YAM Notes: March/April 2020

By Marty Snapp

Before we get to the sad stuff, let’s start with some happy news from Ron Meister, who shares my love for the Horatio Hornblower novels: “I again attended the annual general meeting of the C.S. Forester Society, this year in Dover, England, where we read pseudo-scholarly papers and visited the (fictional) sites of Horatio Hornblower’s birthplace and his country estate. My paper, ‘Hornblower’s Unlucky Proteges,’ can be found on our firm’s website, https://www.cll.com/media/event/322_HORNBLOWER.PROTEGES.pdf. In December, at its annual meeting, I was elected President of the Westchester County Magistrates Association, the professional organization of Town and Village Judges in our county. I continue to serve as Chair of the National Institute of Military Justice, and to supervise its program of sending observers to military commission trials at Guantanamo Bay.”

And now the bad news, and there’s a lot of it, starting with the passing of Tip Himes, who died after a long and courageous battle with Alzheimer’s on November 11, Veterans Day, which somehow seems fitting for a Marine First Lieutenant who served with honor in Vietnam. His family, led by his wife Cynthia, who was also his faithful and loving caretaker for many years, was with him when he died.

Tip was a founding partner of the law firm of Griest, Himes, Herrold, Reynosa LLP, a very active member of the YMCA, and an ardent member of Alcoholics Anonymous. He lived his life by the Golden Rule, treating others the way he would want to be treated, always putting himself in the other person’s shoes. Many called him a “gentleman’s attorney” meaning he could be trusted on a handshake. He enjoyed running, gardening, and antiques. Tip would want to be remembered for his smile, his integrity and his humor, and that’s exactly the way we remember him.

“Tip was a starting guard on the football team.,” recalls Chris Kule. “We actually played against each other as peewees, since he was a member of the formidable York (PA) Yankees Boys Club team. They beat us 28-0, which was our first loss in two years. Tip was close with our lineman cadre Greenlee, Prewitt, Marlantes, Fasano come to mind. He served as class secretary or treasurer in the 1970’s, so he would have been involved in planning our first class reunions, and in keeping the class together after Bill Hilgendorf was killed in the Hong Kong accident. Tip was a successful lawyer in his home town of York, PA, and I think he was active in helping manage the York Yankees Boys Club. I am distressed to hear of his passing and sorry to hear it was related to Alzheimer’s. Tragic news.”

“Was Tip mischievous?” asks Paul Lamar. “Absolutely. He had a girl friend or two; he had a few drinking buddies; he laughed a lot (you remember the sound of it!), either at his own wisecracks, but mostly at those of others; he often blurred the line between late night and morning.

“Was Tip serious? Yup. We had many thoughtful conversations about ideas and people that year. We studied Spanish together. And when the Dean threatened to can him unless he stopped fooling around quite so much and, instead, get productive, he joined the wrestling team (remember what Tip looked like?) and came in second in a major tournament.

“Was Tip focused? Indeed. At a reunion – maybe the 25th – he told me he’d gotten his sobriety and run a couple of marathons. He always expressed interest in what I was doing. We spoke warmly on the phone a few times over the past seven years, after he’d told me the heartbreaking news of his diagnosis. And when I told my three younger siblings about Tip’s death, they were moved because they remembered meeting him – that charismatic guy with wonderful manners – in Vanderbilt 67 all those years ago.”

“I met Tip the day of my first Yale class, Second Year Spanish, which met at 8am Monday through Friday somewhere on Science Hill. Ugh!” says Rick Luis. The class was intense, conducted largely in Espanol by a courtly gentleman who called himself El Senor Peel. The early hour, remote locale, and daily grind led to a bonding among some of us, who stayed friends the rest of our time at Yale. In my case, Tip and Bob Greenlee remained friends of mine through their lifetimes. I am so sad that both of them are now gone.

“‘Tippy’ had a unique, ribald sense of humor, which entertained everyone around him. I remember that he chaired our 20th Reunion, held at Branford, at which a number of us seemed more friendly and unaffected than at earlier reunions, when we measured each other by career progression and the amount of money we had. I had a great time, and hope others of us who went did too, because the whole experience was just fun, due in great part to the relaxed atmosphere fostered by Tippy at the helm.

“Fast forward to our 45th, before which I called to remind Tip he should register, and was told by one of his law partners that Tip was in assisted living with Alzheimer’s. I was crushed.

Rest in peace, El Senor Himes.”

Carter Willsey – aka “Carts,” aka “Pete” – died December 14 at Memorial Sloan Kettering Hospital in New York City after a long struggle with cancer. His closest friends and family, including Ted Swenson and Dave Stevens, visited him at the hospital to say goodbye. “I was his roommate for all four years at Yale and have stayed close to him and his dear bride Judy and daughter Frannie ever since,” says Dave. “He played such an immense role in my life for the 56 years since we moved in that day in 1963 as roommates in Farnam/Saybrook. From that day until Ted and I said goodbye to him in his hospital bed, we felt it was a special honor to be Carter Willsey’s close friends.

“He arrived at Yale from Oakwood High School in Dayton, Ohio, and we always razzed him about his humble beginnings, though he was an academic and athletic star and class leader while there. My luck to be placed as his freshman roommate and to maintain our roommate status along with Ted for the next three years made our Yale experience all the more special. Pete was a special Yalie – smart, handsome, hard-working, loyal, fun-loving, and a fine rower were the strengths that stuck with him all his life. We even exchanged dates once. I’ll never forget when I was breaking up with my date for the Junior Prom and Carts asked if he could take her over, which he did after I said okay.

“Accolades have poured in to me about Pete from all sides, especially from Freshman Crew folks like Narelle Kirkland, Alec Kerr, Bob Ramage, and Bob Emmet. A devoted classmate, Carts’ picture pops up all over our 1967 Class Book for all the committees he participated in. After Yale we continued to stay in close touch. When he was searching during the war protest period, he joined me as a teacher at The Gunnery, where he became a very popular teacher of German and Math and coached cross country. Later on, Carts became Ted’s and my coach and mentor when we ran the NY Marathon four times together.

“He finally got marriage right by meeting his dear Judy, settling down in White Plains, and they both invested in a rental property with me in the Hamptons, where he loved sailing and partying with family and friends. He and Judy created an enduring and extremely successful framing and arts business in Armonk serving the region. It is called ‘Framings,’ right in the center of Armonk. Any classmates in the area should stop in to meet Judy personally and get their favorite pictures framed by her. She is a master at the craft and gratefully welcomes all Yalies! We are sure she would appreciate meeting you and hearing your memories of Carts.

“Carts fought various cancers for 3 years and he fought hard because of his tremendous lust for life. He was especially proud to host his daughter Frannie’s wedding last year and then he came to my Cinco de Mayo birthday party where we had one last celebration. Ted and I and our wives Joany and Charlee already miss our lifetime friend immensely, but we know he is keeping a watchful eye on us from on high. RIP Carter.”

Barry Chase says, “I remember him so vividly and warmly, as would anyone who saw him smile. Very tough losing someone like Pete.” Alex Kerr adds, “What I remember most about Pete was his infectious humor. “No matter the gravity of the situation, he was able to relax us all with an incredible one-liner. He was a strong oarsman, a good college friend, and a wonderful human being. His courage during his illness was remarkable. He showed us how to die. I shall miss him.” Dan Jones recalls, “Pete, known on the Frosh crew as ‘Pie,’ was and always will be remembered as a great boatmate on a crew that has remained very close.”

And the last word goes to Narelle Kirkland: “Pete’s passing leaves a permanent gap in the lives of those who have had the pleasure, and good luck, of being his friend. All he had to do was to merely show up at a gathering; everybody there would be uplifted. His heartfelt smile did more than dazzle; it made people feel welcomed and significant. When in his presence, there was no need to go hither and yon around the world seeking bright inspiration or fulfillment by the earth’s great treasures. In his presence, you already had arrived!

“Pete’s personality made him a gift to everyone who knew him. The expression ‘he could light up the room’ should be a part of his permanent memorial. At Yale he easily left all of us rowers in the dust when we’d undergo our annual 6-mile run, yet the coach never appreciated his dogged determination to be a member of the crew. However, we did. His good friends will attest that he was genuinely ‘a man’s man,’ yet he was completely free of artifice and personal prejudice. My life has been made more whole and worthwhile for having been his friend, though our time together seems now to have been far too brief. Thank you, Pete, for sharing your smiling self with so many of us.”

Lennie Klein died on December 4 after a courageous battle against cancer. His wife and children were at his bedside when he died, which might sound odd since he was a Catholic priest. But Lennie was the first and only married man to be ordained a Catholic priest in the state of Delaware.

He married his wife Christa in 1969, and they had three children and seven grandchildren. The first thirty years were spent as a Lutheran minister. But in 2003 he and Christa both converted to Catholicism, and soon afterward the Vatican granted him permission to enter the seminary. On April 1, 2006 he was ordained a Roman Catholic priest at the Cathedral of Saint Peter in Wilmington.

Both as a Lutheran minister and a Catholic priest, Lennie was known for his intellect, writing and speaking on topics ranging from politics to the mysteries of faith. His mentor was Richard John Neuhaus, a renowned Christian intellectual and Lutheran minister who also converted to Catholicism, whom he first saw in 1964 at Yale when Neuhaus was invited by William Sloane Coffin, his comrade in the civil rights and antiwar movements, to speak on campus.

Like Neuhaus, Lennie was a progressive activist. And, like Neuhaus, he eventually fell away from progressivism and joined the traditionalist wing. He was a vocal supporter of the Pro-Life movement, serving as Director of the Office for Pro-Life Activities and Chair of the Respect Life Committee for the Diocese of Wilmington. At the time of his death, Father Klein was rector of the Cathedral of Saint Peter and pastor of Saint Patrick and Saint Mary of the Immaculate Conception parishes in Wilmington.

“He’s been a tremendous gift to us,” said Bishop W. Francis Malooly. “He was a dedicated and committed pastor. I’ll remember him as someone who answered his calling. He’ll be truly missed.”

Finally, John Rothchild died December 27 from Alzheimer’s. Among other things, he was an accomplished writer, banker and, in recent years, mountain climber who specialized in scaling peaks 14,000 feet or higher, which he called “bagging a 14er.”

“John and I were roommates all three years at Saybrook,” says Rich Eittreim. “I thought he would become a fiction writer. But he became what I never would have expected – a non-fiction writer, primarily on financial topics, and a physical fitness maven. At Yale he showed no interest in economics or money and even less in physical fitness. But he became great at both.”

One day the phone rang, and who should it be but Kingman Brewster? ” I handed the phone to John, who said something like, ‘I suppose you’re going to tell me that you’re letting women into Yale.’ Sure enough, that was it.

“We both loved jazz, though his additional interest in Dylan distressed my purist jazz sensibilities. He sometimes sailed with me, and I have a clear recollection of his falling off the boat into the frigid waters while racing at the University of Rhode Island. But the best memories are a generalized recollection of great conversations on every subject imaginable.

“After Yale, John spent two years in Ecuador with the Peace Corps, and wrote for The New York Times, working with James Reston, and also the Washington Monthly, Time and Fortune, among others. (He may not have endeared himself to Yale when he wrote a column for Fortune urging readers to contribute to worthwhile charities instead of their already-wealthy alma maters). Hard driving and laid back simultaneously, he saw humor in everything and seemed to have contrarian perspectives on most things. Of his many books my favorites were The Bear Book (about bear markets) and Up For Grabs, the story of the real Florida – warts and all. His physical fitness fanaticism took several forms: He owned a health club in Miami Beach for a while, climbed 63 of the world’s tallest peaks. and was a champion bicycle racer as a senior.

“At John’s 70th birthday party in New York his writer friends Taylor Branch and Danny Okrent reminisced with terrific tributes – talking about John gave them great material to work with. My contribution was playing the piano for the cocktail hour. While Alzheimer’s took hold of John several years ago, he packed a lot of adventure and living into his life. The old smart, clever John has been missed for a while already by his wife Susan, children Sascha (herself a successful writer and producer), Berns, Chauncey, his grandchild Smith, and his sister Melanie. Yale has lost another true original.”

“John was my dear friend, a great writer and journalist,” says Lanny Davis. “I will never forget my gratitude when he befriended my mom and dad at a small contract bridge club in Miami Beach in the 1980s. We visited together in Miami and even played bridge at that club together. I am so, so sad that so many years passed when we lost touch with each other. At our age, now, this happens too much – for me, great regret at not reconnecting with friends after too many years and then realizing it is too late.

“The first story John and I collaborated on during our sophomore year on the Yale Daily News was a profile of President Kingman Brewster Jr, written after a long lunch upstairs at Mory’s. I wrote a plain and uninspiring lede. He read it and in ten seconds pecked at the old typewriters we used way, way back then. And, of course, he quickly wrote a brilliant and witty lede that I feared might irritate President Brewster. He didn’t think so. And he was right.

“But no matter. It was brilliant. And it was John. Never met a better writer since. May his soul Rest in Peace and his wife and children and grandchild keep his memory alive in their hearts.”

“John had the eternal gift that his initial response to challenging situations was often to find the humor in them,” adds Charlie Carter. “He did this without any downside undercurrent often found in more cynical folk, and that made his enthusiasm highly infectious. The two photographs in the Miami Herald obit both suggest to me that these qualities lasted a lifetime. The contrast, complicity, empathy, and contradictions of sharing a dozen hours a week with both John and Lanny in Spade and Grave was an extraordinary experience.”