(This story has been revised.)
“Hey, hey…” Michael Hunold would call out to me, always with an exuberant smile, ready to grab some guitars, play a few tunes, put some joyful music into the world…
And could he play! Whether the song called for sweet phrasing or rip-roaring boldness, the ideas flowed off his fingertips, straight out of his soul.
Michael Hunold passed away after a shockingly brief illness on Saturday morning, December 3 at the age of 69, leaving a stunned community in tears.
His legacy is that of a renaissance man — as an actor and in photography, where his shows at the Davis-Orton Gallery in Hudson dazzled patrons of the arts (“He saw things that no one else saw…he saw the light and the design in things that so few people could see…” says Michael’s partner Inyo Charbonneau). He made a mark in an extensive career in the film industry in many capacities, most recently as a gaffer (that is, chief lighting technician, who is the head electrician, responsible for the execution of the lighting plan for a production), and as a guitarist par excellence. Actually, Inyo says, he could play anything. What I know is that he sat in hundreds of times with the Bluegrass Clubhouse during the 14 years we played every Thursday at Colony, Harmony and Bearsville. And his playing was particularly sublime in the Chestnut Hill Gang, the band he shared with Dan Uttendorfer, Tom Bourke and Inyo. It was my privilege to be invited to the stage with them.
Michael’s extraordinary command of the fretboard and lyrical sensibilities combined with his natural exuberance added a special joy to the music anytime he picked up an instrument. The breadth of his musical talent spanned many a genre, and always left me amazed.
Late in his life, Michael found love with Inyo Charbonneau.
“Michael and I found each other almost five years ago,” she wrote.
“Each day we had was a gift for us, because we felt so blessed to have done so.
Michael was a bright light in the world and to everyone he knew and met.
He made my life happier, fuller and deeper than I ever imagined it could be.
My heart goes out to all the people who loved him.”
Michael was born in Paris in 1953. His mother, Tanya Padwa, moved with him back to New York and Woodstock six months later. He hails from a musical family — his grandfather Vladimir Padwa was a concert pianist who had performed at the Maverick.
Katherine Burger, a friend for 60 years, picks up the story:
“We were in High school together, I went to Dalton High School, I was a sophomore and he came in as a freshman…he was young, and hyper bright, he was short and had true blonde curls and was a little pudgy, he was completely different from the man that he became…We just hit it off and stayed in touch. We were connected to the Medicine Show Theater Company — I was an actor and singer and he was their photographer. Then we were in a group called the Writers Group, I was there as a playwright and Michael came in as an actor, at the time he was acting on Law and Order and things like that.”
Marc Plate, who says Michael was “like a second brother to me,” relates that Michael went to NYU film school in the late 1970s, took a directorial class from Martin Scorsese before graduating.
In the film industry they called Michael by the nickname “Spicey” or “Spice.” His film and TV credits as a gaffer and in other technical roles include The Hating Game; Adopting Audrey; Can you Keep a Secret; TV series Manifest; movies such as The Devil Wears Prada and The Bourne Legacy.
“All Michael’s friends who have contacted Inyo were such interested and caring people, accomplished and talented,” says Marc. “That’s a lot like his life, he saw things that illuminated. His photography was light in the darkness, and that’s what he searched for in life. He was perky and optimistic all the time…”
Michael is survived by his partner, Inyo Charbonneau of Woodstock; a sister Joanna Ploof of Santa Barbara, California; two sons, Dashiell, 21 and Ryder, 18, their mother, Julia Perce, and Michael’s stepfather Anthony Robinson, of New Paltz.
“Dashiell and Ryder, he was so proud of them,” says Katherine. “Dashiell is a singer and musician of prodigious talent and Ryder is an artist, and Michael was so pleased that they had found their artistic calling and that they were following their hearts.”
He also leaves behind worlds of friends and colleagues, admirers and cohorts, and all the dreams and accomplishments you can stuff into a too short 69 years. We will miss our dear friend deeply.
“I went over to Michael’s house a couple of days ago (after Michael had passed),” says Inyo, “and parked my car close to the house because, luckily, before I got out, I saw this enormous pileated woodpecker pounding on the stump in front of his porch…it was so beautiful, I got some pictures of it. He would have loved it, and it was wonderful to see because we looked at birds a lot together, especially here at my house (where a pond graces the landscape…).
It was amazing, he was right there by the porch…we’d never seen one that close before…”
A Celebration of the Life of photographer, musician Michael Hunold, of Woodstock, who passed in early December, will be held at 1:30 p.m. Monday, January 16 (weather permitting) beginning with a burial of his ashes and a Service at the Woodstock Artists Cemetery, 12 Mountain View Ave., Woodstock, NY, 12498.
Following the service, the Celebration of his life will take place, 2 p.m.-6 p.m. at Colony Woodstock, 22 Rock City Road, Woodstock, 12498.
Please disregard a previous date that was published here.
Editor’s note: In the original version of this story, published on December 14, 2022, several people were regretfully left out. They have been added to this revised edition, with our apologies.
Arrangements by Seamon-Wilsey Funeral Home, 45 John Street, Saugerties, NY 12477, seamonwilseyfuneralhome.com.