CLASS OF 1982 | 2021 | ISSUE 1

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Greetings, classmates.

      We’re seeing light at the end of the tunnel here . . . hopefully, by the time this comes out we will be vaccinated and returning to our normal lives, or the new normal.

     Notes are sparse this time. Gary Wishik, an anesthesiologist in upstate New York, writes, “Intubated many people, most of them died,” which is the saddest six-word memoir since Hemingway. He says he’s hoping that the New Order/Pet Shop Boys concert in September in Toronto won’t be cancelled—me too; he deserves a fun night out. Thanks to you, Gary, and to all the members of our class who have been on the front lines during COVID.

     Scientist Greg Lewis has contributed on a different front—he designed and invented the air sampler that can detect coronavirus in air particles, originally developed for the flu. Meanwhile, he and his coworkers have built an air sampler for the International Space Station. Cool!

      We’ve been seeing each other on Zoom a bit. Bob Russo writes that Mark Sirota hosted a gang (John Brautigam, Joe Barrett, Joe Fins, Anthony Pahigian, Mike Greenstein, Mike Levine and Tom Davis) for Zoom trivia, and I’d like to know who won. Meantime Bob and his wife Carol have enlarged their garden and are planting and pickling all kinds of veggies.

      Paul Meltzer writes that due to COVID-delayed municipal elections in Texas, plus a runoff, he wound up spending over a year getting re-elected to a second term on Denton City Council. But he did ultimately manage to defeat the challenger, “a popular local evangelical minister heavily supported by real estate PACs who was running because he is opposed to an anti-discrimination ordinance protecting LGBTQ residents. He’s anti-mask too.” In other words, he writes, “Worth it. Now on to trying to accomplish something worthwhile.” Good luck, Paul.

     Susan Cole is missing her women’s writing workshop at York Correctional Institute, and is glad, at 80, that she has received her vaccine.

      Life during COVID has brought a lot of changes for Karen Paz. She and her husband moved to their place in Maine in March and decided to sell their house in New Jersey and make Maine a full-time thing. They’re enjoying being in a rural spot with a frozen lake. “One of the very few blessings of COVID!”

     Joe Fins has used his time during the pandemic to play cello! He began taking lessons at Wes, “a lifelong dream inspired by playing Schubert’s String Quintet on WESU one winter afternoon when I hosted Classics for Lunch,” he says. On a lark he asked Paul Halliday, a cellist in the Wes Orchestra and classmate, for a lesson, but decided it was too much to combine cello with the College of Letters and pre-med. “So fast forward a few decades and I started. I am an errant student and don’t practice as much as I should or want but I do love the instrument and am committed to doing this as long as I am able.” Now we know whom to tap for our next Class Notes Live.

   On a sad note, Vernon L. Martin, originally from Oxford, Mississippi, passed away September 28, 2020, in Brooklyn, NY, where he had been a resident since graduating Wesleyan with a BA in theater in 1982. He later studied fictional character development at Columbia University, and screenwriting at New York University. Vernon worked for the New York City Public Library for years, and intermittently at Seward and Kissel, LLP, while pursuing his passions for theater, writing, poetry, and fashion.
In the mid-1980s he worked with the Wesleyan-grad-based Mumbo Jumbo Theatre collective, an early and earnest attempt in New York City theater to model what was then called “multi-cultural” representation. Vernon worked diligently behind the scenes and as an active participant in workshops developing content. The group was co-founded by his friend Vashti DuBois ’83 (with Tim Raphael ’84 and Akiva Goldsman ’83, all Wesleyan graduates) and included Vernon’s life-long friends cf blackchild (Carlia Francis, ’82) and Renée Bucciarelli, ’83, among others. Later in life, Vernon had his “thirty-minute claim to fame” as a contestant on the television game show, Jeopardy.

    He is survived by his sister Barbara Ann (Wadley), and brothers Raymond, Sammy, Danny, and Barry, along with their families; he was preceded in death by his parents, his sister Vickie, and brother Larry.

Vernon is remembered lovingly by his family and his friends, including Audra Edwards, Sharron Edwards, Margie Wilder, Curtis Brown, Roxanne Fagan, James Jones, Renée Bucciarelli, Carlia Francis, Vashti DuBois, Sharon Alves, Russell Tucker, Pastor Timothy P. Taylor Sr. of the Hebron Baptist Church in Brooklyn, NY and his congregation.

     I had a fun 60th birthday in February seeing a few Wes faces on Zoom, including Jonathan Weber, who has returned to San Francisco from Singapore; Steedman Hinckley and Lisa Farnsworth (she’s been painting up a storm during the pandemic, with gorgeous work); Danielle and Jordan Rudess; Marc Mowrey ’83 and his wife Susie Davis. My husband Peter Eckart ’86 and I are playing music with virtuoso jazz pianist John Baker ’84 and others in our Socially Distanced Jazz Band (I get to sing with the band because I feed them soup). Meanwhile, I had a piece in the Washington Post about how Zooming with my emotionally crusty dad has made him open up after all these years. Also during the pandemic, Peter and I renovated the house next door to the one I’ve had in San Miguel de Allende for several years, giving a Mexican artist and designer the chance to let his imagination run wild, with cool results.

     Here’s to silver linings.

LAURA FRASER | laura@laurafraser.com

MICHAEL OSTACHER | mostacher@gmail.com