University of Alaska Anchorage voice professor, contralto, longtime Anchorage arts supporter and dear friend, Mickey Belden, passed away quietly this morning.
Mickey was diagnosed with a brian tumor in early May. Judy and I had dinner with Mickey and her husband, Dr. George Belden, on May 2, the day she was told about the tumor. She was very brave throughout her two-month ordeal.
Mickey and George brought me back into composing music in the mid-1980s, after I had stopped writing for more than a decade. George, Alaska's most distinguished composer, looked at the sketches of what turned out to be my Chugach Symphony, and heartily urged me to finish the work. After I did, the next work I wrote, in late 1984, was a set of songs that were sung by Mickey. Later, in 1992, I wrote another song for Mickey to perform as part of a multi-composer work, called A Mass for Winter Solstice. I've been working on another set of songs for her.
Mickey conquered so many physical problems over the past decade, from arthritis and scoliosis, that it was hard to imagine she could succumb to anything. This past winter and early spring, after I was diagnosed with lower back problems, Mickey was encouraging me to join her for swimming aerobics, which had helped her strengthen her lower back.
That's the way she was, advising people on simple solutions to problems. The solutions, though often simple, also often required a lot of work and dedication.
Mickey's efforts in helping singers - young and old, in working in many aspects of the arts in Anchorage - from community drama to community opera, and in so many other areas, will be sorely missed.
Dr. Belden and their sons, Steven and David, are currently making arrangements for a memorial to this magnificent woman.