CLASS OF 1956 | 2020 | ISSUE 3

How to describe 2020? Weird? Scary? Boring? Lonely? Frustrating? Challenging? For Ann and me it’s been all that and more—I’ve rarely left our house except to walk around our block. But we celebrated our 60th anniversary at home with our daughter Judy ’84 and our granddaughter Jeannette. The next weekend we gathered our whole family—all eight of us. The “kids” (all masked) played a board game named Pandemic. It doesn’t get any better than that.

Other stay-at-homes included Walt Ebmeyer: “I’m in ‘The Home’ and not an awful lot goes on here. But I did make contact with my old roomie, Phil Crombie, who seems fine and busy. My kids are fine, 

and their six kids range from 16 to 7. I don’t know who’s going to Wesleyan. A few months ago they visited New York and now talk about nothing but NYU.”

And Tom Plimpton: “The COVID-19 kept us at home. No Minnesota vacation with our cousin; no Civil War trip; no visiting our daughter in Bloomington, Indiana—just staying very close to home. We do have a state park in Indy, and Judy and I go picnicking once or twice a week.”

Dick Bauer is “maintaining sanity, but succumbing to what I’ve dubbed ‘COVID-19 Irritability.’ Trying to make my peace with Zoom, but not always succeeding. Most recent experiment: having residents request songs from the American Songbook that have special meaning for them, then playing them on the piano. Interesting stories  . . . and a little different way to at least attempt to foster connecting in this isolating era.”

Just before COVID-19 shut everything down, Betty and Jim Wagner moved into a nice senior living community that has excellent protocols for protection and has had very few cases. What’s more, the food is excellent, and Jim has “a superb view of the sky for spectacular meteorological and astronomical observations!”

Anne and Bill Moyle “left our retirement community and moved to our nearby lake place in March and stayed for 5½ months. We had anywhere from no one else there to up to eight other family-member escapees. That included a NYC granddaughter, her husband, and their two-year-old son, our first great grandchild. No way we would have gotten to know Will as well as we did except for COVID-19!”

     Jay Kaplan used the COVID-19 recess productively, “reading some of those books I should have read years ago. I started with British writer Ian McEwan, and loved his work so much that I read 20 of his books. My favorite was The Children Act. (A wonderful movie based on this book was made, which you can find on Amazon Prime.) I then turned to J.M. Coetzee and read a good number of his books, including Disgraced, which was my favorite. I then turned to Saul Bellow, who I am enjoying very much. Thus far, Herzog is my favorite.” Jay’s book Secrets and Suspense is selling well; his In Search of Beauty, about his art collections, a little less well. Zoom lessons have enabled Jay to maintain his fitness.

Bob Calvin has been reading, too: Caleb’s Crossing, Spying on the South, and Eric Larson’s book on Churchill, The Splendid and the Vile. He reports no medical problems and staying fit with swimming, tennis, and walks with Jane. They have taken a few car trips to Western Illinois to walk along the Mississippi River and commune with nature. Once a month, they have a delightful four-way telephone conversation with Ronna and Art VonAu. Bob adds, “All the violence in Chicago and the U.S. is very upsetting. It’s interesting to see the Civil Rights movement in which so many in our class were involved is emerging with some changing issues.”

    From Jim Gramentine: “Our first great grandchild, Boden James Finke, was born on July 19th. Weighing in at 9 lbs, 3 oz, he mastered the fine art of eating and figured out the political landscape quickly.”

     Our best story came from my one-time roommate, Whit Rusk: “I went to the Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville, Florida, in late January with a sore, raspy throat and came back home with a plan to remove my entire voice box—diagnosis: cancer! Not really wanting that, we went to Greenwich, Connecticut, where son Rob lives. His wife Alice, who is chief of neurology at the Yale New Haven Hospital System, sent me to Sloan Kettering in New York where she interned. The tiniest doctor there immediately told me, ‘You don’t need surgery; you need treatment.’ So—chemotherapy, radiation, and 36 visits (every weekday) to the New York Proton Center—plus a bout of pneumonia thrown in—and I’m now said to be cancer-free! All this during the COVID-19 debacle! For six months we didn’t leave our son’s house except for treatments. We are home now just waiting for the chemo and radiation effects to wear off—but I am regaining strength, and I can talk! I suppose you could say that 2020 has been pretty good to me.”

Way to go, Whit!

George Chien |