YAM Notes: July/August 2019

By Marty Snapp

Dear classmates, It’s my sad duty to report the loss of five more of our number: Steve DodgePaul PrewittJay BartonRichard Robinson, and Craig Woodward. I’ll talk about Steve and Paul this time and Jay, Richard, and Craig in the next issue, so please send me your thoughts and memories in the meantime.

Steve died on January 17 after an SUV struck his bicycle on Bonita Beach Road in Florida. “Jack MorrisonMike Garvan, and I attended his memorial service, where Steve was lauded as a humble man with a deeply engrained sense of kindness who listened more than he talked and whose word was his bond,” reports Bill Messinger. “Acclaimed as an entrepreneur, environmentalist, and philanthropist, he founded four companies over a period of 40 years and enjoyed success in cable television, radio, communications towers, and real estate development. His WSJ obit was titled ‘Entrepreneur Struck Gold in Cell Towers,’ and indeed he did.

“But for his roomies, he was simply ‘The Townie,’ an English major who often put us in our place with an acerbic comeback, and also a motorhead who loved inserting high-powered engines in ’50s muscle cars and riding down High Street to show us his New Haven roots. Steve was an eager participant in our suite games—table hockey, Risk, and card games—who fondly remembered playing bridge with GWB.

“The last time Garv and I met up with him, he had passed on buying his beloved Red Sox in order to spend more time with family and focus on improving his community in Beverly and Bonita Springs. He recognized that while his wealth gave him the freedom to follow his dreams, the downside was everyone seemed to want money from him. And he was looking forward to making up for time lost with his children and radio business.”

Paul died in his sleep on February 26 of complications from Parkinson’s. Barry Golson joined Paul’s family and friends in scattering his ashes at sea in front of his Laguna Beach hillside residence.

“Paul was a physician, husband to Cindy, whom he married in the fine year of 1967, father of two, grandfather of three, an exhibited art photographer, and a lifelong friend,” says Barry. “When I met him in 1963, I thought he was the bravest guy I’d ever met. Three of us Exeter guys—Ray GodfreyJim Rogers, and I—were rooming together, and Paul, who knew Ray casually, agreed to be the fourth. He was the big, smart public school football hero, and here he was facing a clique of privileged, over-prepared private school wise guys. What guts. What folly.

“We all embarked on two semesters of unbridled social mayhem. Dating, drinking, and making up for those all-boy New Hampshire winters were among our highest scholastic priorities. Paul, who’d cut a swath in high school, showed us the way. He tore around campus on a motorcycle, and became known as ‘Vroom Vroom Prewitt.’ Details are hazy, but the night Paul drove his Harley up the stairs to the second floor of Vanderbilt became a deeply admired chapter of Yale lore. (Some claim it was DKE’s basement he drove his Harley down into. I’m open to correction from serious class historians.)

“By the end of the year we preppies, who had experience managing our grades, were in passable academic shape. Paul, not so much. So the following year, he showed his fortitude and moved into a single room in JE, buckling down to his premed studies and excelling at them.

“Paul and I made multiple road trips to women’s colleges, driving fast and undesignated, no seat belts. One night in a massive blizzard we were returning to New Haven on the Taconic Parkway, did a double spiral on the black highway ice, and ended up teetered on the edge of a gully. As the car came to a halt, we looked at each other and said: ‘Far out!’ Of such moments are 50-year friendships born.

“Paul was science; I was literature. He had rowdy DKE friends; I hung out at the Daily. But the great thing about being around bright people is that stereotypes don’t hold. It was Paul, not so much my prep pals, that I spent late nights philosophizing with. It was Paul who introduced me to Bob Dylan and got me down to Greenwich Village. It was Paul I talked about classical music with.

“For all of Paul’s vroom-vroom years, he became a conservative, deeply respected internist with a reputation for high ethics and generous policies for patients on Medicaid. He was certainly the tallest doctor in Laguna Beach. My wife and I traveled the world with him and Cindy, and our children grew up together. Though he voted Republican, and the three of us didn’t, we managed never to have a serious argument. He was outnumbered, of course. His photography was first-rate. When I wrote a book about Mexico, it was one of his shots the publishers chose for the cover.

“One strong bond between us was humor. Paul had a dry, sardonic wit he wielded carefully, given his respectable station in life. The e-mail jokes he forwarded, gathered from God knows what websites, were always superior and eagerly anticipated.

“He kept his wit to the end. After he got sick he bore the depredations of his awful disease stoically. But he had difficulty expressing himself in the last year, and I would sometimes chatter to keep the conversation going. I couldn’t always tell his mood. Just reminiscing, I said, ‘You know Paul, I was only jealous of you once freshman year, when I didn’t have a date, and you showed up at the football game with that incredibly voluptuous town girl.’ Paul looked up, serious, deadpan, and said, ‘Still hurts, huh?’”