Professor Jan's Story
- Professor Jan Kok passed away in Presque Isle, Maine, on March 11, 2017, at at Presque Isle health care facility. Jan Kok was born in the Netherlands ("Holland") in 1921.
He went through grade school, junior high school and science-oriented high school in Haarlem, and had private piano lessons.
Jan had a friend, Frits, whose parents had business associates in the U.S. They wanted Frits to stay with them for a year. Kok asked his parents if he could go with Frits, and to Jan's surprise his parents gave their consent. When it was Jan's time to return to the Netherlands in 1940, war had just broken out. He stayed in the U.S., and his parents were able to come over on the last boat to leave Europe.
Having become a U.S citizen, Jan obtained a Bachelor of Arts degree in General Studies at the University of Washington, a Master of Music degree at the University of Oregon at Eugene, and a Master of arts degree in musicology and composition at Harvard University. As a graduate student, he taught sectional music classes at both Universities.
Jan was Music Supervisor in the public school system of Montesano, Wash., then in Windsor Locks, Conn., and in 1951 became a member of the Faculty at what is now the University of Maine at Presque Isle. He retired as Professor Emeritus of Music in 1987.
Married in 1950, he and his wife, Evelyn, have resided in Presque Isle, Maine, ever since. Evelyn was a professional artist, avocational song writer, skilled crafts person, and had many interests in common with Jan. This was the basis of their long venturesome life together, which included a three month stay in the Galapagos Islands during Jan's sabbatical leave, trips to the Netherlands, Norway, and southern France to visit family and friends, and many summers spent at Evelyn's Gallery of the Purple Fish in Stonington, Maine.
The State Departments of Maine and New Hampshire arranged a year-long leave of absence from U.M.P.I for Jan to create and teach a weekly music instruction series called music theatre on commercial television (there was no educational television yet) to be seen by students in rural classrooms that had no local music supervisor. During the summer of the following year the series was taped and shown seven more years.
At U.M.P.I., Jan held many positions, including Music Department Chair, chair of the Faculty Senate, member of the Tenure Committee, and others. Among his many community involvements were directing the Kiwanis Talent Revue for some forty years, giving musical demonstrations and performances for grade school and junior high school classes, instructing classroom teachers how to teach music, and giving song programs, often with his wife Evelyn, for many community organizations and school assemblies. Jan and Evelyn were so well-matched that they were often referred to as `Janevlyn'. Her talents were invaluable in helping Jan in his career.
Jan wrote manuals for several of his University classes, among them `How to Read Music', 'Clues for Sight-Reading Music', and 'Sensible Singing for untrained voices'. Being an accomplished singer and recorder player, Jan directed vocal ensembles and recorder group's including the Presque Isle Recorder Consort, and composed choral and instrumental ensemble music. He was interested in the 'how and why' of things all his life and wrote several pertinent treatises, including `Speech and Awarenesses,' 'What Am I?', and 'Musings - personal contemplations.' He believed that he would be gone forever after dying, leaving only his writings and belongings as evidence of his past existence, and existing now only in other peoples' memories.
Jan is survived by his son, Jan Kok and his wife, Peggy, and their children; Ada and Aaron and a niece, Christian "Cindy" Shipps. He was predeceased by his wife, Evelyn, in 2014
A celebration of Jan's life is planned for a later date. Donations may be made to the Jan and Evelyn Scholarship Fund at the University of Maine at Presque Isle, 181 Main St., Presque Isle, ME 04769-2888. Online condolences may be expressed at www.duncan-graves.com.
Published on  March 14, 2017