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The Mysterious Ren

The search for Ren Oschin began when we posted this item on Mendocino County Today back in April: “Chuck Wilcher relays the sad news that long time coast resident Ren Oschin passed away Tuesday. She was 78. She was a good soul and will be missed by many.”

Which prompted an Indiana man named Steve Hinnefeld to ask if we new anything more about Ren.

And Chuck Wilcher offered, 

“Like most Mendonesians she was kind of eccentric. A nice person overall. Very generous with her money for which (to me anyway) she seemed to have a lot. She donated to several local charities mostly the to the Cancer Resource Center. I met her in person in the mid-90s when she attended the Mac user group meetings we held at the MCOE lab at Mendocino High School. She was also a subscriber of the Redwood FreeNet where most of us got to know her online. It was through the FreeNet she became acquainted with a woman from Maine, Nancy Mason. (She was one of our guests at a user group meeting. Nancy was a big wig in the national OneNet network which my hub and the county library’s hub were connected to. Ren visited her a few times in Maine and, if I remember correctly, paid for a trip to Europe with her. I consulted with her on computer issues many times over the last decade. The last few years she had a helper manage her daily duties and shopping as her health was failing. That’s a brief summary for the many years I knew her.”

I wondered about her because over the long years I’ve encountered so many people whose back stories were vague, so many people who came and went but were vivid enough to wonder about. So I asked Mr. Hinnefeld how he knew Ren.

“You know,” Mr. H began, “it's been 40 years and I don't remember everything. Ren went by ‘Rene’ when she lived in Indiana. I remember that she came here from California, and I think she grew up there; I don't know where in the state. I also don't remember (if I ever knew) what brought her to Bloomington. I remember her once showing me a photo of her father, a handsome, dark-haired man. That was as close as she came to revealing anything personal. ‘Kind of eccentric’ sounds right. I never knew if she had money but don't recall her having a job in the time she was here. We were part of an informal ‘old-time music and dance group’ of young people who got together for weekly contra dances, parties, fiddle-and-banjo music sessions, potlucks, etc. This would have been in the late '70s. Rene became close friends with an older man named Bob ‘Strawberry’ McCloud, who was a very accomplished old-time, square-dance fiddler. A very working-class guy who had lived a kind of rough life. I think he was teaching her to play the fiddle. They were an unusual pair: the short-haired, eccentric young woman from California and the old Kentucky fiddler. In the last few years of his life, she drove him to music festivals in the Midwest and Southeast, where, thanks to her help, he gained sort of a following among young traditional-music revivalists. He died in 1980, and I think she left Bloomington not long after that. She had made some home recordings of his music and shared them with friends, and I'd been trying to reach her in connection with that. I had an email address and phone number from about five years ago, but she never responded to either. Anyway, that's the story as best I remember it. Thanks to you and Chuck for sharing what you know.”

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