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Category 4: Long-form, Average Joe
Carnegie Hall was atwitter as Patricia Travers — a 12-year-old from Clifton with brown curls and an angel's face — ascended the stage.
Patricia, who took up violin at age 4, performed the Mendelssohn Concerto with the National Orchestral Association "to a rapturous and prolonged demonstration," Olin Downes wrote in The New York Times on Jan. 16, 1940.
The performance helped propel a career as brilliant as it was fleeting.
Over the next dozen years, the young concert violinist performed with the New York Philharmonic, the Berlin Philharmonic and many other companies around the world. She appeared in a 1941 Paramount film, "There's Magic in Music." She played a Stradivarius that decades later would be in the hands of Grammy-winning virtuoso Joshua Bell.
"She plays everything with dashing bravura," The Times' Howard Taubman wrote in 1947, after another Carnegie Hall performance. "It is good to encounter a young artist who makes music adventurous, instead of a respectable chore."
In 1951, at age 23, Miss Travers was soloist in three Boston Symphony Orchestra performances of Brahms Violin Concerto, according to the symphony's archivist.
She apparently stopped performing soon after.
Patricia Travers, an only child, stayed put in Clifton with her parents, Samuel and Veronica. She never married. When she died on Feb. 9, at 82, she was remembered not as an incandescent talent but as an attentive Allwood Road landlady.
Miss Travers tended the small row of tan-brick stores her father, a lawyer, built in 1950. She became more involved in managing the property after her father died in 1981 and her mother in 1994.
One of the stores is Allwood Florist. Kathy Milne, an employee there, knew Miss Travers for 17 years. She had no idea Miss Travers once had the world at her feet.
"How many people Google their landlord?" Milne said. "She was just the nice lady you sent the check to."
Googling helped Wayne lawyer John Sullivan learn more about his client of nearly 40 years.
After a heart scare three years ago, Miss Travers composed her death notice on personal stationery. It mentioned the Paramount film, the worldwide tours, the New York Philharmonic. She gave the typewritten sheet to Sullivan. His eyes widened.
Sullivan had hints of Miss Travers' genius. She kept a violin in her dining room sideboard — but never played it for him. Sullivan heard classical music in the background when they spoke on the phone. "And she mentioned one time she had lunch with a famous composer or conductor," he said.
That was about it.
"She was very, very private," Sullivan said. "She didn't share a whole lot."
And Sullivan didn't press her.
Miss Travers was diagnosed with cancer last month. After she died at Van Dyk Manor nursing home in Montclair, an employee who had Googled "Patricia Travers" told Sullivan to do the same. "You're not going to believe this," the employee said in so many words.
Sullivan logged on to the computer and watched a very young, and very amazing, Patricia Travers perform Russian composer Anton Rubinstein's "Romance" in E Flat, in a YouTube clip from "There's Magic in Music."
Dorothy O'Shea, 80, knew her Clifton condo neighbor had been a child prodigy.
"I heard from my sister-in-law that she played for kings and dukes and everyone in Europe," she said.
"I did ask her once. I said, 'Pat, my sister-in-law Joyce mentioned to me you played the violin all over the world.' And she said, 'Oh, I would rather not talk about that.' I knew how she liked to be by herself, and I never questioned her again."
Miss Travers opened up more to limo driver Joseph DePassano, who often took her on errands and to appointments.
"She mentioned playing the violin and traveling around the world, but not in great detail," said DePassano, of Oakland. "I told her I'd take her to New York and to the symphony, but I guess she didn't want to revisit that."
Why did Miss Travers retire at so young an age? DePassano never asked. And we may never know.
A cousin with whom Miss Travers was close died several years ago. The cousin's two surviving children were not aware of their relative's long-ago fame, Sullivan said.
The lawyer speculated Miss Travers stopped performing because she was devoted to her parents and wanted to be near them. That she held on to the Allwood Road commercial property was her way of honoring their legacy, he believes.
Also unable to shed light on Miss Travers' career was Joshua Bell.
According to Cozio.com, a Web site that identifies and prices old stringed instruments, the 42-year-old international star and Miss Travers had a violin in common: the 1732 "Tom Taylor" Stradivarius. Miss Travers owned it from 1945 to 1954. Bell owned it from 1987 to 2001, when he reportedly sold it for a little over $2 million.
Through his spokeswoman, Bell said he never heard of Patricia Travers.