In Memoriam: Viscount Edward Zifran of Gendy
Viscount Edward Zifran of Gendy, 103rd Knight of the Society and 7th Tyger of the East, passed away on July 15th, following a stroke.
Edward’s impact on the Society as a whole cannot be overstated, and yet that impact was achieved largely by building individual relationships. A quiet and thoughtful man, self-conscious and humble, he could say a great deal with just a simple nod.
In his own SCA biography, he wrote, “He has spent the last thirty years or so, trying to be the best knight he can, sometimes succeeding but usually failing. He tries to live by a very simple code:
My life for my King
My soul for my god
My heart for my Lady
And my Honor for myself”
Already legendary when he moved to the East, Sir Edward began his SCA career in Anno Societatis 8 or so, in the Barony of Madrone, in what was then the principality of An Tir in the West Kingdom. He was given an Award of Arms by King William of Hoghton I and Queen Donna I of the West in AS 9, and was quickly thereafter recognized for his prowess in the list. He was made a companion of the Order of Chivalry on June 21, AS 10 by King Andrew II and Queen Patrice I of the West. The following year he prevailed in combat to become the sixth Prince of An Tir, reigning with Fiona di Varanus. He was made a Viscount by Elrond and Gilraen on January 3, AS 10. Subsequently, he reigned as Prince of An Tir thrice more – in AS 11 and 12 with Alma Tea av den Telmark, and in AS 14 with Dorthea of the Dunes. While in An Tir, he was the Founding Seneschal of the Shire (now Canton) of Entice, the Shire (now Canton) of Xerophil, and the Shire of Shittimwoode (now the Shire of Thornwold, first Shire of An Tir), where Sir Edward’s Tournament is still held annually in his honor. He is still known in An Tir as one of the leaders of the “An Tir Rebellion” which eventually led to An Tir gaining Kingdom status.
Mistress Elizabeth Talbot, his former wife and longtime friend, recalls, “Ed discovered the SCA on the west coast around the age of 19 or 20. This game gave Ed many things his childhood had not. It gave him a place to belong, a voice and a (rattan) sword to fight for excellence and fairness, aspirations to art and beauty in life, and something greater than himself to serve. He poured his heart into those callings. In order for Ed to be at ease with the world, he needed to be in fealty to his king and queen, and to serve his kingdom and her people.
“Without his oath of fealty to his monarchs, Ed felt naked. One summer the Northern Masters of the East played a game with the Queen where she took their knight’s belts from them in a prank and they had to sing or do some service to get their belts back. The Queen teasingly took Ed’s as well, but for Ed, his belt was essential to his sense of being. He was anxious and miserable until she put it back on him with an apology, a week later.
“When I asked Ed what he meant by the world ‘chivalry’, he replied, ‘giving your opponent every opportunity to beat you.’ Fairness was everything to him.”
As befits a most gentle and accomplished Knight, he was also a poet and artisan of some renown. His first Society recognition was as the Bard of the Barony of Madrone in AS 8, and he was recognized for his skill with needlepoint and canvas work as a Companion of the Order of the Laurel in what was now the Kingdom of An Tir on June 26th, AS 18.
By the following year, Viscount Edward had moved to the East, where he quickly became a fixture at the Union Square fighter practice in Østgardr, donning armor and fighting bouts in the middle of Manhattan, where he helped teach several generations of SCA fighters.
He also began using his extraordinary organizational talents for the running of the Kingdom, and, eventually, the SCA, Inc. He served as a member of the SCA Board of Directors from 1994 – 1995, and was President and Chairman of the SCA, Inc from 1995 – 1998. In AS 24, he was named a Companion of the Order of the Pelican by Morguhn III and Maurya for his service to the Society. From 2005 to 2009 he served as East Kingdom Seneschal, where he helped to implement Kingdom policies that led to broad and long-lasting improvements for the Society as a whole, and after his term ended he continued to act as a beloved mentor to many of the Seneschals who served after him.
Former East Kingdom Seneschal, Baroness Hedewigis Ockenfüßin, OP, recalls “Before I became East Kingdom Seneschal, I spoke with several who had held the position before, including Ed. His confidence in me, and his assurance that I could contact him at any time, convinced me to take the position.
“He was invariably the first one to whom I would turn when I needed to talk out a particularly sticky issue. Not only did he have encyclopedic knowledge of EK Law, Corpora, and all manner of policies and procedures, he had institutional knowledge that came not from longevity, but from a love for our game. It is said that every rule has a name, and Ed usually knew that name.
“Listening patiently, inserting the occasional ‘mmhmm’ (or replying with *nods* if the discussion were happening via text), he would occasionally ask a question, but he would never tell me what to do. Using him as a sounding board enabled me to reach a supportable position with confidence.
“Ed was a true Peer in every sense of the word. Walking the line between ‘game side’ and ‘business side’ is not easy, but he had it mastered. I miss his hugs, his wit, his humility, his grace, his voice, his smile. He left the world a better place.”
Even with all his other roles, it is through his work at Pennsic that many throughout the Known World knew him best. In a golf cart or behind a table, red hat on his head, cigarette in his mouth and coffee in hand, he worked tirelessly for decades to keep Pennsic running. Over the years, he held a wide variety of Pennsic staff positions, including acting as media liaison and serving as Pennsic Exchequer. He was Lord Mayor of Pennsic only twice, for Pennsic 33 and again for Pennsic 45, but during the years between one of the most important roles he held was as an integral part of the land staff, starting at Pennsic 15, where he helped to codify and build the current “land grab” process. He often was one of the first staff members at Pennsic, arriving in late June or early July, and over the years he built close relationships with the Cooper family and the Cooper’s Lake staff.
“He used this sense of right and wrong to serve on the SCA’s Board of Directors and to work with both the Coopers and several kingdoms’ worth of autocrats and royalty on Pennsic,” Mistress Elizabeth Talbot continues. “He was determined that land allotment would be fair for every attendee, no matter how exalted the titles of the person in front of him. He helped write the rules for the current system, back when the Coopers first decreed a set beginning point to Pennsic, so they weren’t stumbling across the regulars six weeks before the fighting began. With all that, he always set his own tent in the boggiest part of Østgardr’s encampment, until I convinced him we needed a camp roomy enough for our retainers and friends.
“I once watched him agonize for days over Pennsic monies that he had dutifully collected for the Pennsic party. He’d done so well busking that there was a surfeit. He was frantic when his monarchs breezily told him, ‘oh we’ll just take the rest for our travel fund’, because that wasn’t what he’d told the givers they were donating to. Pennsic entertainments were for everyone, but a travel fund was a personal use. He put on his coronet and chain, and explained to them why that wasn’t fair.
“Because he was known for this impartiality, monarchs, Coopers, and populace alike trusted him. This trust was why Ed and I found ourselves given temporary status as Regent and Regentess of the Midrealm one Pennsic, in order to get a reclusive Midrealmer, known for avoiding courts and royalty, a service award he richly deserved. Because Frog would answer Ed’s call on the walkie talkie, but no one else’s.
After we began dating, I would hear snippets of his outrageous past behavior, like declaring An Tir independent of the West, or getting tied to a tree with ribbons by all of his women friends. Or taking up needle arts as a way to meet all the women sitting together stitching. Tales of his fighting prowess were also everywhere. By the time we married, he had given up fighting mostly. He had begun to suffer physically from his mundane work. Ed rarely talked about those past adventures. He was fiercely focused on the present and the future. He grew to enjoy the project planning more, particularly Pennsic planning, and his service as a member of the Board of Directors. His sharp, focused grasp of legal and financial concepts contributed to the security of Pennsic and the Society at large for all of us. Pennsic is also how most of his friends knew him. It will always be His Place.”
Duchess Dagmar Halvdan, OP, of the Middle Kingdom, Mayor of Pennsic 48, shares “He was my friend and a core of my Pennsic. And now with us not gathering together there this year, there is a coming to terms that Ed will be some combination of eternally there and yet not physically present when we next arrive.
“There will be many things different next year but for me there will still be the paint cart. Ed ‘interviewed’ me for the position (aka told me to listen to the metal detector and go find the pins that serve to mark Pennsic blocks and roads). Over the last few years as I assumed more and more of it, I would resort to calling ‘he who knows all’ only after my own long fruitless search for a particular pin. After a few minutes and a successful ping from the metal detector indicating the location of the long-sought-after pin he would smile. Then he would slightly tilt his head, and quietly radiate the message ‘Did you see that magic I did? See and be amazed ,… you too someday will do this magic.’ And suggest we both needed coffee.
“He would often ask new volunteers, ‘When do you want to be Mayor of Pennsic?’ for in his world everyone had magic to bring and it was merely a matter of getting the timing right. Ed, you see, made you believe in magic. So in the spirit of that memory – pour a cup of coffee and see what it inspires and figure out what magic you are planning.”
The magic that Ed made was recognized in more ways than we can list here and by many Kingdoms. He was a Baron of the Court of AEthelmearc, of Atlantia, and of the East. He held an Augmentation of Arms from both AEthelmearc and the East, and was made a member of the Order of the Dragon’s Heart of the Middle Kingdom, despite never having been a subject of that Crown. In AS 41, Griffyth and Aikaterine named him the seventh Tyger of the East.
Mistress Katherine Barr, also a former East Kingdom Seneschal and Edward’s long-time friend recalls, “Viscount Sir Edward was a legend, yet Ed was one of the most humble men you could meet.
“When Edward was made a Tyger of the East, he called me shortly after. His first words were to the effect of ‘Katherine, what the **** am I doing in this Order?’ As for many of us, it was awe-inspiring to him to be made a part of an Order composed of those considered to be pillars of the Kingdom. He truly couldn’t comprehend that he belonged in that group of people. That was Ed.
“Ed was my mentor, my hero, and my friend. Like he did with so many others, he helped shape me into the person I am, both within and outside of the SCA. I will miss him dearly.”
“Ed spent most of his life looking for a family to belong to,” Elizabeth Talbot concludes. “It is beautiful that, in trying to find room for himself in one, he made so many for the people around him, always with his big heart, extravagant gestures, and dry humor at their centers. It still seems unreal to me that he could be gone, because he was timeless and eternal. I sat by his bedside and I still can’t bring his passing into focus.”
“And upon the 8th day, the Lord looked upon what he had created and said:
‘I need someone to keep everyone in line’, and so he created Ed.
‘I need someone to poke, to prod, to guide, to grumble and bitch, to find the flaws, and to remind people of the proper ways…’ so he created Ed.
‘I need a honorable warrior with chicken legs and scraggly beard, and a wisdom of the ages’… so he created Ed.
‘I need a wizard in red, with fire in his veins and smoke in his lungs’.. so he created Ed.
‘I need a wise soul, bathed in chivalry, to lead and advise, to care and discipline, to work and entertain, to bring respect and laughter to the world, to show that service is life and life is service,… and to drink all the coffee’.. so he created Ed…”
— Master Tommaso Valeriano
In lieu of flowers it is requested that donations be made to the Portersville Food Pantry or to your local food bank in Ed’s name (Edward Morrill). Childhood hunger and food insecurity was a concern for Ed.
At this time, the family is planning to hold a memorial at Pennsic next year. Details will be forthcoming.
The East Kingdom Gazette wishes to thank Mistress Katherine Barr, Mistress Elizabeth Talbot, Baroness Hedewigis Ockenfüßin, OP, Duchess Dagmar Halvdan, OP, Lord Brandr Aronsson, and Mistress Alidreda de Tamworth for their very great generosity and assistance in writing this article.