Classmates, more sad news. Jim McEnteer died of colon cancer July 30 in Los Angeles. His wife, Tina, wrote to some of his old friends a few days before he died, telling us that Mac did not have much time, but he was still aware, and she encouraged us to send messages that she would read to him. Many of us did, and, a few days later, when she wrote to tell us that he had died, she reported that “I read him your e-mails as they came in, he smiled, and was touched, as was I, by the outpouring of love and appreciation and celebration that you shared.”
I have many vivid memories of Jim at Wesleyan, from taking an English class with him freshman year (taught by R. L. Greene) to (as seniors) playing charades against a faculty team that included Joe and Kit Reed, Paul Horgan, and Richard Wilbur (the judge was Willie Kerr). So, too, do I have memories of being with Mac in New Hope, Plymouth Meeting, D.C., West Hartford, Big Sur, and Oakland—as I wrote to Tina (and Jim), all of these memories are good ones.
He went on to earn an MFA in creative writing from the University of British Columbia, and a PhD in communications from the University of Texas. He was a fellow at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard. He wrote four books and many articles (including, memorably to me at least, one about Alberto Ibargüen ’66 and another about John Perry Barlow ’69). He and Tina lived at various times, and for various lengths of time, in Florida, Veracruz, Oakland, Bolivia, South Africa, and Ecuador. They have two sons, Nico and Jake. A memorial service took place in Dedham, Mass., on Oct. 5.
I know it is a cliché, but it is true: you may never know what an impact you have had on someone’s life, or someone has had on yours. Sometimes you do not figure it out until many years later. The following is a moving e-mail I received from Jeff Marshall about E. Craig MacBean, who, as you might recall from a recent set of notes, died in October 2018. Jeff tells me that he is “mostly retired due in part to vision loss stemming from glaucoma,” though he is still associated with the law firm he founded. He is the author of a book on elder law (now in its fourth edition), and he continues to do some legal writing for his blog. He has been married for 48 years, has a daughter in Hawaii, and another daughter and two grandsons who live next door to him in Williamsport, Pa. Here is the e-mail he sent me:
“I noted your recent class notes reference to the death of our classmate Craig MacBean. Craig and I were acquaintances at Wesleyan but we were not friends. We had one very heated encounter involving a girl. After that, we just stayed away from each other.
“But I was to encounter Craig again after college and in very different circumstances. In the summer of 1969, I was a soldier reporting for duty at the Army’s Valley Forge General Hospital. I walked into the company clerk’s office and there was Craig MacBean. As company clerk Craig had a lot of authority over the lives of the soldiers in the company. So, my first reaction was concern that our negative encounter at Wesleyan might influence my fate.
“My concern was misplaced. Craig and I were comrades during a time of great trouble. It was difficult being a soldier in 1969 with the Vietnam War being very unpopular with people our age. If you wore your uniform in public you were likely to encounter vitriol. You were much more likely to have someone call you a baby-killer than thank you for your service. We knew our president and generals were lying to us. The entire world seemed to be unravelling.
“So, seeing a classmate from college represented some return to normalcy. And Craig and I became friends. Craig was able to watch out for me and find a position for me with the judge advocate. This was very desirable to me because I had a year of law school and intended to be a lawyer. It may well have also saved my life. The reality was that the Army didn’t need a lot of legal clerks in Vietnam. I was always prepared to go if ordered. But I felt at the time, and still do, that with my original combat classification and poor eyesight I would not have survived a tour of duty in Nam.
“A few months later Craig was transferred to another duty station. I never got to say goodbye and never saw him again. He was one of those people who intimately touch your life and then are gone.
“I am writing this note to say a final goodbye to my friend, Craig MacBean. And to thank him for his important positive impact on my life.”
Richie Zweigenhaft | email@example.com