YAM Notes: March/April 2023

By Marty Snapp

This is a hard time for those of us who lived in Calhoun (or Hopper, as I prefer to call it) because we have lost two of our most beloved members: Bob Callahan and Sandy Smith. Bob died on November 4 after a long battle with renal failure, and Sandy passed away on July 9 following a delicate operation on his throat for cancer.

“Bob was a unique person,” says Marty Rader. “He and I were classmates at Fairfield Prep, and we were both on the Latin team (he was a starter; I was a bench warmer). When we received our acceptance letters from Yale and given the choice of selecting a roommate, we chose each other. We roomed together for four years, adding others along the way.

“Bob had a great sense of humor, often relishing the ridiculous side of life. Together with Dennis Jaffe, we spent six weeks working in Frankfurt Germany. When our jobs ended, Bob and I traveled around Europe on our Eurail Passes. At the time, many Europeans were fascinated by tales of the American West, probably thanks to the Clint Eastwood ‘spaghetti westerns.’ We were traveling by rail in Italy, and an Italian man sharing our compartment wanted to know more about the ‘Indian situation’ in America. This opened the door to some Callahan mischief. Bob began in earnest and gave him a detailed narrative about Indian uprisings in Brooklyn. After a period of intense interest, the man caught on, grabbed our passports, and held them out the windows of the speeding train, threatening to let them go to teach us ‘wise guys’ a good lesson. We apologized (Bob, I think, crossed his fingers) and ended up sharing our new best friend’s cheese and fruit with him and his family.

“Our friendship continued after graduation, and Bob was my best man when Jill and I married. As one of his daughters said at Bob’s funeral service, he was a person who absolutely did not care what other people thought. One time, Jill and I visited him in Tampa, and he insisted that we accompany him to his country club for lunch. The problem in my mind – but not in Bob’s – was that Jill and I had just come from the beach. I was wearing bathing trunks and a t-shirt. But he insisted, and we relented. We got some ‘fuzzy eyeballs’ from some of the members at the other tables in the dining room, but Bob couldn’t care less. I chuckle every time I think of it.”

Dennis adds, “He was a great spirit and full of fun, and I’m so sad that I lost touch with him since our 25th. This is a good lesson to reach out to folks who were important to me before it’s too late.”

Calhoun was a place where it seemed like everybody had a nickname. (Dick Pechter was “Snuff,” Maury Yeston was “Stones,” and I was ‘Snapper.”) And Doug Crawford – aka “The Bag” – says, “I am deeply saddened by the loss of my entrymate, roommate, teammate, and very dear friend, Bob ‘Sweet Pea’ Callahan.”

“I think Bob may have may have choreographed this rash of correspondence among old friends,” says Paul Longo (aka “Y.A.”). “I’ve already spoken with a few of us, and I feel everything that they’ve written. Thank you, Bob.”

“I am glad to see the comments from so many ‘Hounman friends,” says Stu Phillips. “I was the one who relayed the message about Bob’s passing from his wife, Jaime. He and I were residents in orthopedics together at Yale-New Haven, and we kept in touch at professional meetings and by phone until he became too sick to do so this past summer. He was an excellent surgeon and teacher, and became a well-known spinal specialist in Florida, where he was for a time Chief of the Spinal Service at the University of Miami Medical Center. When my wife died, his moral support and sense of humor kept me going. I will miss him but treasure his memory.”

I heard of Sandy’s passing from Bert Rodriguez, whom he accompanied many times on Bert’s trips to Machu Picchu. (Bert, a professor of architecture at Virginia Tech, is one of the world’s leading scholars of that 15th-century Inca citadel.) “I shall never forget my travels with Sandy in Europe and Peru,” he says. “Sandy was a very special kind soul, always a bright presence in Calhoun. He had a heart of gold that affected in a special way all the lives that he touched. He and I were roommates at Yale, he was the best man at my wedding, and we shared many big adventures. He will be missed dearly by family, colleagues and friends. His memory will live in our hearts forever.”

“Sandy roomed with John Ford and me our sophomore year,” adds Van Johnson. “As you know, he was a gentle soul, bright and hard-working, quick with a smile, always excellent company. I last spoke with him at our 50th reunion. Having retired from his work at the National Archives, he was living happily with his partner, Bill Farrington.”

I urge you to read Sandy’s essay in our 50th anniversary Class Book, in which he talks movingly about how lonely life was as a closeted gay man at Yale in the ‘60s. But, typically of Sandy, he refused to blame Yale:

“Yale was not at fault in the 1960s because the sexual revolution was yet to come, starting with the Stonewall Uprising of 1969. Yale nonetheless filled me with broad-minded liberalism, which made it much easier to transition to accepting my sexuality in the ‘80s and beyond. I trust and hope that being gay at Yale today is more acceptable.”