Paul and Pauline Kermiet
Squares, rounds, contras, international
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Paul J. Kermiet, local and national leader in folk and square dance, died on January 14th at the age of 88. Mr. Kermiet was born in Czechoslovakia on September 2, 1912. He was raised in Monaca, Pennsylvania, but moved to Denver in 1940. During World War II, Paul's moral convictions for nonviolence led to his assigned status as a conscientious objector. For his beliefs, he was confined to service at a Civilian Public Service Camp near Lake Tahoe, Nevada.
Paul returned to Denver and married Pauline Ritchie whom he'd met at the Christmas Dance School in Berea, Kentucky. Together they taught dance and toured with the Sherwood Dancers of Denver. Mr. Kermiet worked as the recreational director at the Steele Community Center in Denver where he organized and ran Little League football, the first in the country. He attended the University of Denver where he graduated in 1949 with a degree in sociology with a minor in physical education and international relations.
In 1944, a group of five people pooled their money for an initial payment to purchase the title of the old Flying Horse Inn, 22 miles due west of Denver, Colorado. The inn, which included a lodge and four cabins, was situated at 7,460 feet in elevation atop Lookout Mountain at the western edge of the historic town of Golden. The five, Fred Enholm, Pauline Kermiet (Paul was in the service), Lila Parke, Mary Segeuin, and Kathleen Timmons, renamed the old inn "Lighted Lantern." When the day-to-day running of the Inn began to place heavy burdens on Paul and Pauline, the Kermiets began to receive a percentage of the income from fees and rentals.
Paul and Pauline served as the directors for Lighted Lantern until it closed in 1977. Paul taught and called square dances, led evening songs, and held caller workshops. He started a business, The Square Dance Record Roundup, which he ran for 30 years. He served as an officer of the Denver Folk Arts Council and performed with his family at national square and round dance conventions.
"Uncle" Paul was one of the premier square dance callers in the United States. He had been an instructor and staff assistant at Steele Community Center in Denver, Colorado, a position that had been interrupted by World War II. At Lighted Lantern, he was known for his skits, especially the one "with one shut eye, mouth awry, one foot held high, and waving goodbye."
Pauline Ritchie Kermiet was a folk singer with the "Singing Ritchies" of Kentucky, a 14-family-member performing group called the "Singing Family of the Cumberlands" (they have a Folkways record, FA 2316, made in 1959). She is the sister of Jean Ritchie Pickow, "The Mother of Folk" (of the "Singing Ritchies"). Pauline also had been a staff assistant and volunteer at Steele.
The Kermiets had six children (Chris, Johnny, Karen, Kathy, Paula, and Mary Evelyn), all of whom were born and raised in the Lighted Lantern camp atmosphere and, as they became old enough, assumed some of the responsibilities of operating the camp. The children all dance and sing, too. Chris Kermiet became a leading caller in his own right, calling contras, traditional squares, English country dances, and Celtic ceili dances in the Denver, Colorado, area. Evelyn and Karen became modern dancers and choreographers, and performed at Denver’s Changing Scene Theatre with Maxine Munt and Al Brooks. Paula, the youngest, was a founding member of the Colorado Friends of Old Time Music and Dance, and did square dance calling for the group in Boulder. Paula Kermiet Connolly is a long-time square dance caller in the Denver area and makes corn husk dolls, an art learned from her aunts Mallie Ritchie, Kitty Richie Singleton, and May Ritchie Deschamp.
Pauline Ritchie Kermiet died on February 9, 1980 due to cancer. After Pauline's death, Paul married Wilma Milhoan and remained active as a square dance caller and performer; he and Wilma did dance exhibitions at senior citizen homes and other venues for the next fifteen years. Paul is survived by his wife, Wilma, five of six children, sixteen grandchildren, and three great grandchildren.