CLASS OF 1956 | 2024 | SPRING ISSUE

Slim pickings on the news front, but we have one extraordinary tale to tell.

Jim Katis wrote: “Living in Greenwich, Connecticut, at age 90 with the wife of 59 years, Lauma. We are both retired psychiatrists and McGill graduates with three sons and five grandchildren.”

Out of curiosity, I asked Jim about Lauma’s ethnicity. Here’s what he had to say: “Lauma is Latvian. She has quite a storied life. . . . Born in 1929, she lost her mom at age three, and her father was the leader of the Latvian resistance against the Soviets and the Germans. She lost him at age 15 (killed by the Germans during WWII). She eventually made it to Canada as a displaced person and, after graduating med school at McGill, moved to New York.” If that story doesn’t deserve a hearty “wow,” I can’t think of anything that could!

Incidentally, I reminded Jim of his role in my tale of mistaken identity. I followed my two brothers, Al ’52 and Phil ’53 to Wesleyan. We didn’t think so, but we must have had some sort of familial resemblance, so I’ve spent much of my life answering to all three names. Anyway, one Sunday morning during our freshman year, I managed to rouse myself and get to a service at the Old South Church at the corner of Pleasant and Church Streets. There I saw just three familiar Wesleyan faces. The first was Jim, who sang with Al in the chapel choir. He greeted me with a tentative, “Hi, Al.” Second was the college physician, Donald Arnault ’40, whose in-laws had a camp on the same lake in the Catskills as did our family. He greeted me heartily: “Why Phil, I haven’t seen you in years!” The third was Norm Daniels, who was then instructing my PE section. His exact words were, “Hello, Chien.” End of story!

Dave Fricke writes: “Hi, all. Beryl and I are slowing down, doing okay here in Silver Spring, Maryland.”

From Bob Bretscher: “I’ve moved to Presbyterian Village Athens, Georgia. I’m healthy: enjoy half-hour walks and small gardening and reading. My present book is Mere Christianity by C. S. Lewis. It’s old but refreshingly stimulating. Now that I’m a nonagenarian, old books have a special appeal. My very best wishes to the class of 1956.  I’d be happy to text with anyone interested in doing so. Cheers.”

(If you’re interested in emailing a classmate, let me know and I can put you in touch.)

In case you hadn’t heard, Rick Francis ’58 died on July 8, 2023. He is survived by his wife, Marilyn, two children, and five grandchildren. Rick, of course, matriculated with us in the fall of 1952, but having taken two gap years, graduated with the Class of 1958. He later taught, for 42 years, mathematics at Williston Academy, where he was also head football coach, coached basketball, and served as athletic director. At Wesleyan, Rick became a Little All-American footballer, but he’s best remembered by us ’56ers for that momentous pass to Denny Denault that put the only dent into the ’56 Trinity’s team otherwise unblemished gridiron record.   

GEORGE CHIEN | gchien@optonline.net