CofC Communications Museum Curator Rick Zender passed away last month
Anyone who had the privilege of attending a uniquely placed show at or ever had a chance to soak in the magic of CofC's Communications Museum probably knew, or at least knew the handiwork of, Rick Zender, who the community lost on March 14, 2017. Friends and family will gather this weekend on Sat. April 8 1-4 p.m. in TD Arena’s McAlister hospitality suite for a celebration of the life of Zender, former CofC Communications Museum curator and long-time Holy City musician.
Organized by Zender’s four sisters, the memorial takes place on the campus of the college where he worked for 20 years. Local musicians are lined up to perform in tribute, including Zender’s most recent band, the Hibachi Heroes, and his former band for about a decade, the Rhythm Method.
Members of Fowler’s Mustache and more will also perform. Friends and family will speak, and a special zine will be presented as well. “A member of the Communications Museum will present a magazine of stories about the Communications Museum that will surely feature some anecdotes involving Rick,” says Rob Lowe, who helped coordinate the music portion of the memorial and is a member of the Hibachi Heroes.
“For the past five years, Rick has been our guitar player — Scott Funkhouser and Chris Milligan round out the lineup,” Lowe says. “So when we found out about his passing it was a huge shock. Music is pretty emotional, so losing a musician and a friend was a big loss for us.
“There have been a lot of changes in the band’s lineup the past five years, but Rick was the constant,” Lowe continues. “He and I saw each other at least once a week for the past five years. We wrote a number of songs and played a lot of shows together. So doing my best help his family with the celebration was the best way I could think of to honor his memory and friendship.”
The Communications Museum closed in the summer of 2015, citing renovations as the cause. But WYLA director Kevin Crothers, who called Zelder a friend, is concerned about the museum’s currently unknown fate. “I hope that CofC sees their way to continuing his legacy of the preservation of our technological past,” he says. “I have been unable to find any solid answer from the college concerning their plans to reopen the museum. I would hope that this hidden Charleston jewel would not be allowed to simply fade away due to deferred maintenance and the passing of the curator.”
Crothers’ hope is to see the museum resurrected into an archive of the broadcasting history of Charleston, pointing to Knoxville's Tennessee Archive of Moving Image and Sound facility as an example. “Sort of the museum version of J. Douglas Donohue’s “Charleston on the Air,” with working vintage-through-contemporary technology playing vintage-through-contemporary media representatives of the broad range of Charleston broadcasting.”
In the meantime, Lowe and other fellow musicians will take time to remember what Zender meant to them and the community. "As the Curator of the CofC Communications Museum, 'Doctor' Rick Zender was always amazing us with his endless knowledge of all things music (and beyond), and the various 'knick knacks' he had at his house," the Hibachi Heroes said on Facebook soon after Zender's passing.
"We'll miss his love of Halloween, his bright crazy colored shirts, his wonderful sense of humor and last (but not least): his uncontrollable laugh."