Bo Black was a prominent figure in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, as the former director of Summerfest, the world’s largest music festival. She was also known for her appearance on the cover of Playboy magazine in 1967, when she was a college student. Black died on July 24, 2020, at the age of 74, in Scottsdale, Arizona. What was the cause of her death and what legacy did she leave behind?
Health Problems and Hospice Care
According to Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Black had been in declining health for several years and was in hospice care in recent days before her death. She had suffered from various serious health issues, such as aneurysms, a coma, coronary heart disease, depression, and a stroke. She had also undergone several surgeries, including a heart valve replacement and a double bypass.
Black was open about her health struggles and shared her experiences publicly to raise awareness, especially for women. She told OnMilwaukee.com in 2017 that she wanted to help others who were going through similar challenges. She said, “I want to be a voice for women who have heart disease or have had a stroke. I want to be a voice for people who have had aneurysms. I want to be a voice for people who have had depression.”
A Colorful and Firecracker of a Lady
Black was born in St. Louis, Missouri, in 1946, into a Catholic family. She graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 1969 with a degree in education. She later worked as a math teacher and a cheerleader coach.
She gained national attention when she posed for the cover of Playboy in 1967, wearing a green football jersey and knee-high socks. She declined to do a nude photoshoot, as she wanted to become a nun at that time. She later said that she did it for fun and to pay off her college debts.
Black became the director of Summerfest in 1984 and transformed it into an international sensation. She brought in big-name performers, such as Paul McCartney, Bob Dylan, and the Rolling Stones. She also worked with various ethnic festivals and charitable causes, such as Operation Summer Chance, a youth employment program. She was known for her charisma, glamour, and enthusiasm. She was also a demanding and controversial leader, who faced criticism and lawsuits for her management style and spending habits.
Black left Summerfest in 2003 and moved to Arizona with her husband, Tom Trebelhorn, a former manager of the Milwaukee Brewers. She had three children from a previous marriage. She remained connected to Milwaukee and kept track of Summerfest every year.
Black was described by her family and friends as a “colorful, firecracker of a lady” who always made everyone feel special. She was also a “pistol” and a “force” who dedicated her career to making Milwaukee the City of Festivals. She was widely respected and admired for her achievements and contributions.
A Lasting Impact and a Fond Farewell
Black’s death was mourned by many people who knew her or were influenced by her. Summerfest officials issued a statement that said, “We are all grateful for her efforts, creativity and flair, which help make Summerfest the incredible experience it is today.” Mayor Tom Barrett said, “She brought enthusiasm and glamour to her position as the head of Milwaukee World Festivals, and she was also a demanding leader who set Summerfest and ethnic festivals on a course for ongoing success.”
Black’s husband, Trebelhorn, said that he thinks she was ready to go and that she will be long remembered for her impact on the city. He said, “She was a dynamic administrator of probably the greatest family neighborhood venue in the history of the Midwest. She provided terrific entertainment at a reasonable cost. She loved the ethnic festivals, celebrated the diversity of the city.”
Black’s children, Blake Lindemann and Stephanie Anderson, said that they were proud of their mother and hoped to carry on her remarkable qualities. They said, “She was a colorful, firecracker of a lady. She always made everyone feel special, whether it was the Summerfest board or the janitor who was just picking up trash on the grounds. That’s a remarkable quality that we hope our kids take from her.”
Bo Black cause of death was not officially announced, but it was likely related to her long-term health problems. She passed away peacefully at her home, surrounded by her loved ones. She left behind a legacy of music, fun, and festivity that will live on in the hearts and minds of many. She was a one-of-a-kind woman who made a difference in the world. She will be dearly missed and fondly remembered.