Published: April 3, 2019
EAST DUMMERSTON, VT. — Jonathan Flaccus, 79, of East Dummerston and longtime resident of Putney, Vt., died on February 20, 2019, as a result of a stroke.
He was the son of Violetta Flaccus, an artist, and the poet Kimball Flaccus. Raised by his grandparents in rural Pennsylvania, where students from grades 1-6 still attended a one-room schoolhouse, Jonathan spent much of his childhood exploring the fields and forests around him. He later stated that these memories were the source for many of his drawings and paintings.
During his high school years, Jonathan developed a love of music, particularly jazz. Underage but tall, he found ways to get into jazz clubs in Greenwich Village to hear live music and soak up the scene.
Jonathan graduated from Haverford College during the war on Vietnam. As a conscientious objector, he fulfilled his alternative service at the Bureau of Neurology and Psychiatry in Princeton, N.J., where he worked as a research associate to Humphry Osmond, who studied the possible medical benefits of psychedelics. He later worked as assistant to J.A. Livingston, a financial editor and syndicated columnist at the Philadelphia Bulletin.
Already a skilled photographer, Jonathan taught himself filmmaking and found employment specializing in medical documentaries. He worked as director of the film department at NYU Medical Center. After moving to San Francisco in 1970, he became the supervisor of Motion Picture Production at the University of California. His films won three CINE Golden Eagle awards: for director, editor and cameraman.
Jonathan was a natural traveler. While in college, he hitchhiked to California every summer vacation. After he graduated and married his first wife, Linda Bryson, the couple traveled for nine months in Europe and North Africa. In 1969, he began a five-month solo trip, hitchhiking through most of the countries of sub-Saharan Africa. In 1974, he left filmmaking for good and spent a year and a half traveling rough in Japan, Indonesia, Fiji, Tonga, Samoa, New Zealand and Australia.
In 1976, he purchased and renovated a Victorian house on Main Street in Putney. To furnish his house, he went to local auctions and found himself enjoying the experience and wondered if he could make a living buying and selling antiques. Beginning with antique furniture and art and soon expanding into photography, antiquarian books and ephemera, the Unique Antique filled with items that Jonathan found intrinsically interesting. In an era when most shops were developing specialties, his was a place where one might find a finely carved Fijian war club, signed first editions of poetry or many examples of “sandpaper pictures,” a form of folk art. Naturally curious, he enjoyed hunting for items and researching them. He became well-known for his discerning choices and the breadth and depth of his knowledge. The Unique Antique operated for 38 years, closing in 2014 when Jonathan and his wife, Marcy, moved to East Dummerston, Vermont.
Once his business was established, travel beckoned again. Beginning in the 1980s he visited Senegal, Gambia and Cameroon. Between 2000 and 2005, he made two trips to Cambodia and visited Laos and Myanmar. He went to Cuba for the annual Jazz Festival. He and his second wife, Marcy, traveled to Japan in 2011 for their honeymoon; together they visited Bali, Trinidad, Tobago, France, Senegal and Gambia. Marcy comments that Jonathan seemed happier the further he was from Western influence. His last trip was to Iceland in 2017.
Jonathan served on the Putney Cemetery Commission and on the boards of Sandglass Theater, the Dummerston Historical Society, and the Insight Photography Project. He generously shared his knowledge assisting other area nonprofits. An active photographer throughout his life, he joined the Vermont Center for Photography, where he also exhibited his work. His love of jazz led him to befriend local jazz musicians and become an active supporter of the Vermont Jazz Center.
Jonathan will be remembered by many for his quick wit and wordplay. A friend wrote, “I will miss his kind but resolutely nonconforming spirit. Without apology, he planted a flag for the strange and curious, and thereby allowed all the rest of us to live in that same free space, to indulge our own eccentricities. I found that side of him deeply comforting, not in an easy way, but at the level of spiritual style.”
He is survived by his wife and companion of 39 years, Marcy Hermansader. A concert at the Vermont Jazz Center is being planned in his honor.
Contributions in his memory may be made to the Vermont Jazz Center in Brattleboro, the Dummerston Historical Society or the American Friend’s Service Committee.
—Submitted by the family
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