David Allen Kaynor of Montague, Massachusetts, died of complications from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis on Tuesday, June 1, at Cooley Dickinson Hospital in Northampton. He was born on April 17, 1948, in Springfield, Massachusetts, to Allen R. and Louise F. Kaynor.
David was the great-grandson of David Allen Reed, for whom he was named. David Allen Reed founded Springfield College, and David Kaynor’s father, Allen Reed Kaynor, was a professor and director of guidance and psychological services there. David attended and earned three degrees from Springfield College. He taught special education classes at Minnechaug Regional High School (his alma mater) in the late 1970s.
David was an all-American swimmer in college, and coached swimming at Minnechaug Regional High School in Wilbraham and Pine Knoll Swim School in East Longmeadow.
His first instrument was piano. Next came trumpet, which he played throughout high school. After that, he taught himself banjo, guitar, and then fiddle. He became a professional contradance fiddler, caller, and teacher; wrote a book about calling dance; and became an accomplished calligrapher and talented pen-and-ink artist—all self-taught.
David became well-known across the country for his dance workshops, encouraging teaching style, and off-color jokes. He was one of only a few contra dance callers who could call and fiddle at the same time without written notes. He called and played for regular contra dances at the Guiding Star Grange in Greenfield, Mass., from 1980 until December 2019, and called and played for many other local dances. He directed the Vermont Fiddle Orchestra and was co-director of the Fiddle Orchestra of Western Massachusetts. He received numerous awards throughout his life; the 2021 Country Dance and Song Society Lifetime Contribution Award was one of the most meaningful.
After David received his diagnosis of ALS in 2018, his remarkable strength and determination—along with dedicated caregivers and the support of his music and dance community—kept him going past all expectations. He continued to teach, mentor, and compose music until the last few days of his life, the final several months using eye-gaze technology.
He was a long-time member of both Montague Grange #141, of which he was Master for many years, and Guiding Star Grange #1, where he was elected to multiple terms on the Executive Committee and wore other hats as needed. He was instrumental in starting the renovation project that made the Guiding Star Grange Hall an accessible space.
David was a dedicated runner and cross-country skier. In 1980, he finished Sweden’s 56-mile Vasaloppet, the oldest cross-country ski race in the world, in 9 hours 11 minutes.
David is survived by his brother, Richard P. Kaynor (India), sisters Cynthia L. Ballou (Iowa) and Carol Kaynor (Alaska), niece Lauren C. Kaynor (Alaska), niece Hilary J. Alejandro (Maine), nephew Joseph M. Rikard (Arizona) and his wife, Samantha; and great-nephews Christian Alejandro and Daniel Rikard. He leaves a vast extended family of dear relatives, partners, caregivers and collaborators. Special gratitude goes to David’s lead caregivers, Becky Hollingsworth, Rebecca Weiss, and Will Quale, and to the staff of the Critical Care Unit of Cooley Dickinson Hospital whose kindness and expertise were essential to David’s comfort in his final days. Thanks as well to Asa de Roode, Jordan Monette and Ann Feitelson, and to the many people who sang and played tunes for David in the backyard or under his window.
He was preceded in death by his parents, Allen R. and Louise (Frost) Kaynor; his stepmother, Inez “Nezi” R. (Jilson) Kaynor; and his sister Josephine “Jody” (Kaynor) Rikard.
Donations in David’s name would be welcomed at the Massachusetts Chapter of the ALS Association; Montague Common Hall in Montague, Mass.; Guiding Star Grange in Greenfield, Mass.; Vermont Fiddle Orchestra in Montpelier, Vermont; Fiddle Orchestra of Western Massachusetts in Northampton, Mass.; Northeast Heritage Music Camp in Vermont; or Ashokan Center in Olivebridge, NY.