting her Oberlin “sisters.” Her son Trevor shared that the vacations would impart upon her children both the necessity of broad geographical perspectives and the importance of keeping a family of friends.
Once she graduated, Ms. Losh was torn between choosing a career as a concert musician and music education. She committed to raising her family with her husband, Kendall Johnson, and moved to Claremont after their marriage in October of 1979.
She studied education at California State Polytechnic University and began what would be a 39-year career as the organist at the Claremont United Methodist Church. She played the organ, piano and harpsichord, specializing in music of the Baroque and French Impressionist periods. She is especially remembered for her signature piece, Charles-Marie Widor’s Toccatta and Fugue in D Minor.
During that time, she established a home piano studio in Claremont. Both her students and parents fondly remember her as a joyous music teacher, who would speak to students as equals, regardless of age. She taught organ periodically through Pomona College and created a multiplicity of communities brought together by her warmth and enthusiasm.
Ms. Losh and her husband built their family of four, which includes a son, Trevor, born in 1984 and a daughter, Whitney, born in 1988. The family relates that they grew up with a menagerie of dogs, cats, rats and birds. Ms. Losh raised her children in a globally comprehensive and domestically inclusive environment, her son Trevor shared, and she never failed to remind them both that she was their biggest fan. As a step-grandmother, she showered her granddaughter Parker with gifts of art, music, humor, supportive commiseration and wisdom.
First diagnosed with cancer in 2007, she continued to work through her surgery and treatments. She remained a loyal friend, fully devoting herself to her students and to the church. Even during her final year of battling cancer, she traveled to visit her longtime friends from Oberlin, just as they traveled to be near her.
Ms. Losh was a connoisseur of local artists, Southwest Indian and world arts and crafts, local ephemera and delightfully blatant kitsch. She was a frequent patron of Santa Fe Indian Market. Ms. Losh remained communicative to the end, and every chance she had spoke of love, faith and peace. At the end of her life, she brought several of her friends and families together. She managed to smile throughout her final days, just as she made so many around her laugh throughout her life, her family shared.
“My mom leaves behind an immense void. All those whose lives she touched and left behind will wonder at the mystery of how one woman embodied so much; and of the ardor, passion and joy with which she radiated all her gifts,” her children said.
Ms. Losh is survived by her husband, Kendall Johnson; her son and his wife, Trevor and Jocelyn; and her granddaughter, Parker; her daughter and her partner, Whitney and Anthony Mendez; her mother, Marie; brother, Peter; sisters, Laurie, Peggy and Janet. She is also remembered by her extensive extended family, her piano students and Oberlin sisters.
A memorial service will be held at the Claremont United Methodist Church on Saturday, February 1 at 3 p.m. In lieu of flowers, the family requests that gifts in Ms. Losh’s name be made to the Nature Conservancy or the United Board for Christian Higher Education in Asia for typhoon relief in the Philippines.