The hardest part of writing this column always is the news of the death of a classmate. And telling you that Seth Kaufman has died is one of the hardest pieces of news I have had to share over the many years.
Here are a few comments I have received about Seth:
Maurice Hakim: “Seth was truly loved by his classmates. The toast of Eclectic, he was an outspoken member of our class and a loyal supporter of Wesleyan ever since graduation day. He and I were formidable political adversaries at Wesleyan. When we ran for the CBC, I could not believe I lost considering Robert Alan Segal and other cohorts had stuffed the ballot box. Seth confessed years later that he had more ballot box ‘stuffers’ than I did. 😃 That said, despite our political differences, we were always friends and maintained that friendship for many years. I loved to tease him. I called him a crazy radical with a bad case of TDS and that would really ruffle his feathers.
“Seth had a big heart. He was a real mensch who helped those who needed help. I will miss him.”
Jeremy Serwer: “When I spoke with him a few times in the past couple of years, his passion for WES—right AND wrong—was always alive and well. He’d start with wondering what the call was about, and then would carry on just beautifully about our class, our experience, and Wesleyan today. . . . [S]omeone like Seth leaves an indelible mark on the world.”
Steve Ingraham: “The Rochester, New York, weather of late has been rain and mist— likely the heavens are weeping for the recent loss of a colorful classmate . . . . the one and only Seth.
“You all know the guy, and can appreciate his decades of service to Wesleyan. Seth style, of course!
“As is customary in the Jewish tradition, his burial was quick—two days after his death on December 19. Below is my note to myself, the essence of which has also been expressed to his wife, Pat. She has been a saint in caring for him through his long illness.
“21 December 2023
I first met Seth on a sunny, early September day in 1966. We freshmen were unpacking in a Foss Hill dorm, preparing to enter life’s next mysterious phase. I remember it like yesterday. I was jittery and altogether at sea that first day . . . until I was greeted in the hall by a fellow frosh with this thick Brooklyn accent. ‘So, aaah, what’s your name?’ In my room he came, without waiting for an answer. He flopped down in the room’s only chair, with those horrendous hush puppy shoes and socks that barely covered his ankles. He proceeded to ask good questions. He also listened. His enthusiasm was infectious; soon my anxieties gave way to laughter, and a lasting friendship was born.
“This past decade has been a terrible trial for Seth and for Pat, his spirited, loving wife.
Whatever one’s version of God, he/she or it went AWOL. How else explain the awful injustice dealt to this pure soul? Groping for something positive, there is relief, I tell myself, now that Seth’s suffering is over. And in time, the acute pain of the moment will, I trust, subside . . . to be replaced by gratitude — gratitude for the deep bonds we shared.
“Seth was curious, committed, passionate, purposeful. He was loyal to those he respected. He was thoughtful, a great listener, and he was funny—no, make that hilarious. Forging our friendship at Wesleyan, I marveled at his ability to relate to folks of all different stripes, people from all corners of the Wesleyan community. During those four undergrad years, Seth was firing on all cylinders. He seemed to know everyone and be at the center of everything. As indeed he was. Through those tumultuous late 1960s, Seth earned not just respect, but also great affection . . . from students, faculty, administration . . . from everybody. His sons, David and Rob, understand this, and take pride knowing that ‘service’ at and for Wesleyan was a calling for their dad. As Pat and all of us well know, after graduation Seth remained a spirited advocate.
To give but one example: for decades he was a tireless and effective fundraiser for Wesleyan. ‘A real mensch,’ as one classmate put it. Who could say ‘no!’ to Seth? Nobody.
“Many have expressed their admiration and respect for Pat’s strength and commitment to Seth through his years of nightmarish illness. I join that chorus. We are grateful for her tireless, unwavering support of Seth through good times and bad. My wish for Pat is that, in time, she will be comforted by the truth: that she did everything possible to bring him some relief. From a distance, I see that what she gave our friend was true love, expressed in a manner that leaves a shining example for David, Rob, and the rest of us.
“I’m pretty sure I speak for many: Seth will always be alive and very well in our hearts.
For me, he has been a colorful, loyal, kind, and magnificent friend for the ages. I was blessed beyond words when he first darkened my doorway that sunny September day in Middletown.”
And there was this in an email to some folks who meet on Zoom: “‘He was one of a kind’ is a tired old phrase. But here, it also falls short because it is an understatement. For me, the fearsome thing about a deep friendship is what must come with it—that dread of the loss that will one day come. In time, the pain will give way to gratitude . . . that someone this special was there to brighten our lives. And now, the debt I feel to Pat [his widow] is immeasurable . . . for her love and support of Seth through this past, most difficult decade.”
Bernie Freamon ’69: “Seth touched me (and all of us) in a profound way. I am deeply saddened by his death.”
To all that, I can add only that the last time I spoke with him a few years ago was extremely painful and challenging. The difficulty I had understanding him—not because of the many miles from Hawaii to New York City but because of his physical deterioration—was excruciating. If there ever was a time when I wished I could hug someone over the phone lines, that was it. He was lucid to a T, however, with on-point political observations and concerns. I cannot even begin to imagine how much of a struggle life has been for Seth the past several years. No justice there.
RIP, Seth. You won’t be forgotten by your classmates or, I daresay, by pretty much anyone who met you for more than a few minutes.
Seth’s obituary can be read here: https://www.legacy.com/us/obituaries/legacyremembers/seth-kaufman-obituary?id=54159154
In other news, Tim Greaney wrote: “I just published my first novel, entitled St. Sebastian School of Law. It’s a satire on teaching law during the lawless Trump years; it may remind some in our class of that great novel by Kingsley Amis, Lucky Jim. I’ve received some nice reviews on Amazon, including this from Kirkus Review: ‘The author moves with amazing agility and insight between the corrupt world of higher education, the bars and strip joints where information passes hands, and the corridors of the rich and the powerful. Greaney’s novel demands full attention from the reader; its portrayal of a small struggling campus is a cross-sectional study of the deep-seated issues in American society. . . . Timely and unapologetically smart, with a set of memorable characters to boot.’
“I’m currently [last fall] visiting our classmate Paul Roth in Venice (the one in Italy). He’s secured a three-month visit at Ca’ Foscari, and after that will take off for Manchester, England, where he’s landed a Fulbright fellowship. Nice post-retirement gigs.
“I’m done with teaching but am on several grants at UCLAWSF, as it’s now called, that allow me to file amicus briefs and write advocacy papers trying to get the courts to enforce antitrust laws in health care.”
Ted Reed wrote: “As you guys all know, this past summer everybody and their brother went to Italy, so my wife and I decided to climb Mount Lassen. We went in the first week of October. It was gorgeous. Lassen Volcanic National Park is in the far northeast corner of California, one of the most remote parts of the state. Lassen itself is 10,457 feet. The parking lot where we started is at 8,500 feet. To prepare, we did two hikes in the Smokies, a few hours from home: both had 2,000-foot altitude gains. Once at Lassen Park, we did a few hikes at 8,500 in order to be acclimated. The preparation made the climb easy. The trail is well marked, well maintained, and has great views every step of the way. I believe I climbed Lassen in 1981, so this was 42 years later. Obviously, it’s fun to still climb mountains at 75 years old, if you can find a beautiful mountain that is easy enough. Looks like our next trip will be to Europe, my wife’s preference.”
In a brief note, Dave Davis said a lot: “I am now semiretired from Oregon Public Broadcasting, so with more free time, classmate Steve Talbot and I are developing a public television documentary about my grandfather, who led an effort to expose crime and corruption in LA in the 1930s. Think L.A. Confidential and you’ll have an idea how the story plays out.” Steve comments: “This documentary project about Dave’s grandfather is a great opportunity for Dave and me to work together again (we started making films together at Wesleyan in 1969!), revisit the city where we were born and raised, and tell an amazing story about crime and politics that is straight out of Raymond Chandler, but all true.”
Good to hear from Bill Bullard. “First, some news about our classmate, Tim McGlue, whom I’ve stayed close to since he moved to France weeks after we graduated. His first wife, Claude, 20 years our senior and both younger and wiser in body and spirit than any of us, passed away in August. Tim stayed close to her after their divorce 30 years ago and was with her the day before she passed. Nothing became Claude’s life as much as her leaving it. A good death, he wrote. But in October, Sylvie, his second wife, mother of his two daughters, and partner for their many years together in Normandy, died of cancer. Both women were our dear friends. Tim had extraordinary good fortune in the women who married him. He is surrounded by friends and family, so he is not alone, but I’m sure the blow is harder than he’ll ever say. I just hope Tim keeps on keeping on, especially with his blues band in Paris.
“On my own front, my wife, Bodie, finally retired after 15 years as head of Spence School in Manhattan, and we lit out for the territories—May and June in Paris, July in Tuscany with our 15 kids and grandkids, and September as guests of old San Francisco friends in a trip to Iceland and a cruise from Greenland to Quebec. It was great to give us and our kids that gift, to know we had the juice to stay on the road that long, and to experience again what it feels like to make Paris a home. Here we are (Bodie and I are in the middle) with our friends in Nuuk Greenland fjord enjoying 12-year-old Glenfiddich over ice from the 12,000-year-old iceberg in the background.
“We left NYC after Bodie’s retirement and moved permanently to our 18th-century farmhouse near Hudson in Columbia County. We don’t have enough land or animals to call it a farm, though everywhere we look is sheep, cattle, and rolling fields of wheat and hay. I have a photography studio in the barn we fixed up and have just enough success publishing and showing work to keep me busy and connected to the large community of artists and photographers in the area. And the city is just a couple of hours away, so we find lots of reasons to spend several days there a month.”
Mitch Grashin, still active in the marijuana insurance business, wrote: “CALL FOR PHILLIP MORRIS” (a reference to a very old radio program ad.)
Peter Kalischer wrote briefly, as well: “Well, besides relocating/repatriating to the U.S., no news.” Peter and Emi live in Honolulu.
Still finishing our house, but economics dictate a sale if we’re going to retire. For the right price, we can pay this place off and get something basic on the island, albeit undoubtedly in a less-scenic location. If anyone knows someone with a lot of money….
Planning a winter trip to New Zealand in June. It’s an inspiration to get in better shape. When I read about New Zealand, ever other word is “walk” or “hike” or “trek” or similar. Seems like that’s the way to see many of the great sites. Looking forward to seeing it and probably taking about 3,000 to 4,000 photos.
Please plan now for our 55th Reunion. It will be just about a year from the time you read this.
RUSS JOSEPHSON | email@example.com
P.O. Box 1151, Kilauea, HI 96754