Fans, friends remember Pitney 2 years after his death
Gathering at Somers cemetery honors ‘Rockville Rocket’
By Stacey A. Silliman
SOMERS — Overcast skies and a chilly breeze did not stop more than a dozen people from gathering in Somers Center Cemetery on Sunday to remember and honor the late singer Gene Pitney on the second anniversary of his death.
Pitney, known as the “Rockville Rocket,” died at age 66 on April 5, 2006, in Cardiff, Wales from natural causes during a month-long tour of Great Britain. He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2002 and had lived in Somers until his death with his wife, Lynne, and their three sons Todd, Chris, and David.
The gathering was organized by members of the Gene Pitney Commemorative Committee, which was formed in Pitney’s hometown of Vernon. His friends at the ceremony were quick, however, to point out that the late singer was from the Rockville section of Vernon — not Vernon.
As part of Sunday’s service committee members placed a musical note made of yellow daisies on the singer’s grave — a replica of one placed there after Pitney was interred two years ago.
Cliff Edwards, president of the Gene Pitney Commemorative Committee, read a short message as Pitney’s fans and friends stood by silently.
“Thank you for leaving us with your music, memory, and wonderful family,” said Edwards, who was Pitney’s longtime friend. “We miss you but we can return to that special place if we just put on your music.”
Fittingly a metal wind chime in a nearby tree clanged musically in the breeze as Edwards finished speaking.
After the brief service the participants talked about their memories of the singer and their desire to keep his music and memory alive for future generations.
Among those at Pitney’s graveside was his childhood friend, Edward Keune, 70, who now lives in Ellington. Keune said he and Pitney grew up in the same Rockville neighborhood and hung out as part of a foursome.
“I have too many memories to share,” he said of his friend.
Edwards said later that he believes people came out for the service because Pitney had been such “a real down-to-earth guy.”
“There are not many people from here who have had his success who stayed,” he said. “He was true to his roots and I think everybody related to that. What a special gift he had.”
Edwards added that in his more than 40-year friendship with Pitney — the pair met through a mutual friend when Edwards owned Record Heaven in Vernon — his only complaint was that he never sung his favorite song, “House without Windows,” which was never made into a single.
“That song showed the range of his voice and his emotion. If you don’t get goosebumps when you hear that, you’re not human,” he said of the song.
Edwards acknowledged that his favorite Pitney song was never a hit, unlike more well known favorites such as “Town Without Pity, “Only Love Can Break a Heart,” and “The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance.”
The committee hopes to make the anniversary gathering at Pitney’s grave an annual event. Also, as another way to keep Pitney’s memory alive, the committee has established an annual scholarship for a graduating senior at Rockville High School who plans to study music in college.
A gray stone bench at Pitney’s gravesite is inscribed with the sentiment: “To know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived is to have succeeded.”
If Sunday’s gathering is any indication, Pitney can rest easy knowing that he succeeded.
More information about the committee and Pitney can be found online at
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