Poppa Neutrino

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Poppa Neutrino
Born William David Pearlman
(1933-10-15)October 15, 1933
Fresno, California, United States
Died January 23, 2011(2011-01-23) (aged 77)
New Orleans, Louisiana, United States
Cause of death congestive heart failure
Nationality American
Other names David Pearlman, William Maloney, William David Pearlman
Occupation raftbuilder musician, and founder of the oWL PaRTY
Spouse(s) Betsy Terrell
Website [1], [2]

Poppa Neutrino, born William David Pearlman, (October 15, 1933,[1] Fresno, California[2] – January 23, 2011,[3] New Orleans, Louisiana) was a musician, raft builder and "free spirit" who lived his life outside expected norms.[4] He has been called a modern primitive, a nomad, a permanent dropout, raftbuilder and musician.[4]


Inspired by a documentary he saw when he was twelve years old, in which Australian aborigines periodically burnt their homes and walked away naked, free to start a new life, he taught "triadic thinking" and empowerment to people trapped by the concept of job and rent.[5] Thus Poppa Neutrino built his own homes out of discarded materials on free space (public waterways) and supported himself as a street musician.[6] He changed his name at the age of 52 after surviving a severe illness.[4]

Neutrino built several rafts out of donated and recycled materials on which he lived and sailed. In 1997-98 Poppa Neutrino sailed one of his homemade junk rafts, Son of Town Hall, from North America to Europe, becoming the second person to sail a raft across the Atlantic and the first to do so on a raft made from trash.[7] Betsy Terrell, his wife, was the captain and navigator on the crossing.

In 2008 Poppa Neutrino moved to Burlington, Vermont to build another raft, this time on Lake Champlain.[8] In 2010, he planned a circumnavigation of the globe, leaving Burlington, Vermont to head first south to Florida with three sailors and their three dogs aboard a new craft, a 37-foot trimaran complete with two outboards, a heated pilot house and four cabins. However, on November 9 their raft was driven onto rocks on Thompson's Point, Charlotte, Vermont. Poppa Neutrino and his fellow rafters were rescued from Lake Champlain.[9]

Neutrino died on January 23, 2011, in a hospital in New Orleans, Louisiana, of heart failure.[10] Neutrino's jazz funeral was attended by dozens wearing bright costumes.[11]

Married "several times" he had four children, as well as step- and adopted children.[4]

Books and films about his life[edit]

Poppa Neutrino's life and travels have been the subject of articles and books, including two by Alec Wilkinson[12][13] and a documentary film.[14]


  1. ^ Family Tree Legends William David Pearlman
  2. ^ "His journey started in 1933 in Fresno California."
  3. ^ obituary in The New York Times Retrieved January 28, 2011
  4. ^ a b c d Kamiya, Gary. The Nomad The New York Times March 18, 2007. Retrieved January 24, 2011.
  5. ^ Neutrino, Poppa. "Neutrino Ideas". 
  6. ^ Neutrino, Poppa. "Streetwise". Video. HomeTeamProductions. Retrieved 16 October 2012. 
  7. ^ "Random Lunacy - 60 minute documentary - trailer". Documentary trailer. Home Team Productions. Retrieved 16 October 2012. 
  8. ^ "Poppa Neutrino raft musing outside of the Radiobean". Video. LionEyeCrow. Retrieved 16 October 2012. 
  9. ^ Davenport, Melinda. "Poppa Neutrino, fellow rafters rescued from Lake Champlain". News Article. WCAX News. Retrieved 16 October 2012. 
  10. ^ Baird, Joel Banner. Burlington Rafter, Adventurer Poppa Neutrino Dies Burlington Free Press[permanent dead link] January 24, 2011. Retrieved January 24, 2011.
  11. ^ "Poppa Neutrino's Jazz Funeral". Video. Retrieved 16 October 2012. 
  12. ^ Wilkinson, Alec.The Crossing (Abstract) The New Yorker June 27, 2005. Retrieved January 24, 2011.
  13. ^ Kehe, Marjorie. Is 'The Happiest Man in the World' Fearless, Crazy, or Simply Original? The Christian Science Monitor April 3, 2007. Retrieved on January 25, 2011.
  14. ^ Silber, Stephanie. Random Lunacy: Videos from the Road Less Traveled 2007. Retrieved on January 25, 2011.

Further reading[edit]

  • Wilkinson, Alec (2007). The Happiest Man in the World: An Account of the Life of Poppa Neutrino. New York, Random House, Inc. ISBN 978-1-4000-6543-1.
  • Silber, Stephanie (2007). Random Lunacy: Videos from the Road Less Traveled Home Team Productions Documentary.

External links[edit]