CLASS OF 1956 | 2020 | ISSUE 2

In this strangest of years, it’s not what folks are doing; it’s what we’re not doing.

Ann and I did not drive to Wisconsin to observe the 90th birthday of my big brother Alan ’52. But Zoom conveyed much of the spirit of the celebration. Alma Mater was well represented—by Al and yours truly, of course, but also by his son Chris ’83, our daughter Judy ’84, and our dear friend Hal Buckingham ’52, whom Al first met at Boy Scout camp 75 years ago. Zoom has also kept us in touch with our closed church’s congregation. It’s not perfect, but it’s still heartening. For our 60th wedding anniversary in July, who knows?

Bob Runyon offered this reading list for the self-sequestered: “1. Spillover: Animal Infections and the Next Human Pandemic by David Quammen. (Brilliant, highly readable science reporting; I understood why he was ‘not surprised’ by the 2020 pandemic.) 2. The Plague by Albert Camus. (Compare and contrast.) 3. Drinking with My Father’s Ghost: A Journey Through Irish Pubs by Hugh Reilly.” (Our Chien family tour to the Emerald Isle was nixed.) “4. Call of the Wild by Jack London. 5. Seven Continents by R. Runyon.” (Bob’s antidote for waning wanderlust and his nudge to me to keep putting words on paper. Good stuff.)

Tom Pimpton writes: “I didn’t get to visit the Dry Tortugas National Park in March. We are hoping to go there next year. Now I’m on a waiting list for the medicine to deal with bladder cancer. I really don’t know why it is so scarce. Judy and I will be celebrating our 63rd wedding anniversary on June 29. I was very shy around girls until I met Judy—at Wesleyan. Our oldest daughter, Liz, came on my birthday, June 2, 1958. She will be 62 and is retiring! I can’t believe it. Judy and I are staying isolated. Our governor will make an announcement tomorrow (May 1). I hope he stays conservative, as I don’t want a resurgence of the virus. Peace and joy.”

From Jay Jenkins: “Our best moment to celebrate is Margot’s and my 63 years of marriage! I found her before our choral concert with Mount Holyoke. Margot was from Rhodesia, making logistics expensive but worth it all. Three children: Gail ’84 went to Wes. She had three children with her Wesleyan husband, Jay Farris ’84. Their two daughters graduated from Wes, one with an advanced biochem degree, and the second with a Phi Beta Kappa. Son Dean went to Harvard and was training for Tokyo up until the plague canceled all. Dick Boyden and we have hosted several Eclectic reunions here by the sea in Pocasset, Cape Cod. So fortunate we did as our numbers are dwindling with our last loss, Jack Dunn. My activity other than sailing was heading an architectural preservation museum, a sailing school trustee, and now on the Bourne Historical Commission. I had a rather debilitating stroke last June on my left side, which has caused my restoration of clocks and model shipbuilding to cease. My life by the sea with a good book, my Economist, and my Margot is wonderful!”

Sandy Mendelson adds: “Irene and I continue to live in Bethesda and take advantage of the cultural and familial aspects of Washington, D.C. We’ve both had significant health challenges, but presently all seems to be good. I enjoy some very part-time work in cardiology and bioethics at MedStar Washington Hospital Center, where I’ve worked in various capacities for 52 years. Irene is retired from her career-counseling practice but keeps her mind active with continuing education courses at nearby American University. Two of our sons and their families, fortunately, live nearby; the third son is in Oakland, Calif. Our six grandkids are scattered from New York to The Hague to California. We’re active in our very lively synagogue in D.C., and Irene has led an organization providing housing to the less fortunate. We still love to travel. In the last few years, we’ve gone to Israel, Patagonia, China, Australia, Iceland, and elsewhere. Hopefully, this will continue.”

And from Jim Wagner: “Betty and I have moved into the Greenspring senior living community, in Springfield, Va., just two miles from where we had been living for the past 32 years of our life together. We can hardly believe the amount of stuff we had accumulated! Boxes surrounded us and it still seems like we threw out or gave away five times as much as we kept. Some clothing and non-perishable food we gave through the church we now attend was received very thankfully by a ministry to the homeless and disadvantaged children. That really made us feel good amidst the problems of parting with our stuff!”

Here’s to better days to come.

George Chien | gchien@optonline.net

CLASS OF 1956 | 2020 | ISSUE 1

Late last year our class suffered two irreplaceable losses: Jack Dunn (August 10) and John Chivers (Sept. 3).

John Chivers was a fellow Chi Psi, renowned at the Lodge for his uninhibited, sometimes zany—but never disrespectful—humor. He was serious, though, about his love of the German language and culture, and became a pioneer of sorts, taking a leave from Wesleyan to study in Germany, long before the semester-abroad became commonplace. Around the campus, John was probably best known for his banjo. Ken Spenser remembers: “Chivers was a great banjo man and entertained the Wesleyan community one fall evening an age ago—which I haven’t forgotten. Great guy.” John, who was self-taught, continued to strum, singly and with his band, throughout his life. He was for 40 years a much-loved teacher of German at the Phillips Academy in Massachusetts. Incidentally, I once heard his name on the evening news. An interviewer asked Norman Schwarzkopf (yes, General Norman Schwarzkopf) if he remembered first hearing about the attack on Pearl Harbor. He answered yes: he was 7 years old, living in Lawrenceville, N.J., and up in a tree in Johnny Chivers’ backyard. Of course he was.

Ken adds, “All is well here, although I’m beginning to think that being my roommate at Wes U might not have been such a good luck omen. Of my seven roommates over the four years, five are gone, and I’m not sure about the other two! Egad!”

Like John, Jack Dunn was an educator—though not a teacher—first as president of Dean College and later at Tufts University, where he served for 20 years in various capacities. He was a valued community activist who left a rich legacy wherever he lived.

Ed Thorndike’s wife, Liz, wrote this: “I attended the Celebration of Life for Jack in Exeter. Some of you may recall that Jack was best man at our wedding on Sept. 8, 1955. It was a wonderful service—lots of music and poetry which Jack and Patti had shared. Ed, unfortunately, has dementia and is living in assisted living. But Wesleyan and Eclectic are still recollections. Ed’s dad and Jack’s dad were classmates at Wes and I think both were also Eclectics. So good that you keep in touch.”

Dick Bauer remembers well that “Jack Dunn and I were classmates and playmates back in the first grade; roommates for two years at Wesleyan. I grieve his passing. Really a lovely human being. One of the great benefits of having roomed with Jack (as well as Dave Cox and Ed) is that I was never tempted by the delusion that I was the smartest guy in the world.”

Personally, I never harbored that particular delusion, but my classes with the same Dave Cox, Frank Cancian, and Russ Snyder ’57 confirmed for me that I might not be even the smartest guy in the room. What’s more, I roomed with Bill Shephard ’54, a physics major, who switched from JWC to Chi Psi during his senior year—much to the dismay of his mentor, Prof. Vernet Eaton, who was convinced that the Lodge’s ambiance would ruin Bill’s academic standing. And he was right: that very semester Bill’s average dipped from straight A to A-minus. As for Russ, what I ruefully remember is that he asked really dumb questions at first, but that by the end he had surpassed everyone else in the class. There may be a lesson there, folks.

Bob Bretcher writes: “I enjoyed a holiday visit with each of my three daughters’ families. Thankfully I’m healthy and plan to stay in my home for my remaining years. In place of flying and tennis, I take walks and contemplate a return to pickleball play. Reading and even some memoir writing keeps the brain healthy.”

From Dick Boyden: “Linda Genest, my companion now of 14 years, and I still follow the ‘travel while you can’ mantra, so we will return in March for our 11th visit to the Mahekal Beach Resort in Playa del Carmen, Mexico, for two weeks in late February. Last May we visited the island of Madeira for a week, followed by three days at San Miguel in the Azores.

“Linda remains active on the board of the Fresh Start organization at the Falmouth Service Center. She is also active on the social committee of her condo association nearby. I’m still persuading my Deerfield classmates and Wesleyan fraternity brothers to ‘give again gladly.’ I remain active in leadership roles with the Orenda Wildlife Land Trust and the Bourne Conservation Trust in the Upper Cape area. St. Barnabas Episcopal Church in nearby Falmouth nourishes my soul with parish life activities and organizations that give me a sense of giving and accomplishment.”

That’s all for now.

George Chien | gchien@optonline.net

CLASS OF 1956 | 2019 | ISSUE 3

From my old roommate Whit Rusk: “Pat and I moved to St. Simons Island, Ga., in 2003 after 24 years in Houston, working for banks that no longer exist. We are both still in pretty good health, supported by a few pills. Our two children gave us five grands—four now in college (Lafayette, RPI, Tufts, and Bowdoin) and one 2018 Amherst graduate.” At the time of writing, they were anticipating Hurricane Dorian, which was making its way up the Florida coast.

John Foster: “We Fosters are fortunate, all together in the lovely town of Marblehead, Mass., where Lila and I have lived virtually all of our married life. Our sons and spouses have returned with our four grandchildren. Our lovely daughter, Emily, died in her mid-20s as the result of a water-borne disease in Nepal, but she is with us too, in spirit.

“Our one-plus acre home and grounds, large for this rockbound coast, have given us great joy since the 1970s. For many years, Lila brought her Southern charm and hard work to create naturally landscaped grounds, while I slashed and hacked back the yearly overgrowth. Now, at 85 years young, with energy at a lower tide, I’ve given in and hired a stronger man to help me out for a couple of hours each week.

“Our hovering sons pushed us to retire our much-loved 2004 and 2005 autos (plus our 1967 Olds convertible) to get new-fangled ones with all that safety stuff. We acquiesced with Lila’s car and ultimately sold my Highlander and ’67 Olds convertible. Although my 2005 Toyota Highlander was the best car I’ve ever owned, I’ve never ridden in something as comfortable as the 2001 Lexus LS430 inherited by my two high-spirited, 20-ish granddaughters from their other grandfather. It’s a bit too old-fogey for them, so there may be a deal.”

Loni and Al Haas “have six teenage grandchildren, all of whom are successfully carving their own trails in life. We enjoy driving to the Boston area to visit and stand in once in a while. We passed our 51st wedding anniversary in August, and we still visit Denmark regularly, usually with a grandchild in tow to expose them to a wonderful piece of their heritage. As for health, seven stents in my heart, a bout with a rare form of cancer (Merkel cell carcinoma) and 50 extra pounds have not interfered with my life or relationships. I don’t swing a club very well anymore, and my love of body surfing on Nantucket has diminished as I become less steady on my feet in raging surf.”

Al still heads Educational Futures, whose mission is to find college destinations for young people from around the world. Now, he writes, “I am working with my two oldest grandchildren on college planning, which is a cozy capstone for my career.”

Jay Kaplan, having published two well-received books, Secrets and Suspense and In Search of Beauty, is now “working on creating a Museum of Jewish Civilization. We have found a site at L’Enfant Plaza in downtown D.C. next door to the new and quite spectacular Spy Museum. Our museum is being designed by the world renowned architect Daniel Libeskind, whose works include the popular Jewish Museum in Berlin and Ground Zero in New York.”

Walter Ebmeyer will “get my first walker this week in preparation for the World Climate Change Week protests here in Washington on Sept. 20-27. It will provide me with a place to sit down from time to time (Parkinson’s). Good e-mails from my old indefatigable roomie, Phil Crombie.”

Bob Calvin writes: “My wife, Jane, an art photographer, is having an exhibit at the University of Missouri art museum in St. Louis. Her video project on Chicago cottages will be featured.”

Jim Gramentine’s “granddaughter, Polly Durant, who still calls [him] DanDan, is scheduled to marry one Michael Kellner next October. Our grandson, Nathanial, a graduate of St. Andrew’s School, Florida, has jumped his way into the Ivy League (Columbia). It takes more than good scores and grades these days, and in his case high jumping 6’10” to win the Florida Relays last April may have been decisive.”

Ann and I were on the move all summer: Chile with our family (the eclipse, of course); Tanglewood with granddaughter Jeannette (Verdi’s Requiem); the Adirondacks (Ann’s high school reunion); Burlington (Jeannette’s freshman digs at the University of Vermont); Cobleskill—look it up—(brunch with high school chums, meeting in person a long-lost cousin found through Ancestry.com, plus our 59th anniversary); and the Catskills (the annual Chien family gathering—where taking the ritual photo was enlivened when a grandnephew presented The Ring to his unsuspecting fiancée-to-be; she said “Yes!”)

Back home we are traveling vicariously with Sheila and Bob Runyon via his newly published Seven Continents Before Incontinence: A Memoir of Travel & Togetherness. Fascinating stuff. Try it. (It’s available from Amazon.) Way to go, Bob!

George Chien | gchien@optonline.net

CLASS OF 1956 | 2019 | ISSUE 2

Barry Passett died on April 17. Barry was a local boy (Hartford) who became a decision-maker in the field of health care in the big city (Washington, D.C.) Barry was an extraordinary human being: Soft-spoken, genial, compassionate, smart, and wise. When he wrote that he was growing cranky in his dotage, I dismissed the notion as pure rhetorical fiction. Rest in peace, Barry. We’ll miss you as we miss only a precious few.

Jay Kaplan invites you to read the reviews of his book Secrets and Suspense at Amazon. Better yet, read the book and write your own reviews. His second book In Search of Beauty, now finished, will be published by New Academia Press.

Betty and Jim Wagner celebrated their 50th anniversary in August! Praise the Lord!

Judy and Tom Plimpton celebrated their 62nd in June. Also in June, Tom shared a birthday (85) with his daughter Liz (61). Tom’s first therapy protocol for bladder cancer went well; his doctor says the cure rate is at least 70 percent. Quoting Tom, “Peace and joy.”

Marge and Gary Miller celebrate their 63rd in September. Their summer dwelling on Sheepscot Pond in northern Maine is a gathering spot for friends and family. Granddaughters: One received three promotions in a year from SEI in Pennsylvania; the other is a costume designer at Walnut Street Theater in Philadelphia. Grandsons: One is a brewmaster, concocting specialty beers for the Itasca Brewery near Chicago; another (age 14) in on track for Eagle Scout.

Susan and Mort Paterson toured northern India last summer. “Taj Mahal at 7 a.m. is as magnificent as they say. Cremation fires at night along the Ganges, priests chanting Sanskrit, are mind-blowing. Lots of gods to worship. Learned that if I can get similarly cremated on the banks of the Ganges, I can escape forever the burdens of reincarnation. I think I’d prefer the banks of the Wabash—‘back home again in Indiana’—where I’m from.

“Still treading the boards in and around Philadelphia—Much Ado About Nothing, Winter’s Tale, and Purlie Victorious (by Ossie Davis). One theater performed my play, The Crimes of Diana Eastlake (a newly-poor widow must sell the family Matisse to raise the ransom for her daughter, kidnapped by terrorists in Syria, then learns it’s a fake). I am told all this is ‘healthy’ and may hold me in no worse than Stage 1 dementia (‘very mild cognitive decline’). My oldest son and his daughter from San Francisco visited us and eastern colleges. Wesleyan, I hope.”

Tamara and Dave Cox moved from Washington State to Silver Spring, Md. “We’re in day-visit range of one son and closer than before to the other two. Travel resumes: Tamara spent six weeks cruising about Europe, visiting three sets of British relatives. In October, we’ll do overlapping tours to Germany, mostly filling in gaps in the former DDR. Then, in February, we’ll cruise around Cuba with a dip into the Bahamas on the way back. We’re stubbornly plodding along as long as possible. So far, so good.”

Ginny and Dick Bauer “cheered grandson number two at his graduation from UNH and celebrated our 60th wedding anniversary.”

Dick continues: “As for me, more of me hurts, less of me works, and semantic memory goes AWOL on me now and then. I survived aneurysm surgery, do an informal piano concert once a month, take part in a discussion group and a Global Warming Action Group, and have abundant occasions to care for souls. Don’t travel much, but read quite a bit, and relish the easy access to bright and interesting people who are gracious enough to welcome me into their lives.”

Bette and Al Grosman are now residents of Linden Ponds, joining the Bauers and the Van Au family in a cluster of Wes ’56ers there.

Writes Art Van Au: “We are delighted that our fourth grandchild, Hannah, will be entering Connecticut College, the alma mater of my wife Rosalind, my sister Elizabeth, and our son Peter. Connecticut College’s re-invention of liberal arts education, called ‘Connections,’ integrates one’s interests into a meaningful educational ‘pathway’ through college and into a fulfilling career and life. We are eager to be present for the results.”

Bob Bretscher is trying to rehab his shoulder for tennis, finishing a memoir, and being awed by his five grands, one of whom has his degree from Ole Miss and another will graduate next year from UNC Chapel Hill.

Jim Jekel writes: “Time is limiting us more, but time also brings a bigger family. Jan and I now have three great-grandchildren, and we have received reports that three more are underway. As their number is increasing, and our memories are decreasing, a time may soon come when we will no longer be able to remember all their names!”

Finally, Ann and I and our nuclear family went to Chile this summer—for the eclipse, of course. Granddaughter Jeannette becomes a University of Vermont Catamount this fall.

George Chien | gchien@optonline.net

CLASS OF 1956 | 2019 | ISSUE 1

Kudos to Jay Kaplan: “My first book, Secrets and Suspense, sold out of its first edition. It is now available in paperback on Amazon, as well as in a second edition in hardback. There are five-star reviews of it on Amazon. I so enjoyed writing this book that I am almost finished writing another—In Search of Beauty—about our collections of art assembled over the past 55 years. It will be highly illustrated and will also be published by Academica Press. And the Cosmos Club just awarded me their Founders Award for outstanding service to the club. The award has only been made once before and cannot be made for another three years.” Way to go, Jay!

Bill Bixby has moved to Applewood Amherst, an independent retirement community with 100 units. He dines daily there with other residents. He is selling his house to his son, who has a law firm in Springfield. Bill presently is recovering from a broken hip—lots of physical therapy—and uses a walker. He still has speaking problems but meets with two or three UMass students one hour a week. He’s not driving anymore but will use an Applewood bus for doctor appointments, etc. He hopes that friends can drive him to sporting events at Amherst College and UMass but still plans go to annual Wesleyan and Amherst baseball games. Get well, Bill. We’re on your team.

Writes Barry Passett: “Margery and I have moved into a retirement community near our (beloved) old house. As happened in the Air Force 65 years ago, I am having trouble adjusting to a more controlled environment. Since 2018 was a difficult health year I am crankier than ever. I’ve given up most of my ‘music impresario’ role, too. I’m playing poker with Art Levine ’58. We can use two more players!”

From Doug Northrop: “I still play tennis three or four times a week. I give occasional talks to local groups and made it to YouTube for a talk on courtesy at the Winchester Academy. With one son and family in Maine and another son and family in Seattle, I go to the third son in St. Paul, Minn., for Christmas. He has a 13-year-old daughter who is frequently mistaken for a college student and a 10-year-old son who can get me to checkmate in four or five moves. The great-grandchildren are out on the coasts and visit during the summer months.”

Jim Jekel: “Jan and I celebrated our 60th wedding anniversary last August with 24 family members (including our two great-grandchildren). They came from as far away as Asia (our daughter, Wesleyan ’86) and California. Jan is active in music and I in teaching adult classes at church and community classes on various topics. We are still able to keep up our place on Cape Cod and rent it out during the high season, although most of the year we live close to family near Harrisburg, Pa. It is great to hear about classmates.”

From Don Price: “After 60 years, I have retired from a career in science/medicine (including faculty appointments at Harvard and Hopkins). Helen and I spent most of the summer at our home in Woods Hole visiting with family, friends, and colleagues. All our kids are in medicine, and they and the grandkids love the science environment.

“I’ve been thinking about science, medicine, oceanography, marine biology, climate change, energy sources, education, world health, et al. Moreover, I’ve been trying to hybridize neuroscience and humanities, particularly to what may be going on in the brains of principal characters in Shakespeare’s plays. The greatest characters of interest are Prospero and Lear. There are important lessons to be learned in the outcomes of these plays.

“One of our grandsons entered Wesleyan this fall. I hope he has mentors like Nobby Brown and Fred Millet, who were a principal or influence on my career. Great opportunity for a young man.”

Jim Gramentine observed that he was born on the very same day as Brigitte Bardot—adding that he had seen a recent photo of B.B. and wonders if, after all these years, he might be catching up with her in the looks department. It reminded me of Ann’s and my tour around France in 2004. As we approached Bordeaux our guide pointed out a local landmark, commonly known as “the Bridge at Bordeaux.” She claimed that some of her former touristes (mostly male) had expressed disappointment because they thought they were going to catch a glimpse of a certain French actress. I asked her, ‘If they wanted to see the Brigitte Bardot, shouldn’t they have started looking at Brest?’ She dragged me to the front of the bus and made me repeat It for the group.

Just keepin’ hope alive.

George Chien | gchien@optonline.net

CLASS OF 1956 | 2018 | ISSUE 3

We’ve just received the sad news that Glenn Boynton died quietly at Porter Hospital in Middlebury, Vt., on May 28. He was 83.

Last June Marge and Gary Miller attended their younger granddaughter’s graduation from the Art University of Bournemouth, U.K., where she majored in costume design. She was also a finalist in an all-U.K. student competition. She is a costuming apprentice at Philadelphia’s Walnut Street Theater and appears to be poised for a fascinating career.

Writing in September, Gary said he was “biting my nails, watching hurricane Florence bear down on Wilmington, N.C., where we have our winter home. We’re warm, dry, and comfy here in Maine, and I’d hate to have to dump things in the car and haul it down to North Carolina to pick up the pieces! Time will tell. Oh, and Sept. 15 is our 62nd anniversary, and we’ve planned a great lobster dinner to celebrate. Another reason to hope for a high-pressure ridge to save us.”

Julius Kaplan: “The big news is that my book, Secrets and Suspense, came out several months ago. Google it and share with me my delight in the great reviews it has been getting. It is essentially a memoir of my career as an international lawyer, presented in the form of stories arising out of matters I worked on as a lawyer, but presented for the lawyer and non-lawyer.

“I enjoyed writing the book so much that I am now in the process of writing another one! This one deals exclusively with the world of art and my participation in it over the past 50 years.”

Bob Bretscher writes: “My piloting days are over. I’m selling my Cherokee Dakota, tail #N86FE. Every flight was a joy. My next project is an effort to write my memoirs up to when I retired 1996. After the first year as a widower I appreciate my family and friends more than I could have ever imagined.”

Walt Ebmeyer reports: “I was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease a year ago, thus again joining my old pal Muhammad Ali. Class of ’56 athletic types will remember my similarities to ‘The Greatest.’ Anyway, I’m too old to worry about it and kind of enjoy my children and grandchildren waiting on me.”

And Tom Plimpton: “My last e-mail to you stated that I would report on my trip to the state of Washington in September. Well, my health, which has been very good, took a turn for the worse. I wound up in the hospital in late July for five days. My health has since been precarious, and I did not go on vacation and have no news for you. Now I’m taking life one day at a time. Keep up the good work. Peace and joy!” Get well, Tom.

Writes Larry Fung: “Nothing much to report except I am getting older.” Larry: I’m not sure that qualifies as news!

Jack Shuman sent this tribute to his Wesleyan roommate, Ron Benson, who died on March 29. Ron, remember, was cocaptain of the ’55 football team that won the Little-Three Championship. Jack wanted us to know some things about Ron that he left out of his communique in the last issue.

“After school and the Navy, Ron worked in advertising, but in midlife he tired of big company life and formed his own consulting company. He also took up his favorite cause, helping business persons to further Christian morals and ethics in the business world.

“When his wife Polly was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, Ron dedicated his life to her, refusing over 10 years to have her institutionalized even in her last ugly days. But as a result of this he joined a support group at his church, where he met his second wife-to-be Shirley, who had just gone through the same process with her spouse. They hit it off and eventually enjoyed a winter romance that culminated in their marriage last September. But that also was the culmination of Ron’s other life problem.

“In his early 40s Ron was on his daily jog when he suddenly collapsed. Luckily, he was almost at the feet of a well-trained emergency technician who recognized that his heart had stopped and immediately went into life-saving maneuvers. For the next 40-plus years Ron wore a defibrillator, which restarted his heart at least three times. But worse, Ron had another heart attack in September, just before the marriage. He insisted on going through with it. He and Shirley tried greatly to rehab his heart during the next six months, but he succumbed in March.

“Ron leaves behind his wife, Shirley, two daughters, Beth and Sarah, and a stepson, Stephen. He was my lifelong friend and I’ll miss him!”

And so will we.

George Chien | gchien@optonline.net