Barton Allen Singer, 82, of Philadelphia, a retired clinical psychologist whose 1963 performance at the Philadelphia Folk Festival was noted by The Inquirer, died Thursday, Feb. 10, from COVID-19 and kidney failure at CareOne at Evesham in Evesham Township.
Dr. Singer lived with Lewy body dementia for the last several years and had been a resident at Harmony Village at CareOne, in Moorestown, N.J., from November 2018 until Feb. 7, when he was diagnosed with COVID, said his wife, Carol Singer.
Before that, the couple lived in Philadelphia, and then in Wenonah and Haddonfield, N.J., where they reared their children. They retired to Avalon before returning to Philadelphia in 2011.
Dr. Singer was a traditionalist about folk music, for a while singing with a band called The Three Travelers, and was a regular at the Gilded Cage, a coffee house opened in 1956 at 21st and Rittenhouse. It drew young people who sang folk songs and read poetry, as well as visitors Peter, Paul & Mary, Pete Seeger, and Arlo Guthrie.
“This was a time when people were trying to collect folk songs that weren’t written down” his wife said. " They were trying to preserve the old songs by learning them.”
Among her husband’s keepsakes recently found in a box was a 1958 Inquirer Magazine article that quoted Dr. Singer about the new Philadelphia Folksong Society, founded the year prior. He also kept an article about the first night of the 1963 Folk Festival — the festival’s second year — that included four paragraphs that called Dr. Singer “a vibrant young Philadelphian.”
Barton Allen Singer was born Oct. 23, 1939, in Philadelphia, the second of two children of Herman Singer, a beer and soda distributor, and Rose Gever Singer.
The family lived in East Germantown, where Dr. Singer could walk to Central High School, where he was a member of the 208th graduating class.
He earned a bachelor’s degree from Temple University in 1961 and studied as a Fulbright Scholar at the University of Hamburg from 1961 to 1962.
Upon returning to Temple, he earned a master’s degree in psychology in 1964 and a doctorate in 1969.
Carol Singer had met her husband in 1964 at an art gallery in Center City where they were introduced by a mutual friend. She was a senior at then-Beaver College, now Arcadia University, while he was in graduate school. They married on Jan. 24, 1965.
Dr. Singer was a post-doctoral fellow at the Menninger Foundation in Topeka, Kansas, from 1969 to 1971. After that, he was a clinical associate professor at the University of Pennsylvania Medical School, and then became an adjunct associate professor at the Robert Wood Johnson School of Medicine at Rutgers University.
He began a private practice in New Jersey in 1976, and over the years had offices in Haddonfield, Cherry Hill, and Marlton.
As a psychologist, his wife said: “He didn’t tell people what to do. He was able to question them enough to have them figure it out for themselves.”
Carol Singer said the couple were members of a gourmet club, formed by a group of friends who took turns hosting meals at their homes. They were also members of a Sunday brunch club that met at a Center City hotel.
Daughter Sarah Singer Quast said she has memories of her father pulling out his guitar and singing lullabies at bedtime.
He also loved swimming, canoeing, kayaking, and sailing a sunfish sailboat at the shore and would sometimes take his daughters to ride bicycles on Kelly Drive.
“There’s a love of nature that he really instilled in me,” Singer Quast said.
Dr. Singer’s younger daughter, Cynthia Singer Riordan, said her father was ahead of his time when it came to his family.
“My dad valued a work-life balance and made a point to be home every night for dinner with my sister, mom, and me.”
He also was an early practitioner of mindfulness, she said, and practiced meditation long before it became popular in the United States.
When Dr. Singer retired from private practice in 2006, the couple visited art museums or took weekend trips to New York to visit old friends from his folk-singing days.
They also enjoyed going to the Constitution Center and dance performances at the Annenberg Center and the Kimmel Center, his wife said..
In addition to his wife and two daughters, Dr. Singer is survived by four grandchildren; one sister; and other relatives and friends.
Donations can be made in Dr. Singer’s memory to the Lewy Body Dementia Association. A memorial service is planned for April 24 at the Plastic Club at 247 S. Camac St., Philadelphia.