Florence Alice Dunn, 98, of Boston, died peacefully on October 12 at Sherrill House in Boston. Miss Dunn was born in North Adams, MA, on May 20, 1922, the daughter of Harland and Alice Oakes Dunn. She is survived by two nieces, Catherine Ann Rose of Albuquerque, and Rosalie Dunn and her partner Pamela Meistrich of Stratford, CT. She was predeceased by her brother Robert Dunn and his wife Lillian of Albuquerque and her brother Richard Dunn of San Francisco.
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Miss Dunn, who was universally known as “Flossie,” grew up in Williamstown and graduated from Williamstown High School in 1940. After receiving an associate’s degree from Larson Junior College in New Haven, she earned her bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the New England Conservatory in Boston. While at NEC, she was appointed Dean of Women and Resident Head. Later she received an award for distinguished service by the NEC Alumni Association.
In the 1920s and 1930s, Flossie’s father was the poultry manager for Mount Hope Farm, a 1400-acre experimental farm in Williamstown founded by Mrs. Alta Prentice, who was the third daughter of John D. Rockefeller. The Prentices lived in a 72-room summer home, and the Dunns lived in a converted schoolhouse on the property. Mrs. Prentice’s chauffeur attended the Second Congregational Church in Williamstown, and when she learned from him that the church had lost its organist, she made sure that Flossie, then 12 years old, was hired for the job.
Six years later, when Flossie was admitted to college but could not afford to go, Mrs. Prentice went to her desk and tallied up all the hours that Flossie had played the organ for Sunday services, weddings, and funerals. It turned out that Flossie’s “back wages” totaled the amount of tuition and fees for four years of college. Mrs. Prentice wrote the check.
Flossie had a storied musical career as a teacher, pianist, organist, singer, and music director. She taught at the Emma Willard School in Troy, NY, and for 21 years she was a talented and beloved elementary music teacher for the Brookline Public Schools. Concurrent to that Flossie was a respected member of the faculty of the Berkshire Music Center in Lenox, MA, for 12 years. She was a sought-after accompanist on piano and organ and singer in a multitude of auditioned choruses in MA, NY, and CT.
Flossie played the piano and organ for many musical groups, including the Troy Vocal Society, the New England Conservatory Chorus, Chorus pro Musica, and the Boston Cecilia. She had been the organist for the Second Congregational Church in Williamstown, for Tabor Lutheran Church in Branford, CT, for the Humphrey Street Congregational Church in New Haven, for the First Baptist Church in Troy, for the Newton Highlands Congregational Church, and for Faith Lutheran Church in Cambridge. For many years, she was assistant organist at Trinity Church in Copley Square in Boston, where she was also director of the Canterbury Chorus. She also served as accompanist for the Coolidge Corner Community Chorus in Brookline.
Flossie was also active as a singer, first with the Bach Choir (later known as the Berkshire Chorus) and then with the choirs at Old South Church, the Church of the Advent, and St. Paul’s Cathedral, all in Boston. She sang with Chorus pro Musica and with the Boston Cecilia, with which she toured northern France in 1953. She participated in concerts with the Boston Symphony Orchestra and performed with the Arthur Fiedler Chorus and the Tanglewood Chorus, the latter for 13 seasons.
Flossie enjoyed a 60-year-long association, first as accompanist and then as music director, with the Apollo Club of Boston, a men’s chorus founded in 1871. In 2015, she became the group’s Conductor Emerita.
Flossie enriched the lives of thousands of schoolchildren, friends, colleagues, and audience members over the course of her long life. Her positive outlook and the energy that she infused into any gathering could be summed up in her own assessment of her life: “I’m living the dream!” In 1997, she received the Lifetime Achievement Award from Choral Arts New England, an organization that provides resources to encourage choral excellence in New England. She was a loyal member of the College Club of Boston and the Daughters of the American Revolution.
A memorial service will take place at a future date. For an expanded version of this obituary and to add to an online book of memories, please visit www.flynndagnolifuneralhomes.com. Donations may be made to the Apollo Club of Boston, c/o Gerald Hamilton, 12 Antrim Street, East Boston, MA 02128 (firstname.lastname@example.org) or to the New England Conservatory, 290 Huntington Avenue, Boston, MA 02115 (necmusic.edu/give).