The Gazebo Stage just won't be the same this year. Robert Thatcher Ely - Thatcher or "Thatch" to friends and family - passed away this spring after battling an incurable strain of hepatitis C. He was 66.
The Gazebo Stage just won't be the same this year.
Robert Thatcher Ely - Thatcher or "Thatch" to friends and family - passed away this spring after battling an incurable strain of hepatitis C. He was 66.
Thatcher ran ComFest's Gazebo Stage alongside Gabor Klein for two-plus decades.
"That was kind of a piece of his heart, that festival," longtime roommate Doug Massey said.
His commitment to the fest and its ideals ran deep - and not just because ComFest T-shirts comprised the bulk of his wardrobe.
"What it meant to him," Klein said, "was really that collective activist heart that ComFest represents."
Thatcher grew up the oldest of three brothers in Erie, Pennsylvania, and Del Ray Beach, Florida. His brother Tim Ely said Thatcher's great love was sharing the undiscovered treasures in his vast record collection.
"As the oldest brother he thought it was his job to give everybody else information and to tell you how things were," Tim Ely said. "And he did that pretty well."
That spirit translated to the Gazebo Stage, where he was known for taking charge.
"Behind every bark was very good intentions," fellow ComFest volunteer Richelle Antczak McCuen said. "He cared so much about what he was doing."
Thatcher left Erie in the late '60s for stints in counterculture havens Greenwich Village and Haight-Ashbury and attended Woodstock in 1969. After moving to Columbus in the '70s, he co-owned South Campus nightclub Crazy Mama's in the early '80s.
"He was the king of the disco," Klein remembered.
He later took up coffee roasting and bought Worthington cafe Scottie MacBean for a while before transitioning into a private roasting business.
Loved ones remembered Thatcher as a generous soul and an entrepreneurial spirit who was constantly on the go, usually via bicycle.
"He really didn't know any strangers," Massey said.