Kenneth Scott Muldoon, an accomplished writer, lawyer, singer, social-justice warrior, and devoted family man who brought distinction and passion to everything he did, died on Nov. 29, surrounded by loved ones. A longtime Needham resident, he was 74.
Known to most people as “Scott,” he was too humble to speak much about his accomplishments. But they were both numerous and remarkably varied. As a choral singer, he performed at Carnegie Hall, Boston Symphony Hall, and Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts. As a journalist, he served as associate editor for the Harvard Business Review and associate business editor of the Star-Ledger in Newark, NJ. As a champion for social and environmental justice, he was part of the team that helped free a man who had been wrongfully convicted of homicide, and he himself was once arrested for protesting outside the Seabrook Nuclear Power Plant.
Born in Bronxville, NY, and raised in nearby Eastchester, Scott was blessed to grow up in a loving and supportive family. His parents, Ken and Hulda (Sellman), instilled in Scott and his sisters, Rosalie Anne (RoAnne) Dahlen-Hartfield and Cary Hopwood, a strong ethic of service to others, which significantly impacted their career choices and personal lives. They also made sure Scott and his sisters could graduate from college and graduate school without debt, a big undertaking even in those days.
Scott earned his Bachelor’s degree from Brown University in American Studies and his law degree from The George Washington University School of Law. He became a member of the New York bar and went to work for Vista, in the Minneapolis Legal Aid Society. From there, he worked for the Model Cities Program in Asheville, NC, where his lifelong passion of supporting progressive political candidates began. He returned to New York in 1972 to practice law at a Manhattan firm.
In 1975 he married Freda (Bein) Muldoon, and two years later they had their beloved son, Christopher. After a few years, Scott realized that his interest lay more in writing and journalism than the law. After attending a program at Columbia University, he began his journalism career at New Jersey’s biggest newspaper.
In 1987 Scott and his family moved to Newburyport, MA, and he started at the Harvard Business Review. He later moved to New England Mutual Life Insurance Company, where he served as senior writer and editor. His first marriage ended in divorce. After retiring, he edited a newsletter for Tufts University, a job he thoroughly enjoyed because it allowed him to write about everyone from the university’s president to its maintenance staff.
In 1995, Scott married Barbara Ridge, in his words, “the joy of his life.” With this union, his family increased to include two stepdaughters, Beth and Emily, as well as their exchange daughter, Miwa. It kept growing to include six grandchildren, who all adored Scott – their “Peepaw” – as much as he adored them.
Family was at the center of the life Scott built with Barbara, turning their home into celebration central for holiday and other family gatherings (the Fourth of July was a biggie). They also loved being outdoors – as runners, hikers, cyclists and eventually walkers – and travelled widely. Two of their most unforgettable trips were with Miwa and her family in Japan, and exploring Ireland while chasing after their 90- and 85-year-old fathers. As home-exchange enthusiasts, they explored -- often with Scott’s family -- France, Italy, Sweden, England and the western US.
Service was an integral part of Scott’s life, from his early career with Vista and Model Cities and involvement with the Charitable Giving Committee at New England Life, to his lifelong charity work. He volunteered for Generic Ministry supporting the homeless, and he tutored high school students and adults in literacy programs. At the request of Florence Graves, founding director of Brandeis University’s Schuster Institute for Investigative Journalism, Scott reviewed the case of Angel Echavarría who had been sentenced to life imprisonment for homicide. After his review, Scott concluded that Angel had been wrongly imprisoned. Over many years, while the case was being appealed, he visited Angel in prison. He had the pleasure of being present in the courtroom the day Angel was granted his freedom.
A longtime Town Meeting member in Needham, Scott returned to political campaigns in 2008 as a volunteer working to get Barack Obama elected. Barbara often returned home to find their house teeming with volunteers working the phones.
Scott was deeply committed to First Parish Needham and treasured the friends he made there. He was a member of the Parish Committee and the Music Committee, participated in small group ministry, and sang with the chorus. He was on the committee that wrote the covenant for the church, and the on the search committee that brought Reverend Catie Scudera to First Parish. He especially relished Tuesday afternoons with the News Group and Friday mornings at McDonalds with his Knights.
Music was another passion in Scott’s life. He was a member of Chorus Pro Musica for more than 20 years, serving on its board and as its president, and performing with the chorus at Symphony Hall, Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center, and the Boston Garden. He also continued a tradition his father began by performing with the Betty Singers, who bring comfort through music to the infirm and ailing.
Scott leaves his wife, Barbara Ridge; son, Christopher and his fiancée, Emily; stepdaughters Elizabeth (Beth) VanDelinder and her husband, Brian, and Emily Duggan Bonkowski; sisters Rosalie Anne Dahlen-Hartfield, Cary Hopwood and her husband Walter; sister-in-law Mary Piso and her husband, John; brother-in-law, Patrick; exchange daughter Miwa and her husband, Rob; grandchildren Ella, James, Gavin, Maeve, Amy and Lewis; first wife, Freda, and many beloved nieces, nephews, great-nieces and great-nephews.
A memorial service will be held at First Parish UU Needham on Jan. 12 at 11 a.m. Burial will be private.
Scott would have appreciated any contributions in his memory be made to:
Generic Ministry http://genericministry.org/donate/
Chorus Pro Musica https://choruspromusica.org
The First Parish Music Endowment https://uuneedham.org/giving/giving-first-parish/