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Obituaries

November 12, 1999

Max Hunter, 78, folklorist who collected songs and sayings of the Ozark Mountains. Hunter became intrigued with the colorful and fast-fading expressions of the hill folk in the 1950s when he traveled the back roads of Missouri as a salesman. He entertained himself in motel rooms playing his guitar and singing the songs he had heard. Later, Hunter started recording the stories and melodies of the simpler way of life, and filed the tapes with the Library of Congress and the Smithsonian Institution. To gain the trust of the reticent mountain residents, Hunter would offer to do chores--haul hay, chase chickens and even run moonshine through the dirt roads to Arkansas. In turn, he learned and recorded such expressions as "ugly as a mud fence," "pretty as a speckled pup," "we're all out of cackle berries (eggs)," "got to get my ears lowered (get a haircut)" and the derogatory "there are people who wear clean shirts over dirty underwear." He also logged various cures and superstitions. To cure warts, Hunter learned, one should steal a neighbor's dishrag, spit on it and bury it in the backyard, knowing that when the rag rots, the wart will rot away as well. If a black cat crosses your path, he was advised, take your hat off, spit in it and put it on backward. The cat won't know if you're coming or going. Hunter's son, David, said that but for his father's 30-year devotion to preserving folk wisdom, a fast-fading bit of American history would be lost. On Saturday in Springfield, Mo., of emphysema.

* Richard Martin; N.Y. Museum Curator

Richard Martin, 52, curator of costumes for New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art. A native of Bryn Mawr, Pa., Martin was educated at Swarthmore College and Columbia University. He taught and wrote widely on art history and fashion history. Martin began organizing shows for the Fashion Institute of Technology during the 13 years he taught there, and in 1993 he replaced Diana Vreeland at the Met. Working on a budget, Martin added to the museum's collection by accepting clothing donations from designers and their clients, and by shopping at auctions, flea markets, discount stores and department stores' warehouse sales. Restricted by diminished space and a new requirement that exhibits be behind glass, his shows were sometimes criticized as less showy and interesting than his earlier ones at the Fashion Institute. But Martin nevertheless stretched the Met's vision to include such shows as "American Ingenuity: Sportswear, 1930s-1940s." On Monday of melanoma.

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