Last notes for 2023! I hope you all had a peaceful and healthy end to 2023 and the best possible start of 2024.
Debra Haffner was recently honored with the World Association of Sexual Health’s Gold Medal for Lietime Achievement at their biannual global meeting. She is also happy to report that she is engaged to the love of her life. As she said in her email, “Life is a blessing!” Heartfelt congratulations and best wishes, Debra, for both life events.
From Robert Buccino, who kindly responded to my request for memories (as well as recent news):
“I’m originally a ’76er who took a year off and graduated in ’77. I retired after four decades in advertising and now split my time between NYC and Salisbury, Connecticut, with my wife of 41 years. I’m spending a lot of time with music these days, performing on guitar and piano at open mic nights in Litchfield and Berkshire Counties. I fondly remember music at Wesleyan—impromptu jam sessions with Tom Kovar, marveling at Nat Needle’sragtime piano chops, enjoying the Marching Ant Stompers jug band, seeing Bonnie Raitt and Jackson Browne in MoCon, and Dave Mason and Mahavishnu McLaughlin at the skating rink. Oh, and Orleans, of course. My daughter, Nora, finished her MBA at Stern last year and now works at McKinsey, when she’s not running marathons. I miss Dave Apicella and the Eclectic folks; fond memories.”
From Ron Epstein (to whom I send much gratitude for taking the time to send in such a lovely note):
“Having enjoyed 36 years as a family doctor in an urban academic setting in Rochester, New York, attending to patients who spoke any of 30 languages and spanning the socioeconomic spectrum, I stopped in 2019, shortly before the pandemic. I also did inpatient palliative-care consults for 16 years at the large academic teaching hospital, and stopped that, too, in December 2023, and now have left clinical practice entirely. A bittersweet transition. Yet, my patients’ illnesses, as varied and unusual as they could be, were never as compelling as their stories, and the stories continue to inspire my teaching, writing, and research.
“Starting in 1999, I’ve written articles and a book, Attending, about the inner lives of physicians, exploring how physicians can flourish, explore, and move toward what gives them a sense of purpose and meaning in their professional lives, develop community, and attenuate the epidemic of distress and burnout. With a Rochester colleague, I developed and continue to offer workshops in mindful practice for clinicians worldwide. My research focus has been on improving communication between clinicians and patients/families facing serious illnesses and navigating end-of-life care. Now, I spend most of my research time supported by an American Cancer Society professorship, mentoring younger researchers, enjoying, vicariously, the successes of mentees and junior colleagues as they grow and deepen their work. None of this could I have imagined in 1976.
“Stopping primary care enabled me to put music in a more central role in my life. About the time I stopped primary care practice, I was taken on by a fabulous harpsichord teacher who had just been hired at the Eastman School of Music, and I’ve been practicing daily and again giving small performances.
“My wife, Deborah Fox, continues her work as a freelance lutenist and founder and artistic director of Pegasus Early Music, which offers world-class performances in western New York State. Before the pandemic we both traveled a lot, often in different directions; Deb to perform, me to give talks and workshops. Now we travel together more of the time. Malka, our youngest, is finishing her second year as an OB/GYN resident and lives an eight-minute drive from us. In late 2019 we became a grandparents, and we spend considerable time with Eli, his wife, Qianqian, and Summer and Arlen, in Los Angeles.
“We are not the first to discover that, in the ‘troisieme age,’ after children are launched and before health and energy wane, letting go of ambition brings more creativity, generativity, discovery, and depth, an in-the-moment richness to the small moments of life, reveling in not knowing, directing passionate energy toward what really matters, and prioritizing love and friendship, regardless of the current state of the world.”
From Jim Rolston: “We did finally get to take the airstream to the Falcon Ridge Folk Festival and the Black Bear Festival! Here is a photo of the rainy night at Black Bear.” (https://www.blackbearmusicfest.com/)
From Melissa Blacker: “Samara Louise Bonham-Rynick was born on September 2. She joins her big brother, Isaiah, who is close to turning five. And my husband, David Rynick ’74, and I continue to lead our Zen organization, Boundless Way Zen Temple, with its main center in Worcester, Massachusetts, and practice groups around the country and the world.” (www.boundlessway.org)
Byron Haskins and his wife, Gabrielle, have ended their adventure living in Montreal and have returned to Michigan (as he notes, “at least this time around”). If you’re on Facebook, find and “friend” Byron; he sometimes posts links to his music, and it’s worth hearing.
From Betsy Eisenmann: “As a now genuine ‘old person,’ my spouse and I went on two cruises in the past year—not to drink and carouse but see some sights we’d missed thus far. [In] June it was Alaska (Holland America) and in September the coast of Maine (American Cruise Lines, a riverboat type of ship). We had gone on their Snake River/Columbia River Cruise in 2022, which was excellent. Other than that, the spouse works part time as a driver for Audi of Nashua (some people just can’t entertain themselves after retiring!) and is the secretary of the town’s Recycling Committee—which entails not only attending meetings but overseeing and volunteering at the various drop-off events held during the year. As for me, I continue in my church choir and the church-associated Garden Committee and ‘Creation Care’ Committee (environmental, that’s the Diocese’s cute name in quotes). AND—pay attention, class—I just finished this year’s NaNoWriMo challenge, for the first time, with 64,984 words. (The minimum is 50,000 words in 30 days) My professors and other teachers can affirm that I can be quite verbose when writing.”
From Bruce Demple: “We had a combined Thanksgiving and (belated) birthday celebration for me, at a rental house that our daughters arranged, and it was outstanding. Both daughters got married recently, so we continued those celebrations. It was not without challenges: three-plus inches of snow on the evening we arrived, which forced one daughter to abandon a car at the foot of the very last hill… of course it got towed. On T-day itself, all was going smoothly until there was a local power outage when the turkey was only about halfway done. We kept the oven shut, and we were planning to get the outdoor grill going, when the lights returned after approximately two hours. So, we extended the cooking time, and nobody got sick! (It was also very good—one son-in-law gets to do the honors from now on!) The next day was for the birthday celebration, also a lot of fun. The photo is from that afternoon; for some reason, the instruction was to ‘look like you’re praying’; I’m not as good at the Vulcan sign as I once was. As one of the oldest members of our class, now clocking 70, I have always tried to share my wisdom and good judgement… Ha, ha, just kidding!”
From Sue (Feinstein) Barry: “My husband, Dan Barry, and I moved to Arlington, Massachusetts, during the pandemic to help take care of our granddaughter. Now we’re looking forward to the birth of a second granddaughter in mid-January. My third book will be published on January 30, 2024, and is titled Dear Oliver: An Unexpected Friendship with Oliver Sacks.”
From Barb Birney: “This year brought a special vacation. I took my niece and her father, Bob Birney ’81, on a tour of Northwest national parks, Oregon beaches, California redwoods, and Glacier National Park. As it was a camping trip, it was an overall comedic experience with much laughter. Apparently, I am to be gifted at Christmas this year with a mallet to assist with tent stakes in the future.”
From Susan (Petersen) Avitzour: “I’ve had quite an eventful half year.
“First of all, this past August I got married, in a civil ceremony in Amsterdam, to Fred Landman. Like me, Fred (a native of Amsterdam) lost his wife in 2019 after a long marriage. Fred and I met in 2021, in cyberspace; we soon discovered that before her marriage to Fred, his late wife had been a friend of Daniel’s and mine—we later found some beautiful photos of Daniel dancing at their wedding.
“We were planning a Jewish ceremony in Jerusalem for October 15, but then came Hamas’s attack on October 7 and the ensuing war. Since then we’ve been living with sirens and explosions from far and from near. Both of us are lucky enough not to have relatives near Gaza or children (or grandchildren) in the army, but everyone here knows someone who has been and is being personally and intensively affected by this horrific war. And we know that once it’s over, our lives will probably be irrevocably changed.
“I expect to be coming out of retirement from my profession as a psychotherapist (specializing, interalia, in PTSD), in order to help some of those traumatized by the attack and its aftermath. In the meantime, I’m praying for the safe return of all the hostages being held in Gaza, as well as for the people of Gaza to be able as soon as possible to rebuild their lives.
“May I have better news for the next Class Notes!”
And now for some of those memories I mentioned . . . in response to my mention of David Harmin’s memories of Harriman Hall, I received this:
Cathy Popkin: “Re: David and the broadcasts from his window—I have a vivid (and indelible) memory of the humpback whales…”
Tom Kovar:“Well, it’s [the memory] from the day I met David, which did indeed involve the windows. The big Trinity game was going on below, and somebody had hung a rude, insulting banner out the window. A group of big, angry Trinitarians pounded up the stairs to an anticlimactic conclusion. They got locked out. See if DAH has anything to add. “
And from David Harmin himself: “Recalling my freshman year living in the fourth-level Harriman Madhouse is like playing with magnets: I’ve got all the pieces but they can be stuck together in multiple magical ways. The normal pattern included Jay Hoggard’s vibes’ glorious tones sluicing down the hall, Ray Herrmann’s husky Boris getting all up in the business of the hall’s cat, Bernie Possidente and I blasting sonic experiments out our window across the field and over Foss Hill. Plenty of variations, such as. . .
“During that game that the Cardinals played against the Trinity Bantams, there was a long, wide banner that my hallmates had hung out and were threatening for at least the first two quarters to unfurl from a couple of windows at the field end of the building. This may have been proceeded by water balloons getting catapulted out the central window, thanks to an able piece of elastic someone (not me!) found somewhere and nailed to the jambs. I think that was the same day, probably was, and if so it must have riled the opposing supporters, in retrospect. Anyhow, despite the strong and reasonable objections and increasing alarm of our R.A., that banner wound up unwinding after all—a wisp of wind must’ve caught a corner—and jeez, it turned out to contain a message painted in a most legible font: ‘Bantams are cocks.’ A truism on the face of it. But in the event, more complicated.
“It surely did rile the Trinity fans. The clearest evidence of their displeasure came from the growling and pounding sounds quickly growing from down on the first floor. This was a different kind of threat; less cerebral. Glass may have been breaking below. We were saved, though, to the best of my recollection, by our goodwill ambassador Bob Thompson, who could charm anyone. Confrontation averted, sign removed, peace restored. And well, now I wonder whether that was the same day that the cat wound up outside that same window—not on the ledge but all the way down there on the sidewalk, unharmed but for the PTSD of being chased yet again by the dog.
“Actually, that was typical.”
From Nina Davis-Millis:
“After 38ish years at MIT, I’ll be retiring from my position as director of Community Engagement for the MIT Libraries in January. My plans for retirement include helping to care for Christopher Millis’s and my first grandchild, Zoe Davis-Millis, born in September. Zoe’s other regular Wesleyan caregiver is her father, Simon ’12. I’m also hoping to step up my political activities, building toward the November ’24 election cycle, and who knows—maybe I’ll get back to some music making too. Christopher is immersed in translating the work of Armenian author Krikor Beledian, along with his longtime collaborator, Taline Voskeritchian. He’s also having a grand time selling all kinds of collectibles at a delightful Etsy store (https://www.etsy.com/shop/ArtandDesignMatters).”
From Maggie Heffernan, this very sad note: “It is with great sadness that I must tell you that Anita Hersh died suddenly on September 13. was happy to see Jeff Kahn in October when he came to NYC for Anita’s Memorial Service, which was held at the Union League Club on October 28. Anita was president and CEO of Lister Butler. She was an incredible intellect and extraordinarily generous with her friends giving of herself in every way. If you ever had a medical condition, Anita was the person to call because she always knew who the best doctors were. My family called her Dr. Anita! She was a great philanthropist and very generous with her synagogue, Jewish Center of The Hamptons, The Blue Card (an organization that supports U.S.–based Holocaust survivors and their descendants) and the Park Avenue Armory. Personally and financially she loved supporting young artists.”
You can find her obituary here: https://www.legacy.com/us/obituaries/nytimes/name/anita-hersh-obituary?id=53290102
In September we had a minireunion of some of the freshman East College folk. It’s funny what will trigger the most vivid memories, isn’t it? The little things struck me with greatest force—Beth’s smile, Janet’s laugh, everyone’s voice. We may not look entirely the same (although we’re still recognizable, I think), but we sound the same, and we still use the same mannerisms and inflections. A turn of the head or a particular gesture would immediately send me back to 1972. My only regret is that I was too discombobulated by being in college to understand what a fantastic group of people I was privileged to live with freshman year!
KAREN HARMIN | email@example.com