The Congenial, Kind, and... (Could It Be Something More?) Class of 1953, Williams College
Love Note and Snapshots from Bob and Barbara Howard
The theme for our golden reunion has been framed beautifully in an Email to me from our new president, Bob Morrison: "Both services Sunday, especially at the Alumni House, were memorable. Thank you. I learned 3 things having never attended the closing of reunion weekends. First, we mean a lot to each other (there was a lot of love present); second, our class likes to follow the program; and third, we like to sing."
First things first, and if I had said it, instead of another Bob, you would probably have accused me of preacher's hyperbole. The fact is, there was a lot of love present, at the memorial service, sure, but also over cocktails and roast prime rib, in the parade and on the tennis court, wherever class members found each other and their others.
One of my ancient mentors wrote that love is kind and patient.
Mike Puffer came up to me Saturday night after the festivities, after Art Murray, Bobby Shorb, and Soapy Symington strutted their cheers and George Hartnett kept us in stitches with his priceless ad libs. Mike thanked me for the prayers of the evening soirees and with a certain tenderness in his demeanor flattered me with the reminiscence that I was one tough guy in our college years. I didn't say it, but should have, "It takes one to know one." And, everything considered, the two of us didn't turn out so badly after all... and, maybe, just maybe, turned out as well as we did because of the toughness at the beginning.
We grow older and if the years chip away at the rough edges, all the better. Granite too weathers well and is smoothed with time.
I watched Thursday morning as Donny and Lydia Campbell moved their luggage from the first floor of Northside Motel to accommodations on the second level. They were swapping rooms and clearing the way for easier access for friends George and Jean Cain who were soon to arrive at Northside. George was recuperating from a nasty bout with hepatitis and could well use a little consideration. The Campbells gladly and quietly obliged.
At the memorial gathering George Hartnett spotted Helen King at a distant table. George rose to celebrate Bink, Helen's beloved Anthony, and for his thoughtfulness was accorded a heartfelt and teary thanks from Bink's beloved.
Whenever the circle was closed at dinner table or cocktails, the party wonderfully opened to include, to inquire, to laugh, and to reminisce. Some of us met old classmates as new friends. I don't think I spoke more than a "hello" to Stan Miller between 1949 and 1953, but we're now hooked up (wife Ann too) to investigate each other's retirement hobbies (Stan is preparing a book on Vermont wildflowers).
On other occasions I have saluted a couple of guys who through the years have held us together. They have been shepherds (i.e., pastors) to our class, keeping track of our triumphs and our sorrows. I refer to two St. Peters, Sterling and Connolly. If we are kind and considerate (loving?), these are the guys who have set the standard. St. Charles, St. Stephen, St. Hugh, and St. Seth have done their part too. Anyone else for canonization? Maybe at our 55th we can celebrate St. Bob Morrison.
Dorie Friend, who does all things well, not only informed us about the political world, but about the personal one, writing in his memorial to "Dancing Sam" Kimberly, quoted elsewhere on this website: "those we knew best we naturally mourn most, while lamenting all who have passed away." And those we knew best when the world was young, those who are still with us, we intentionally sought out. Fraternities are gone. I do not mourn their passing. But let this much be said for the residential system of our youth, "It drew us into far more intimate contact with a small group of people, many of whom we would probably not have chosen as friends, were it not for the proximity of our living and eating arrangements." Yet they are the ones to whom we gravitate at reunions.
When Mike and Jean Lazor cut the wedding cake Friday night, inviting those who had been married 50 years to join them in doing the honors, they (and we) were overwhelmed with the tidal wave of brides and grooms who moved forward, until the festive table was out of sight for the crowd gathered around it. The fourteen durable couples shared the cake, and the sweetness, with the rest of us.
Tom Belshe, in another Email fielded following the reunion, writes: "I have been trying to figure out why I was so frequently moved to tears over something so mundane as spending time with PB [Tom has yet to tell me who or what PB is]* after all these years. Perhaps it has something to do with reliving our youth or maybe it reflects our gratefulness of being alive and relatively healthy. Or possibly it relates to the sense of being reconnected to a group that has always played an important role in my life. In any event, I think about the weekend frequently and continue to try and grasp and understand my own emotions. I look forward to keeping in touch." So do I.
In fact, Tom never had to mellow (as I have tried to). He was a kind, soft touch way back when he chauffeured us in his Plymouth back and forth to movies in North Adams. But Tom does admit what I and many of the rest of us could also confess, that the reunion occasioned many a moistened eye.
Kindness and thoughtfulness also reach beyond time's limits on life.
Hank Norwood and I have exchanged electronic messages post-Reunion. The two of us competed at Oxford last summer for Internet time on the computer. I was intent on banking; he, on birding. Hank spoke at the class memorial gathering at brunch Sunday about Chip Stockford who, in Hank's eyes, belongs in the pantheon of unsung heroes, for his behind the scenes championing of forgotten New England railroading. Taking nothing away from those in our class who richly deserve the honors Williams has accorded them (Mike Lazor, most recently, and Charlie Mott, earlier, celebrated for outstanding service to the college; and Dorie Friend, Bill Williams, Mike Scanlan, and Hugh Robinson, honorary doctorates - did I forget someone?), Hank has proposed to the Alumni Office a consideration of another alumni honor, the recipient to be nominated by reunion classes and selected by graduating seniors. The honor would be bestowed upon someone who in Hank's words about Chip, "was a guy who went out and made important societal contributions with little fanfare or self-gratification." Send your letters affirming Hank's suggestion to Morty and Wendy.
The lectures were stimulating and entertaining. The Memorial Service at Thompson Chapel was moving and triumphant, in no small measure due to the superb music from a choir blessed with three Johns from the Class of 1953: Dighton, McDermott, and Whitney. Call it a labor of love. McDermott deserves the halo of the week for persevering in singing the tenor part beautifully, despite having to read his music with one eye closed in a dimly lit chancel (John had eye surgery recently).
The "colloquium" of our own experts - Dorie Friend, Bob Utiger, Wally Scott, and Bill Miller, with moderator Ted Terry - was insightful, and more than a bit intimidating to a fellow like me who has spent a lifetime speaking up and out on everything, knowing as I did that Friday afternoon that I was in fast company, people who knew vast amounts more than me about the world and what makes it tick. Wally gave what we in church circles would call a testimony, a moving personal story about - dare I say it? - sin and redemption, putting a fine Williams sardonic touch on the end of his testimony, his eyes smiling, and invoking the absent participant, Bro. Theophane, that "now you have heard from Father Mike Scanlan."
Others will (or should) report who won what on court and green. In my view, everyone who was present for the golden anniversary of our graduation from Williams was a winner. We sang "Come fill your loving cup to Williams, to Williams!" Now, more than ever before, I think I know what that line means.
*PB, it turns out, is a reference to Howie Potter, affectionately known in collegiate years as Potter Baby.
I shall post from this point onward some of the photos taken at the Reunion, adding to them as we receive the results from those free cameras provided by the class at the beginning of the Reunion. Enjoy! We certainly have.
Snapshots from Nancy (and Pete) Sterling
Dorie Friend's quote of Reinhold Niebuhr, a quote many at the colloquium have requested
"Nothing worth doing is completed in our lifetime; therefore we must be saved by hope. Nothing true or beautiful or good makes complete sense in any immediate context of history; therefore we must be saved by faith. Nothing we do, however virtuous, can be accomplished alone; therefore we are saved by love."
Snapshots from Tim Beard, the Class' Champion Photographer
Some Additional Snapshots by the Howards (EveryoneSmiling.com has arrived!)