CLASS OF 1945 | 2017 | ISSUE 2

There’s a saying here in Colorado that we have two seasons, July and winter, and we had winter beyond belief this year.

In mid-May, we had a walloping storm that they are still trying to clear up in the High Country. But at the same time, I got a warm letter from Donald Dunn in balmy Ohio. He’d been reminded of something that happened a long time ago, because he’d been at an event where they were discussing World War I. There were pictures, and one of Geraldine Farrar, which called to mind the fact that he had been an opera buff for years, partially because when he was in Italy with the 10th Mountain Division, as I was, he was wounded and during his convalescence he was assigned to Naples for a few months until they could figure out what to do with him. During that time, the Naples Opera Company reopened, and Donald went to see La Traviata—the first time ever that he had been to the opera. He said that it was a real treat. “And then came Carmen, Il Trovatore, Aida, The Barber of Seville and I’ve been an opera fan ever since,” he said.

Well, reminding him of that time was the reference to Geraldine Farrar, because when he got back to Wesleyan—about the same time I did—we both signed up for an opera course with George McManus. It was a dandy.

I’m going to quote part of Don’s letter, where he talks about that experience, because it’s really very warming. He was “mightily impressed with George McManus’s leadership. And one of the things that is unforgettable was that among our various assignments, we did go to the opera and one of them was The Marriage of Figaro. After that performance, George McManus got us to see the conductor, meet some of the cast, and on our way back to Middletown from New York, we stopped and had a visit with Geraldine Farrar. It was a memorable visit because she was quite a testy person. She was suffering a little from gout at the time and was very entertaining in her comments about how things had been in the old days about opera.” During the course of pursing operatic matters with George McManus, Donald and he became pretty good friends and they continued that friendship after the war.

The significant part of that visit was that the McManuses stopped on their way back to California for a few days’ visit with Donald and his wife. During that time, not only was there good conversation, but also George played for them. And Donald remembers that vividly, particularly Beethoven’s “Apassionata,” which was a remarkable treat.

Donald reminded me that we have three things in common:

One—10th Mountain Division in our combat experience; two—Wesleyan, before and after the war;  and three—that mutual love of opera. He got his in Italy; I was brought up on it because my mother was a soprano and insisted that I go to every opera that came to Smith College or to Mechanics Hall in Worcester.

It was a fine letter from Donald. I appreciate his long memory and his warm regards, and I intend to pursue our conversation a little further, once I get a computer back—and that’s another whole story I may be forced to tell you out there at some time in the future.

In the meantime, take care of yourselves. Don’t let Donald Dunn be the only correspondent with your secretary. And to all of you, slán go fóille.

805 Compassion Dr., Apt. 208, Windsor, CO 80550 | 907/460-9338

CLASS OF 1945 | 2017 | ISSUE 1

Lacking news of any sort other than that I’m losing my vision, and being disinclined to offer fake news, I submit the following bit of translation from an Old Irish marginal note by an Irish monk who was working on one of those beautiful medieval manuscripts. That scholar and his cat each loved his work:

I and Pangur Bán, my cat,

‘Tis a like task we are at;

Hunting mice is his delight,

Hunting words I sit all night.

In case you’re curious, pangur means “fiddler” and bán is “white.” Slán go fóill.

805 Compassion Dr., Apt. 208, Windsor, CO 80550 | 907/460-9338

CLASS OF 1945 | 2016| ISSUE 3

Since my previous column was written, I have received some memorable words from Donald Dunn: recollections of WWII Tenth Mountain Division combat in Italy, and of one especially vicious fire fight in which Staff Sgt. Dunn was given command of his platoon and led his men to the capture of a German-held hill where he was severely wounded. He remained in control until medics were able to evacuate him. For his valor, Donald was awarded the Silver Star Medal. I served in the same regiment as he did, and can fully appreciate his account—and my better luck.

Coincidentally, I received a letter from an Italian woman who is associated with a museum in Montese. Seventy-one years after our action in the Monte Belvedere region part of the Italian campaign, she wanted to know if I would share memories, pictures, or memorabilia of any sort with their museum, which she says is an “official Tenth Mountain Division museum.” I had great fun gathering bits and pieces of that segment of my youth to send to Italy. If any of you fellow ski troopers read this column, do send anything you remember and care to share.

I’ll close with a translation from a truly ancient piece of Irish poetry. It’s titled “After War,” and the lines say: “Now God be thanked that brought me from that hour / And gave me in the finish quietness / And quiet roads again, and quiet sleep. Foe, now friends, slán go fóill.”

805 Compassion Dr., Apt. 208, Windsor, CO 80550 | 907/460-9338

CLASS OF 1945 | 2016| ISSUE 2

I wrote these notes in early May, the time of Beltaine, the ancient Celtic festival that marks the beginning of summer and all matters of fertility. You are reading these notes in early-to-mid August, the time of Lughnassa, the ancient Celtic festival that marks the beginning of harvest and the dying of summer into winter. Both festivals were observed with great bonfires and rituals of purification that sought bountiful crops, fruitful livestock, ample harvests, and good health during the bitter months of a cold earth. Well, Beltaine has evolved into May Day, and its sacrifices remain—if, indeed, the custom does remain—only in the hanging of May baskets. When I was young, we children made May baskets of wallpaper samples, or small berry baskets, or nut cups, or whatever container we could decorate with colored tissue paper and violets or pansies. Dandelions with tightly braided stems made handsome handles hanging our creations, which we filled with homemade fudge or stuffed dates, or even Necco wafers, when desperate. Hanging the baskets came at dusk. Each of us had targets: grandmother, favorite aunt, cookie-baking neighbor, but I recall that a winsome girl was my keenest excitement. I hung the basket on her front doorknob, or set it carefully on the top step. Now ring the bell or give a solid knock, and wait, poised for flight. Custom decreed that the hanger run and the hangee chase, catch him, and bestow a rewarding kiss. That was dandy if pursuer ran speedily while pursued, well, loped, but when where to hang the basket was determined by parental decree, I was ever an Olympic sprinter. None of this has much to do with class notes, but I am reminded of some pre-WWII Wesleyan “festivals”: idiotic freshmen fraternity quests; stupidly dangerous “guttering”; frosh-soph flag scraps. All these relics of immaturity long gone, I hope. But one festival I remember with affection is the interfraternity song contest that made for non-lethal competition in which the Crow House choirboys regularly prevailed. The sing has likely faded away along with some of the fraternities. I hope not, for such a mellow tradition deserves to linger, along with the May baskets. Slán go fóill


805 Compassion Drive, Apt. 208, Windsor, CO 80550


CLASS OF 1945 | 2016 | ISSUE 2

Just before Christmas 2015, I received a message on behalf of Bob Foster from his daughter, Kathryn. After WWII service in the Army, Bob graduated in 1947, but at heart has remained a ’45er. He and his wife, Sally Ann, currently live at an assisted-living facility in West Caldwell, N.J. Bob spent his entire career with Prudential Insurance, assisting the firm with mathematical research and analysis. Now 91 and long retired, he continues to enjoy sports, especially the Yankees and NY Giants. Bob keeps track of current events and enjoys his three children and seven grandchildren. Kathryn ended her note: “Wesleyan has been a source of pride to him for decades and it’s a treat to be able to thank Wesleyan…for all the joy it has brought him.” Thank you, Kathryn, for sharing Bob’s enthusiastic life with us.

The previous issue carried Walt Pilcher’s ’63 amusing account of a 1960s Robert Frost visit to campus. Back in my pre- and post-WWII years, Frost visited Bill Snow and we lucky ones were occasionally invited to the Snow home for an evening of conversation about the nature and nurture of poetry—and some criticism of our own creative abilities. We called those wonderful occasions “Warm Nights with Frost and Snow”; later, after Robert Coffin became part of visitations, we redubbed to “From Frost to Snow to Coffin.” I was not fond of Frost, the caustic and testily critical man; I rather liked Coffin because of his fine speaking voice and showman’s manner. Bill Snow’s classes were an inspiration to me, his political views always stirred my thinking, and his service as my distinction tutor made my time at Wesleyan a great influence on my academic career. Even today, I find that my talks about Frost, Snow, Coffin, and John Neihardt please those audiences who remember when poetry demanded more than slinging words down the page. Slán go fóill


805 Compassion Drive, Apt. 208, Windsor, CO 80550


CLASS OF 1945 | 2015 | ISSUE 3

Our facility recently changed television servers, and so, I have the new e-address below. My math skills were ever frail, and the upgrade from Comcast to Direct TV is a new challenge in that channel triple digits and my own fumbling digits make watching anything an adventure in exploration; and my old love for reading and writing is rekindled. The word ’writing’ reminds me that a few weeks prior to this October, I received a handsome trophy that recognizes two poems I submitted to an Atria—an arts contest—more than a year ago. The citation indicates that my modest verses “…are among the 25 best of more than 900 offerings.” Well, as Archie would put it, there’s still life in the old guy. Enough life, at least, to be invited to deliver a talk on Veteran’s Day: the history of the Tenth Mountain Division in World War II. This division is unique in the U.S. Military in that it was recruited initially through a civilian organization, National Ski Patrol. It trained for almost two years at Camp Hale, Colo., and then distinguished itself in combat during the final months of the Italian campaign. After the war, division veterans revolutionized what was essentially a rich man’s sport into what is today’s ski industry; warming climate patterns hint at future industry woes.

This was our 70th Reunion year If anyone planned any sort of on-campus festivities, I never knew of it, so I’ll be truly happy to receive a note or an e-mail to include in my next class notes. Slán go fóill!!

805 Compassion Drive, Apt. 208, Windsor, CO 80550

CLASS OF 1945 | 2015 | ISSUE 2

The preceding issue of this magazine included notice of the 2013 death of Gene Noble ’47; but before leaving for WWII service, he was a member of our class. He was also one of the 13 of us from Wesleyan who enlisted in the Tenth Mountain Division, which distinguished itself in combat in Italy and revolutionized the post-war ski industry. So far as I know at this June writing, four of us may still be alive; of two I am certain. That division was unique in military history, and its story and Wesleyan’s chapter of that story deserve a place in the college archives.

My last column generated no influx of news from you out there, but I did receive one unsigned scribbled note telling me, “A curse on your nonsense blessings.” Alas, that anonymous curse lacks spirit, lacks sting; it has no hint of elegance. Consider, if you will, how the ancient Irish curser had a fearsome power. To offend him or her was to flirt with a fate that could last four generations. Every chief had his personal bard whose function was to eulogize his employer and to curse without end his employer’s enemies. Next to the bard in cursing power came the widow woman, and a widow’s curse is still greatly to be feared. The orphan’s curse was no joke, either, and the priest’s curse was to be avoided like the plague. There’s a whole litany of curses in the Irish tradition: the hereditary curse; the reverting curse; the ceremonial group curse; the historical curse (probably the best-known historical curse in Ireland is ‘the curse of Cromwell’; the saint’s curse; and the poet’s curse. They take too many words of explanation for these notes’ allotted maximum, so I’ll end with my favorite delineation, the cursing contest, which has an underlying hint of good humor today. In Sligo town I witnessed a cursing contest between a shopkeeper and a woman of the Travelers. They went at it with vigor until the shopkeeper delivered this curse: “May the seven terriers of hell sit on the spool of your breast and bark in at your soul case.” The Traveler woman defeated him with, “The curse of the goose that lost the quill that wrote the Ten Commandments on ye.” American English has no elegance or imagination in what we coyly call four-letter words. The loss of powerful cursing is appalling.

Slán go fóill


DAVID L. WILLIAMS, the president of an insurance business, died Nov. 6, 2014. He was 92. A member of Psi Upsilon, he served in the U.S. Navy during World War II. After receiving his degree from Wesleyan after the war, he served for the next 45 years as president of his own insurance business. He received numerous awards and honors in his field. Predeceased by his former wife, Fran Williams, he is survived by his wife, Nancy Young Williams; two daughters; three grandchildren; several stepchildren and their families; his brother, Charles R. Williams ’41; and his nephew, Jeffrey D. Williams ’84.


JOHN W. MAYNARD, an editor and journalist who specialized in educational journalism, died Dec. 10, 2014, at age 91. He was a member of Eclectic and received his degree with honors. A U.S. Army veteran of World War II, he received a master’s degree from the Columbia University School of Journalism. He was the great-grandson of Elliott J. Peck of the class of 1851, the grandson of John W. Maynard of the class of 1883 and of Susan M. Peck of the class of 1884, and the son of John P. Maynard of the class of 1913. After working as a reporter for The Providence Journal, he moved to Middletown to join the staff of Current Events and Weekly Reader, and became senior editor of the former. He received prizes for excellence in educational journalism. One of three founders of the Mattabeseck Audubon Society, he was an active volunteer in the Middletown community. His wife, Jean Finley Maynard MALS’80, CAS’96, survives, as do three sons, including John P. Maynard ’72, six grandchildren, two great-grandchildren, and his sister.

The Honorable STEWART F. HANCOCK JR. ’45

The Honorable STEWART F. HANCOCK JR., 91, an attorney in Syracuse, N.Y., who served for eight years on the New York State Court of Appeals, died Feb. 11, 2015. He was the grandson of Theodore E. Hancock of the class of 1871, the son of Stewart F. Hancock of the class of 1905, the brother of Theodore M. Hancock of the class of 1934, and the cousin of John S. Hancock of the class of 1936. A member of Alpha Delta Phi, he received his bachelor’s degree from the United States Naval Academy and his law degree from Cornell University. He was a veteran of World War II and the Korean War. He began his legal career at the firm founded by his grandfather, and he later served for 15 years on the state Supreme Court and its Appellate Division before he was appointed to the Court of Appeals. He later returned to private practice and taught as a Distinguished Visiting Professor and Jurist in Residence at the Syracuse University College of Law. One son predeceased him. Survivors include his wife, Ruth Pass Hancock; five children, including Marion Hancock Fish ’76; 13 grandchildren; his nephew, Stewart H. McConaughy ’65; and his cousins, James L. McConaughy ’68 and Charles E. Hancock ’72. And Elizabeth Hancock Sillin ’77.