November /December 2017
Recent communiques from two classmates are a wonderful testament to the fact that the spirit of developing word and photo images for the benefit of the reading public has not been dampened by age. Jonathan Donald spent 35 years as an independent producer making television programs for Time Life,CBS,ABC and Discovery. These included over two hundred programs including documentaries on American History,land conservation, wildlife and a series on Japan. He sent me synopses of two novels he has written and published on Amazon. Jonathan is a true world traveler (Egypt, Vietnam, Cambodia, Brazil, India, Japan and all parts of Africa). His two novels were inspired he said by event sand people he met during those travels. One book, “Sour Mash” is about a naïve American rustic traveling in the 1870s who meets Buffalo Bill and other celebrities of the American West, goes to Europe where he witnesses the Franco-Prussian War, the weakness of Louis Napoleon and the determination of his counterpart, Prussia’s Iron Chancellor, Otto von Bismarck. Sour Mash’s adventures then take him to sea, to Africa, the Indian Ocean and the East Indies. Jonathan’s other novel “Traveler in an Ancient Land,” is about the adventures of Giovanni Belzoni who was among the first 19th century explorers to visit Egypt and were significantly responsible for the growing curiosity about Egpyt’s history. Belzoni was 6’8”, a physical giant, who in his youth had been a carnival performer lifting heavy weights.
On a trip to Egypt he was paid by a collector to transport a nine ton granite bust of the Pharaoh Ramses the Great over land to the Nile and then by sea to England. Romantic poet Percy Bysshe Shelley immortalized thisevent in his poem “Ozymandias”. The title of Jonathan’s book is taken from a line in Shelley’s poem. Our other class author with current publications is Nick Steiner. Years back and newly retired from medical practice with time on his hands, Nick began self-publishing books of what he considered his better photos. Confessing to self-indulgence, he produced far too many such books, gave a few away, but mostly left them to gather dust in storage. A few months ago LitFire Publishers contacted Nick about republishing Black and White in America. The promotional piece written by the new publishers describes the book as follows: “The bygone beauty of America is remembered in this stunning collection photographs. Experience the nostalgia for times past”. Another of Nick’s books Lifetime,A Memoir, is also about to be republished by LitFire. It depicts how Dr. George Wong’s herbs led to Nick’s against the odds recovery from advanced melanoma, and how, years later, in a series of unusual experiences Dr. Wong accompanied Nick to Beijing for treatment of prostate cancer in a military hospital. Your classmates are proud of you Nick. Keep up the good work! May I encourage any 56erto send me the names of books published since our 50th reunion. We might even find there are sufficient publications that we could have another exhibit at our 65 the reunion!
Received a couple of notes commenting on the Class Notes column. One from Ed McGowan expressing his sadness at the passing of Mike McCone of whoI wrote in the last edition of the YAM. Ed noted that Mike was the last of his four Yale roommates, the others being Bruce Lunsford, Percy Douglas and Sam Bundyall of whom are no longer with us, referring to himself as an empty nester from years in Farnham and Saybrook. Received a particularly warm note from George Litton reporting, from New York that despite his travails as an octogenarian, he’s working harder than ever while continuing to keep fit via Martini elbow-bends. Having nevermet each other we scheduled a quick brunch to catch up. George Chairs a Verdi Square Festival of the Arts, a September occasion that focuses on giving up and coming artists of all venues a chance to perform. His true passion appears to be The Russian Chorus which he co-founded while at Yale as President of the Yale Russian Language Club. I was so impressed with the rich history of the organization that I signed up to attend the Anniversary Concert in September,and will report back to you in a future column. I believe there are a number of classmates who sing in the Chorus, and would love to have one or another them share their experience as members of what The Wall Street Journal dubbed as the “Diplomats of Song”.
Finally I must sadly report the passing of Angus Wurtele in early September. As described in the obituary written by Minnesota Star Tribune, Angus was modest of stature, gentle of voice and shy of the spotlight. Yet he was a towering figure in Minnesota philanthropy and business. As a businessman, he was an empire builder. He entered a small family paint business and grew it into Valspar a fortune 500 concern from which he retired as President and CEO after the company had been acquired for $11.3 billion. Incidentally Angus pioneered employee ownership at Valspar, where the employees owned a 20 per cent stake. He and his family gave generously to such cultural institutions as The Guthrie Theater and the Walker Art Center. They also gave generously to Yale where a sculpture garden and a graduate teacher program was named in his honor. Angus is survived by his wife Margaret, two sons and a daughter.
May/June 2017, Ted Robb, Class Secretary
Messrs Selig,Rindlaub and Boasberg report that their committees in Boston, New York and Washington have determined the three winners of our Davenport Fellowship for the coming summer…..an English major intends to connect with quilters across the east coast to gain greater insight about centuries of history that echo from their quilt making experience…a pre med junior who through an exhaustive travel proposes a contemporary Retelling of Alfred Russel Wallace’s Travels in the Malay Archipelago …and a circus research project from a Yale junior with circus experience from Newton Mass. All three will relate their experiences to the class members who attend our class dinner after the Harvard football game November 18. These kids make our dinner special, and I urge you to attend this fall.
Jim Kern shared with me a fascinating newspaper article reciting a reporter’s hiking experience with our indefatigable classmate. I was particularly struck by the revelations of Jim’s struggle with the same handicaps we less adventurous 1956 eighty something graduates are very familiar such as a hip replacement (that left one of his leg’s shorter than the other requiring a modified shoe) as well as hearing loss in one ear. None of these age related handicaps take away from Jim’s significant outdoor accomplishments such as being a co-founder of the American Hiking Association, Director of “Hike-A-Nation” ( a 4,000 mile transcontinental trek conceived in the 1980s to promote more and better trails) and his founding Of Big City Mountaineers, a program that has taken thousands of teens out of urban environments and into the wilderness.
As a dues paying member of The Yale Club of New York, where Ken Liebman presides over our monthly class lunches, I received a mailing highlighting the many capital improvements to the club including outstanding renovation of the roof for enhanced dining and carousing on the terrace. Included in the impressive list was an acknowledge and a tip of the cap to Steve Sherr who worked along with the club’s Art Sub-committee to mount a display of an outstanding collection of Yale art in the Lobby and 2nd floor of the club. The Club is a Fun place to visit, and I’d be happy to sponsor (not pay for)an overnight visit by any non member classmates.
We’ve lost five more classmates. Mort Cushman passed away on January 26th in Madeline Island, Wisconsin. Francis “Far” Laidlaw died suddenly at home after a year of declining health. While music was his primary calling, Far distinguished himself as Advertising Manager at The Scheaffer Eaton Company, where he was instrumental in developing the still popular “AT-A-Glance” line of datebooks and Calendars and “Corrasable” Bond typing paper. Alfred Blackburn died December 31 at the Alzheimer’s Resource Center in Southington, CT. After graduation, Alfred obtained Master’s Degrees in Classics, Library Science, and Liberal Studies at `Yale, and later spent much of his career as a teacher and librarian.
Peter Sullivan died January 18 in Falmouth, Maine. Peter spent A good bit of time in the US Navy serving on active duty aboard The U.S.S. Raymond, or, as he would put it “the old Rusty R”. He worked in New York State as a project manager for Consolidated Constructors before founding his own firm of Sullivan and Merritt, performing general contracting largely for the Maine paper industry. Peter and his wife were long time members of the Portland Stage Company, the Portland Symphony and the Good Theatre. He is Survived by his wife Judy, five children and five grandchildren.
The Reverend Dr.Harold Weicker died peacefully in his sleep with his wife Carol At his side at his home in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico on February 1. In addition to his devotion to the ministry, Harold loved music and art. He produced Duke Ellington’s Sacred Concert at St. John the Divine in New York. He helped co-found the Community Church in San Miguel, a Christian English speaking congregation over eight years ago, with a goal of giving at least 50% of the income of the church to the poor and disadvantaged in San Miguel, which is now achieved every year. Harold was the proud father of six children and is survived by his wife Carol. As a postscript, I was the recipient of one of Harold’s last sermons entitled “Love”, a very moving talk that I’d be happy to share with any classmate who might be interested.
Thanks to the much appreciated efforts of our new Webmaster Bill Rees, our former Class Web site is being restored with the assistance and continued monitoring of a professional web manager. You can access the site directly by typing in www.yale-56 into the Google Directory. You may be offered some options and if so chose “Parent Directory”. Note our new address is similar to the old one, but has a dash (-) between the “e” of yale and the “5” of 56. We are maintaining the same 11 categories of which only 3 (Class Notes, In Memoriam and Comments 56) now contain data; much more is on the way. I will continue to file class notes with the YAM, but if you have other more extensive information (essays,letters, prose, poetry. photos etc) please forward them to me or Bill in digital form, and we’ll post all appropriate material. Your suggestions and help to revive our website will be appreciated.
MARCH/APRIL 2017, Ted Robb, Class Secretary
Two more entries in the freshman prom alliances that led to marriage. Herc Segalas and prom date Peggy Whorton have been “going steady” for years having attended both the dance celebration of both the class of 1955 event as guests and then ours. While marveling at that historical happening, I was blown away by a note from Emil (Hatch) Liebewein who informed me that his prom partner Deborah Mathes and he were married in 2005 after both of them survived the passing of their first spouse. That makes five freshman promenaders united by marriage Ed Renner, Pete Allee, David O’Brasky, Herc Segalas and Hatch Liebewein. Under the banner of enduring love, I hope they and their lovely mates will lead the attendance at our 65th reunion.
I received the following widower advisory from Raleigh (Mouse) Coffin. “Sadly my wife Phyllis of 54 years died July 14th from advanced Alzheimer’s. This so impacted our family emotionally, physically and financially that I am completing a book about our bout with Alzheimer’s entitled “Phyllis: A Wonderful Life Forgotten”. Hopefully none of our classmates will have need to read it, but should they ever be faced with this challenge, they may learn something from my own experience and suggestions.”
Some notes from classmates gratefully contributing their class dues: Jonathan Fleming in retirement and along with his wife pursuing their current almost daily walking project along the C&O Canal from tidewater DC to Seneca……Ralph Smith, a US Magistrate Judge who retired from the bench to enjoy Cape Cod playing pickleball, volleyball and sailing on his 18 foot day sailer (Ralph was recently visited by his Sillimanroommate Jim Donn)….and last but by no means least Ivan Phillips who is a “regular” at Ken Liebman’s monthly and entertaining NYC Yale Club lunches reserved for the class of 1956.
I’ve been informed of six more classmate deaths. On October 27, Peter Traphagen passed away peacefully at his home in Erie, PA. A former owner of two companies, Custom Engineering and Hanley Post Supply, Peter was a lifelong sailor who traveled the The Great Lakes extensively and received the Great Lakes Cruising Award. A piano player and lover of Jazz which he shared both with his friends by hosting many memorable Jazz parties.
Stephen Blodgett Jr died November 9 in Middlebury Vermont. Following his military service, he worked as a security analyst for Morgan Bank. Four years later, after consulting with Cornell Agriculture School about the best place to grow apples, he moved to Vermont and developed a large commercial orchard in Shoreham known as “Sentinel Pine” on banks of beautiful Lake Champlain. From there his prime Macintosh apples were delivered across the US and England. An accomplished pilot, fisherman, bird hunter and gardener, Stephen is survived by five children and eight grandchildren.
Dr Arnold Case died November 1 in Hartford, Connecticut. He completed his Internship at DC General and Residency at Rochester General. Arnold was a highly regarded gynecologist who trained many physicians in Laparoscopic surgery and Community based outpatient care for women. He also trained nurse practitioners in gynecology and was instrumental in helping then obtain autonomy as medical providers. Near the end of his career, multiple sclerosis may have robbed him of his physical strength and intellect, but it was reported he never lost his sense of humor, his ability to sing, or his charm. He is survived by his wife Ann and three daughters.
Thanks to Jack Flobeck I was informed that George Darmstaedter Jr died peacefully in his sleep October 18 in Pittsfeld Illinois. George played one year on our Yale football team, went on to sell astroturf to athletic venues and worked as a sales rep for Monsanto. He is survived by his brother Bill. William Wurster died December 21 in West Bend Wisconsin. He played on our Yale football Team, stayed in New Haven to earn a Master’s Degree in Education and later taught history and economics at Menomonee Falls North High School for 35 years. He is survived by his wife Deborah and three children.
Thanks to Joe Paquette, I learned of the relatively sudden death of Walter J Cantley, Jr who was diagnosed with lung cancer only two months before he died on December 27. After a near death experience while in the air force when he survived a midair collision, George returned to the Philadelphia area to join his family business Cantley and Co. a Major steel fabricator. He was an avid golfer as well as an active card player which hobby he proudly admitted he developed at Yale. He is survived by his wife Joan, two sons and a slew of both grand and great grandchildren.
Finally, Breaking News! Thanks to the efforts of our newly appointed class Webmaster Bill Rees, we have a signed contract with a professional website manager who will be creating a new website for the class. Stay tuned for Further developments including guidance on how access the site.
More to come.