For many years, Peter, Paul and Mary have played a Christmas and Chanukah concert at Carnegie Hall.
This year, on Dec. 9, the show will also have a strong touch of Thanksgiving. By then, it will be seven months and two weeks since Mary Travers had a bone-marrow transplant, by which she is fighting off acute myelogenous leukemia.
Because marrow transplants are a rough road, this hasn’t been an easy year for the 69-year-old Travers. But at the very least, she hasn’t walked it alone.
When Travers learned in December that an earlier leukemia had returned, two requests went out on the Peter, Paul and Mary Web site: for bone-marrow donors and for goodwill wishes.
Both were heeded. A donor was found in April, though for privacy reasons his or her identity has not been disclosed.
Meanwhile, the number of get-well E-mails passed 10,000, all printed and placed in three-ring binders by longtime PPM fan Paul Kehoe, a second-grade teacher in Massachusetts.
“I kept going to Staples to buy more binders,” says Kehoe, who also serves as PPM’s chief archivist. “We ended up with 26. Some messages were a line or two, others talked about something they’d faced in their own lives or how much Peter, Paul and Mary meant to them.”
They came from Russia, Thailand and the Philippines, from Judy Collins and Hillary Clinton and a lot of people less famous.
“Mary read them all,” Kehoe says. “She particularly loved that a lot of people sent jokes.”
Because she couldn’t have flowers, fans created a “virtual flower garden” for a computer printout. Others sent hats.
When she read an E-mail from a woman who had the same diagnosis, but wasn’t sure she would pursue the transplant, Travers called to urge her on. She also used her case to urge everyone to register as a bone-marrow donor, because every donor could potentially save a life.
Kehoe, 38, ordinarily spends his PPM time on things like tracking down rare tapes of early TV shows. He’ll get back to that, he says, now that the E-mail project has wound down.
With recent tests showing no leukemia cells, Travers says she’s feeling much better. So while cancer remains a nasty adversary, there was a sense of optimism earlier this month when she joined Peter Yarrow and Noel Paul Stookey in rehearsals for the holiday show, which, as usual, will feature the New York Choral Society and an orchestra conducted by their longtime music man, Bob DeCormier.
“Mary looks absolutely beautiful,” said Yarrow after their first rehearsal. “Her famous angel-like hair is just beginning to come in again. This moment the trio shared was nothing less than glorious.”
A Holiday Celebration with Peter, Paul & Mary will be performed Friday, December 9th at Carnegie Hall, New York City