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Elaine Calenda – June 8, 1958 – August 24, 2012

I will never forget you.

Free the Bird… Bring out the juices.

Elaine Calenda and I met in high school in 1975. It was auditions for the John Adams High School musical play that year, which was Oliver. E (I always called her E) was standing in the back of the auditorium, hands in her pockets – stoic and stiff. She was wearing a woolen turtle neck sweater with overalls and construction boots and I thought “Who is that remarkable lesbian?” But I didn’t want to come off too strong so I sauntered over with my elephant bell denims, wide leather belt and chunky buckle and my platform shoes and I asked, “Hey, are you a Bette Midler fan?” E, rather startled that I just started talking to her and a bit self-conscious said she was as a matter of fact. How did I know she asked? Then I asked if “The Wizard of Oz” was her favorite movie and she looked aghast and again asked how I knew. Then I asked if she were a friend of Dorothy’s at which point she said, OK, Who the hell is Dorothy?

I leaned close to her so no one would hear and asked if she were gay. E looked down at her clothes and almost with tears in her eyes asked how I knew. I said, Come on girlfriend we have some catching up to do. E was a couple of years older than I and didn’t have a “boyfriend.” Her mom gave her a hard time for dressing so butch and not showing any interest in guys so E asked if I would go home with her and be introduced as her “boyfriend.” My mom already knew I was gay so I didn’t need a “cover” or beard. I was glad to help her out. We thought it would just be an act. Needless to say we fell madly in love anyway. We were inseparable for much of our late teens.

The dramatics teacher at John Adams found E an internship for her last semester at The Ensemble Studio Theatre in Manhattan with director Curt Dempster. Here E met many notable professionals in the theatre as she studied stage managing at Ensemble. I helped her build sets and break them down. It was an exciting time for us. E worked with Kevin Bacon, Amanda Plummer, Moogy Klingman and many other talented people in the theatre. Renown stage manager Barry Kearsley befriended E and we all used to “hang out.” Barry and E remained friends until his death in 1989 while stage managing M Butterfly. Through Barry, we met so many notable people in the theatre from Leonard Nimoy to Tommy Tune.

E very early on expressed a love for massage and shortly after high school she began studying at the Swedish Institute where she later became an instructor. I was lucky to be her willing patient during her studies. E would learn a new technique and I would be the recipient of all of her focus. It was here she met lifelong friend Sharon Weinstein, MD. E had an incredible talent and she went on to become a beloved instructor at the Boulder College of Massage in Colorado:

Elaine Calenda, AOS, RMT, NCTMB
Elaine Calenda has been a massage therapy educator for over 32 years. She graduated from the Swedish Institute in 1978 and gained clinical work experience at the Center of Osteopathic & Sports Medicine in New York City. In January 1992 she began teaching at the Boulder College of Massage Therapy and is currently the Academic Dean. She teaches Sports and Orthopedic Massage. Elaine contributed to the development of the Associate of Occupational Studies Program and has participated in multiple research projects including: “The Effects of Massage for Carpal Tunnel Syndrome” and “Chronic Tension Headache.” Elaine is dedicated to the advancement of the massage profession and writes for massage and CAM publications. She is a contributing author to the textbook Teaching Massage.

Elaine was the recipient of 2012 Chapter Meritorious Award by the American Massage Therapists Association. 

The Chapter Meritorious Award honors an Active AMTA member for
his or her diligent volunteerism done in an altruistic (selfless) manner.

Deborah Hatch and Kimberlee Chatterley

Elaine Calenda


Reasons for Nomination
• We believe that the meritorious award should go to a person that has exhibited a long history of supporting the massage profession, the AMTA association and individual therapists along the way; Elaine Calenda is that person. She has provided this support without any expectation of recognition, she simply contributed as she was able and has made a tremendous impact on our profession.

• A massage educator for over 32 years, Elaine has not only taught massage but also modeled the quintessential values and behavior of a profession massage therapist. She is dedicated to increasing level of knowledge within our profession and models this through her involvement in our association, research projects, and development of community based programs such as supporting our returning veterans and introducing children to massage.

• Elaine has a history of volunteerism having served on the AMTA Chapter level as: 2nd Vice President (CO), delegate/2 terms (CO), Newsletter Editor (NY); and the AMTA National level serving on: the AMTA Special Committee on Standards of Care and the AMTA Workgroup to Enhance Culture. Additionally she was very active with the NCBTMB serving as: Item Writer (1994), Exam Committee member (1994-1996), Exam Committee Chair (1996-2001), Director (2001-2003).

• An acclaimed writer and researcher, her works have been published in “Therapeutic Massage” chapter for Alternative Medicine In Cardiac Illness, Dr. Michael Weintraub, ©2003, Therapeutic Massage” chapter for Alternative Medicine in Neurologic Illness, Dr. Michael Weintraub, © 2001. Elaine also has a artistic flair as demonstrated by the creation of two beautiful anatomical charts: Muscles in Motion – the muscular system and Osteography – the skeletal system, both produced through Digit Press Publishing.

Characteristics of Nominee
• Elaine has an incredible energy and passion for massage in general and AMTA in particular. I really believe that she would bleed amta blue. She champions our association to anyone within earshot and is happy to expound on the values of AMTA membership.

• An effective communicator, Elaine has the rare ability to speak with and listen to people of all walks of life. She is at ease with everyone and able to tailor the delivery of information into the way it will be best received. She is amazingly respectful of each personal and professional interaction, whether a colleague or a student or superior (if there is such a thing), each individual is treated with the same dignity and respect.

• She is open minded and always interested in new ideas and techniques. She volunteers enormous time to mentor and guide new teachers. For example, Deborah Bruce came to Elaine a few years ago and demonstrated a technique that Elaine found innovative. Elaine helped Deborah define her technique as Passive Fascial Restoration (PFR) and assisted her in creating teaching goals to offer this new technique to fellow therapists.

• Elaine’s background in teaching has proven invaluable; she has served as a brilliant liaison between our Chapter and schools within our State. She understands the dynamics and challenges of the school/education system and has been instrumental in building bridges between schools and our Chapter. For the past several years, Elaine has championed AMTA to Boulder College of Massage Therapy, this has resulted in our Chapter holding the Spring annual meeting at a low cost to the Chapter; a savings which has been passed on to our members.

• Elaine interjects humor into the classroom and the result is that the students retain more of the information shared. Ask her for the Julia Childs’ approach, you’ll be glad you did.

She is well known and respected in the massage community and a deserving candidate for the Meritorious Award.

AMTA National Position(s) (non-chair)

AMTA Special Committee on Standards of Care – Chair, 1998-2000, Committee member, 2000-present.
AMTA Workgroup to Enhance Culture – 2005-2006
National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage & Bodywork, Item writer, 1994, Exam committee member 1994-1996, Exam committee chair, 1996-2001, Director, April 2001-2003.

AMTA Chapter Position(s) (elected or appointed)

AMTA Colorado 2nd VP/Membership Chair 2008-present
AMTA Colorado Delegate 2000-2002
AMTA New York Chapter Newsletter Editor

Major Projects

Alternative Medicine Television Show but also modeled the
Benefits of Massage – first aired 1999

Radio Boulder, Benefits of Massage – aired May 1996

Radio Denver, Benefits of Massage –
Aired November, 1995

Weight Watchers Magazine Show –
Benefits of Massage – New York, NY – Aired October, 1986 Hosted by Lynn Redgrave.

Health Talk Radio Show, WBAI Radio, Brooklyn, NY – Benefits of Massage- April, 1980

Research Projects

Boulder College of Massage Therapy – The effects of massage on Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, 2003 ongoing

Boulder College of Massage Therapy – The effects of massage on Headache, September, 2000.
With Drs. Weintraub and Rothman- effects of massage on victims of physical trauma – June 1990 to December 1991.

Altruistic Activities
• Supporting our Returning Troops –
• Exposing Children to Massage – teaching massage to children
• The Chanda Plan – benefiting people with spinal injuries.

Professional/Community Positions
Boulder College of Massage Therapy
6255 Longbow Drive, Boulder, CO.
Academic Dean, 2003 to present
Clinical Education Director, 1995-2003
Instructor of Orthopedic/Sports Massage
150- hour Certification Program and
Instructor of Medical Massage in the Associate of Occupation Studies Degree Program,
1992 – Present

Private Practice
1979 – Present

Digit Press Publishing
Anatomical Chart Design
Creative Director; 1995 – Present

Academy of Massage Sciences
20 West 20th Street, New York, NY
Director/Instructor – 1988-1991

Dr. Michael Weintraub
325 S. Highland Ave. Briarcliff, NY
Massage Therapist, June 1990 – Dec. 1991

New York State Education Department, Albany, NY. Item writer for the 1988 and 1990 State Board Exams for Massage Therapy.

Swedish Institute, Inc. 126 West 26th Street, New York, NY – Clinic Director and Medical Massage Instructor 1980-1986.

Center for Sports and Osteopathic Medicine, 41 East 42nd Street, New York, NY with Dr. Richard Bachrach
Massage Therapist, 1980-1985


“Therapeutic Massage” chapter for Alternative Medicine in Cardiac Illness, Dr. Michael Weintraub, ©2003.

“Therapeutic Massage” chapter for Alternative Medicine in Neurologic Illness, Dr. Michael Weintraub, ©2001.

Muscles in Motion – the muscular system, anatomical chart produced through Digit Press Publishing,
© 1997

Osteography- the skeletal system, anatomical chart produced through Digit Press Publishing, © 1998

Elaine is survived by her partner Michelle Howard of Longmont CO, her father Joseph Calenda of Ohio; her sister, Jacqueline Bailey of Farmers Branch, Texas,  and brother Vincent Calenda of Ozone Park, Queens, N.Y. Her mother Luisa Orta Calenda died last month and was able to see Elaine to say goodbye.They had seen each other last on Mother’s Day.

You will always be in my heart.


  1. Keith Stiles says:

    Thank you much for this post about our beautiful girl, Frankie. Elaine was everything to me. She was my teacher, my mentor, my roommate (at the Pumpkin Palace), my inspiration and dear friend. She will be missed by many. I can only hope to make her proud by making it my mission to carry on her legacy of massage.

    1. fadingad says:

      Dear Keith- I will keep you posted on pics I find when going through my archive. If you are ever in NY, let me know – would love to share some stories. Hope to see you at the memorial later in Sept. Much love, Frank

  2. Vincent M. Calenda says:

    Thank you very much for this i know my Aunt would have been proud of it i plan to show this to my dad next time he stops by to see me and again i thank you from the bottom of my heart she meant a lot to me and seeing this means a lot thank you.

    1. fadingad says:

      You are very welcome Vincent. I will try to find more pictures of Elaine from when we were young and scan them for you. Keep in touch. Best, Frank

  3. Lynne Morrison says:

    Frank, Thank you for this tribute. In the old days in NY , “E” told me wonderful stories of the two of you, and how much she loved you, how much you and your mom meant to her. She is an amazing soul.

  4. Carmen says:

    Thank you for this beautiful post about Elaine. She was one of my most beloved teachers, my friend and my mentor at BCMT. I had the honor to be in the last class Elaine taught at the school. She was such an inspiration and leader. She believed in me when I couldn’t believe in myself and for that I will always be thankful. It was an honor to have been her student and hope to someday live up to her example & make her proud. Elaine will be deeply missed but, never forgotten and her legacy will live on in all of us who had the privilege of knowing her. She will always have a special place in my ♥. My thoughts and prayers to her family and loved ones during this time…

  5. Stacy Schrier-Bausch says:

    Thanks for posting. I’m so sad.

  6. sandy ayala says:

    Beautiful story and tribute…. thanks for sharing… she is my cousin and I loved her dearly…

  7. Laura De Ponte says:

    All Love to Elaine, my teacher, my friend, my massage mentor. More than that, always my Heart…
    After a long time living in our own worlds (Boulder/Longmont- NYC), I finally had a chance to travel out there lasty May, called her and got to speak with her prior to my trip. We both thought we might be able to meet, but it just did not happen. The tsunami of life swept us apart– and until two days ago, I had no idea why or what.
    so. I am happy to have had the chance to have heard her voice, feel her love, and sad to not have one more hug…
    many memories, all good…
    Fly free, li’l sister….

  8. Laura De Ponte says:

    Also: thank you Frank for this beautiful page devoted to Elaine. I knew her since 1985 to ’86 in New York (first at the Institute, then apprenticing with her and remaining friends). Never forget riding on the back of her morotcycle! I actually just found out about her passing just last week. I still feel her presence, seems like she is everywhere at once, pure Love, radiant.

    1. fadingad says:

      You are welcome. The memorial service was moving- she would have loved it.

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