Renowned centenarians Walter Ferguson, Mihai Sora die on same day

 February 26, 2023

Sad news emerged this weekend from the worlds of arts and letters, as it was revealed that two renowned figures over the age of 100 – one a musician and one a philosophical essayist – both died on the same day, as La Nacion and reported, respectively.

Walter Ferguson, a Costa Rican performer widely known as the “Calypso King,” died at age 103, and Romanian philosopher and writer Mihai Sora passed away at the age of 106.

“Calypso King” dies at 103

As La Nacion revealed, Ferguson died on Saturday but leaves behind a rich musical legacy characterized by “a simple formula” that was also “full of emotion, joy, [and] positive message.”

Though born in Panama, Ferguson spent the majority of his life in Cahuita, Limon, a small town on the Caribbean coast of Costa Rica, with many of his songs serving as veritable poems to the land that he loved.

The beloved musician's career started in the 1940s, and his style at the time embodied the Afro-Caribbean culture in which he was raised, and he did not shy away from incorporating social and political themes in his work, while also paying tribute to the natural beauty of the local area, as the Tico Times explained.

Notably, much of the music for which Ferguson became known was not even professionally recorded, but rather copied on cassette tapes and passed from person to person.

Though Ferguson moved to the United States in the 1950s, his heart was never far from Cahuita, and he ultimately returned home in the 1970s to not only play music himself but to help educate young Costa Ricans about their cultural heritage.

Numerous prestigious honors were bestowed on Ferguson throughout his lifetime, including the Costa Rican National Prize for Culture, the French Order of Cultural Merit, and the National Endowment for the Arts National Heritage Fellowship in America. Most recently, the Costa Rican Legislative Assembly approved the “Declaration of Honorary Citizen to Walter Gavitt Ferguson Byfield.”

Romanian essayist, social critic dead at 106

The death on Saturday of Mihai Sora, a man described as among the most prolific and popular public figures in Romania after the fall of communism, was announced on social media over the weekend by the widow he leaves behind.

Born in 1916, Sora gained particular notoriety amid anti-government protests that gripped Romania in 2017, and has sustained a large Facebook following ever since.

Sora studied philosophy in young adulthood, earning his doctorate in France and ultimately becoming a published author in the field before returning to Romania, which the communist government did not permit him to leave.

By the time the government of Nicolae Ceausescu was overthrown in 1989, Sora served as leader of the ministry of education, but ultimately resigned in sympathy with student organizations standing in opposition to communist reformation.

The renowned essayist continued in his remaining years to speak out on issues including free speech, democratic values, civil society, and the rule of law, acquiring a reputation for being the nation's moral compass, as noted, and, in 2017, he took part in mass demonstrations against the weakening of anti-corruption laws.

Left to mourn is writer Luiza Palanciuc-Sora, who gave voice to the grief she felt over her husband's passing in a Facebook post that said, “I loved you, you were pure happiness: not only a beautiful person, but beauty itself, faith, hope and love,” and her appreciation for a life well-lived is assuredly shared by millions of her fellow Romanians.

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