YAM Notes: January/February 2021

By Marty Snapp

After decades of hearing the likes of Barbra Streisand, Gloria Estefan, Placido Domingo and Dionne Warwick performing his songs, Maury Yeston has finally found the perfect person to sing them: Maury Yeston!

PS Classics, which has been home to his theatrical, classical and popular works for the last 20 years, celebrated his 75th birthday on October 23rd by releasing a two-disc CD set titled Maury Sings Yeston, featuring demos he recorded from his Tony Award–winning scores for “Nine” and “Titanic,” his stage adaptation of “Death Takes a Holiday,” the unproduced “Queen of Basin Street,” the concept album “Goya,” a smattering of pop tunes, and several theatrical works still in progress.

“A number of the themes and songs on the demo originated over 50 years ago with stuff I was improvising and writing on the ‘Houn piano just outside the Dining Hall,” says Maury. “You could have heard them back around 1965 without having to buy the album.”

Sadly, the rest of the news is all bad: We have lost four more classmates – John Sherman, Jamie Poindexter, Bill Lampe and Coles Phinizy.

John passed away following a lengthy illness on March 14. His initial work experience after graduation was as a stockbroker in Manhattan, but after a few years in that position he moved to Taos, New Mexico, and later to Wyoming, settling in the Jackson Hole area, where he started his own business, Vintage Wines, providing wines from U.S. and European sources to many hotels, restaurants, and individuals across much of Wyoming.

But he never lost his love of music. He was a talented performer on the clarinet and saxophone, and he loved the jazz scene in New York, where he lived across the street from Miles Davis, and enjoyed going to the Greenwich Village jazz clubs, including the Village Vanguard. After moving to Wyoming he regularly attended concerts and was an avid supporter of the Grand Teton Music Festival.

“John was a friend and fellow member of the Yale Band,” says Mike Orlansky. “At football games we marched near each other, John with his clarinet and me on the piccolo. He had a somewhat reserved, serious demeanor, but there was also a playful side to him. While marching, he sometimes made little jokes and clever comments, making it hard for those around him to avoid laughing out loud. During the Band’s tour of Europe, when the tour bus made a stop at a high mountain pass in the Swiss Alps, the participants in a spirited snowball fight included both John Sherman and Keith Wilson.”

Jamie died May 1 in Harrisonburg, Virginia, after being lovingly cared for through difficult times by his stepsister, Karis Barry, and her husband Phil.

“Jamie was a classmate in Ezra Stiles, says Stephen Dahl. “He was very southern in his accent and very warm with his smiles. I don’t think he was disliked by anyone! Unfortunately, at Stiles, possibly many other colleges, one tended to dine with one’s friends and there wasn’t enough table hopping. Rest in peace, Jamie. You always smiled at me!”

Bill died May 24 in Israel. “He traveled to Israel after graduating from law school, ostensibly on a year’s work/study program, but chose to remain permanently,” says his wife Lucy, who met him on the program. “Bill was accepted to the Israeli Bar, which, aside from involving written and oral exams, required a year’s apprenticeship and mastering Hebrew at the highest level. He had a most distinguished professional career in public service, entirely in the office of the District Attorney, and truly made his mark in the local legal world. And, of course, he was always a superb tennis player.

“As he reached retirement in 2012, Bill began to present indications of dementia. He traveled that year to New Haven for the 45th reunion, and perhaps some who met him then sensed the symptoms. It was a slow, progressive deterioration until his death in the spring of this year.”

“Bill was a real gentleman,” says Joe Cohen. “I knew him through Hillel. He was a low-key guy and self-effacing, someone I regretted not being more friendly with. He was a committed Jew, and I wasn’t surprised when I heard he made Aliyah to Israel. As saddened as I was to learn of his death, I know he had a lot of ‘nachas’ from his three children and eleven grandchildren.”

“Bill was the first classmate I met, on our first day at Yale,” says Mike Orlansky. "We were waiting on a long line outside Dwight Hall for some registration tasks, and struck up a conversation. We talked about where we were from, what we might major in, and other first-day-of-college things. Over the next four years, we’d occasionally see each other around campus. Bill had a demanding academic schedule and was active in several organizations and Berkeley sports teams, but was never too busy to pause for a friendly talk. He seemed to have a strong character and a serious sense of purpose. Although I didn’t know Bill all that well, I feel sure he went on to have many meaningful achievements in his life, and was respected and admired by those who knew and worked with him. I can’t think of a better person to have met up with on that long-ago first day on the Old Campus.”

Coles passed away on October 13, after nearly a decade-long battle with cancer. “The themes that run through the various memories circulated among the roommates on word of his death were his warmth, even keel, and solid judgment,” says Dick Lawlor. “He was a calming influence among a group of loyal, eclectic, rambunctious personalities who roomed together as the Punt Club. In freshman year, apparently as a result of his height and size, he picked up the name ‘Horse’ and, at least among his roommates, it has stuck for over 50 years. As Bob Lilley wrote: ‘You could nuzzle his nose, he would never bite!’ Coles loved his years at Yale and has been a faithful alum.

“After graduating from Columbia Law School in 1971, Coles was a lawyer with the EPA working primarily on superfund cases, including Love Canal, throughout the East. He spent over 40 years with the Agency. He and Carol Nehring married in 1976 and had two boys: Pelton and Alexander, and lived in New York City.

“Unfortunately, the last decade was complicated by a series of illnesses which greatly limited his mobility. I am happy to say that neither sarcoma nor diabetes kept him from our 50th. We all had a wonderful time and he thoroughly enjoyed himself. We all extend our deepest condolences to Carol, their boys and grandchildren. RIP.”

“I probably knew him before anyone else in this group,” says Ned Flynn. “He came to The Hill School in 1961, our 11th grade (or, as it was called, the 5th Form). We were on the same hall at The Hill, and Phizz was a great fellow, full of good humor and always up for a ‘hall hack,’ as pranks were called. Didn’t see much of him when we came to Yale but kept some track of him after law school when he was with the EPA. He was a great friend, and I am sorry to hear that he went through a decade of cancer. Guess he was also a helluva fighter. God bless him.”