It is definitely fall now, since I saw my breath the other morning as I let our latest “addition,” Bizzy, out for her morning duty. I have no complaints as we sit here on a gorgeous, sunny day in Seattle. I can’t say the same for my friends living on the Gulf Coast. Dodging major weather storms is turning into a regular pastime for Art Kingsbury. Thankfully, he and Diane have missed what Mother Nature has sent their way. I believe Curtis Smith has been fine in Rhode Island, too. So while I know many days of rain are headed my way, as I type these notes I am grateful for the dry spell.
It was such a treat to speak with Art late last month. He was using the new technology that I mentioned in the prior edition. This is the phone device with the captions. “I recommend it to anyone who is deaf,” Art rejoiced. It has made communication so much better for him. I could hear the joy in his voice. Art is doing well. He plays nine holes of golf a couple of times a week because, as he puts it, “I can!” He and Diane really enjoy having family nearby. They don’t travel as much these days so the generations nearby help bring the youth and energy to them. He is looking forward to his 100th birthday in April. Diane stays busy raising her butterflies, which she has done for over a decade now. We spoke about Hurricane Maria. It had been reported that the path was supposed to hit the Venice Beach area. Thankfully as we all know now, it veered off and stayed further to the east. They lost power for less than a day. We did reflect on Puerto Rico and its terrible devastation. “So sad what has happened there.” He and Diane hope the folks there get back on their feet soon.
When I spoke with Curtis there was a somber tone in the beginning of our call. The horrific shooting in Las Vegas was on our minds. “These are difficult times,” Curtis reflected. I shared with Curtis that it must be very interesting to be looking at these events with eyes that have been observing life for almost 100 years. We also spoke about being a parent and the odd feeling one has when you find yourself saying, “this one will go into the history books.”
As these are the class notes, we found a way to carry on with other more upbeat topics, most notably being his 100th birthday celebration happening at the end of October. All family will be present for the weekend. That Thursday they will have a cellist and pianist playing at the house where he lives. Friday they will all gather at the Faculty Club at Brown University to enjoy the birthday dinner. While Brown doesn’t have a reciprocal agreement with Wesleyan, Curtis’s son-in-law’s alma mater does! (Personally, Brown, I think any 100th birthday celebration should qualify!) While the birthday plans were our main topic, we did talk about singing and other family visits. Curtis mentioned that he might change singing groups. He enjoyed the musical shows tunes that the house group performed, but they didn’t really have it arranged for his vocal part. He said there is a group of women who stop by the house every month and sing hymns. He said he’s even taught them some he used to use at his church. Hopefully the women will continue stopping by and offering him a chance to add his baritone voice to the fold.
The Vietnam series had just finished when I called and we both agreed how amazing it was to see the footage and hear the stories. Curtis shared how he had even more admiration for John McCain with what he saw in the documentary and with his recent behavior around healthcare.
I am so honored to have moments with these remaining ’38 fellows. Their view on this world is a deeply textured one, something that only comes with years on this earth. I look forward to what future stories they will share with me next time.
Here’s to a very happy holiday season and a safe and healthy 2018.
GRACE BENNETT, daughter of the late Walter V. Bennett ’38
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