YAM Notes: September/October 2023

By Marty Snapp

It’s been twenty years since Gary Goodbody, whose deep bass voice was the anchor of the Whiffenpoofs, died from a sudden heart attack; and in all that time he was never memorialized in these class notes. But, like the Marines, the Whiffs never leave their dead on the field. So this eulogy, written recently by pitchpipe Norm Hile with input from the other Whiffs, will attempt to make up for that omission:

“Gary died far too early. At the time he was a successful world banker as well as a leader in environmental causes in rural Connecticut. To me, Gary was a wonderful friend and fellow songster. I still miss him tremendously.

“I first met him in the summer of 1963 at a welcome reception for incoming Yale freshmen that his parents hosted at their home in Madison, N.J. I liked his bright smile and friendly swagger, both of which were trademarks throughout his life. And his mustache, for which his mother offered us a $100 bounty if we could deliver just half of it to her, was a distinctive touch.

“Gary was a member of St. Anthony Hall and sang with the Duke’s Men. ln spring 1966 he was sung in as a member of the 1967 Whiffenpoofs, having been given the moniker ‘Toot-toot-tootsie’ and the job of Cigar Meister. Gary’s deep bass voice and warm smile were crowd pleasers, and his easy manner formed part of the glue that made our group as close as any Whiff group before or since.

“The day after our graduation he and I drove non-stop across the U.S. to explore the West Coast. After a month together in Los Angeles, San Francisco and Seattle, Gary headed back East to begin his two-year stint with the Peace Corps in Brazil.  His assignment took him to rural oceanside communities north of Rio de Janeiro to set up fishing cooperatives. When I visited him in Rio in July 1968 he was in his element, charming the locals and working enthusiastically to promote the efforts of the Peace Corps. After completing his Peace Corps stint, Gary enrolled at Harvard Business School, then he began a career with Citibank, largely in Latin America.

“As a Whiff, Tootsie’s contributions went far beyond his deep voice and friendly smile. In late August 1966, to get our group off the ground, he and his family hosted the ‘67 Whiffs at the Goodbody compound in Brooklin, Maine, as we undertook to master our concert repertoire. It was a blissful week of song, camaraderie and fresh lobster. Just as significant, in 1992 Gary and his wonderful wife Ann hosted the ‘67 Whiffs for a week at their home in Sharon, Connecticut to allow us to round into singing shape for our class’s 25th reunion and our unforgettable (to us) Friday night concert at Woolsey Hall. What a wonderful retreat it was!

“Gary is sorely missed by all of us ‘67 Whiffs. We all cherished singing with him, playing golf, or just talking on the phone with him whenever we could. Our fond memories of ‘Tootsie’ will remain with us always.”

In a more recent loss, John Jacobsen, a Renaissance man with a gentlemanly demeanor who helped shape the direction and development of museums in the U.S. and around the world, died at his home in Marblehead, Massachusetts, on January 12, with his wife, singer-songwriter Jeanie Stahl, by his side.

He described his career as a “drunkard’s walk” following his varied interests, which led him from theater scenic design to show and film production and finally, for thirty years, to his beloved museum field. In 1988 he founded White Oak Associates, which led strategic planning initiatives for more than 100 museums.

As a boy, John was fascinated by chemistry and physics and had a fully stocked chemistry lab in the basement where he dabbled in magic experiments, explosives, and breeding hybrid fruit flies. But when he got to Yale he found his biochemistry classes boring and abstract, so he switched from chemistry to English, then to art history, and then theater.

After graduating with a BA in Art History from Yale and an MFA from the Drama School, he directed scenery and lighting design for more than 60 theater productions, all the while dreaming of becoming a great fine art painter, laboring at night on large canvases in his carriage house apartment in Brookline, Massachusetts.

In the early 1970s the advent of multimedia theater led him to take on his first museum project, The Salem Witch Museum’s innovative in-the-round presentation of the 1692 witch trials using life-sized stage sets and dramatic lighting and sound. Fifty years later, it remains the most attended attraction in Salem.

Through mutual friends John met Jeanie, the love of his life. They were married in 1982 and became, as he often said, “partners in everything.” Over the next 30 years they led strategic planning initiatives and development for museums.

Throughout their marriage, John continuously refined his woodworking and cooking skills. He maintained an impeccable workshop, designed and built a classic cherrywood bookcase for his library/study in their home, designed and hand-drew their annual Christmas card, and indulged his passion for cooking, delighting their circle of friends with his exceptional multi-course meals.

“I first met him when I was producing plays in Silliman in freshman and sophomore years,” says Gerry Thompson. “After having burnt up part of the stage in one performance (with the New Haven fire department in attendance), the Christmas season approached, and John and I headed to New York City for an afternoon. On 57th St and 5th Avenue we saw an old Parisian omnibus parked outside an art gallery. Out of curiosity we went up to the open rear of the bus, looked in, and out pops Salvador Dali! After a brief discussion with him and his friends about art at Yale, we departed and headed back to Grand Central Station, destination New Haven.”

Tim Curnen adds, “John had a lively curiosity about everything, which he shared eagerly with his friends, loving to explore ideas and possibilities just to see where they’d lead. He knew how to work and he knew how to play, and he knew that both were essential to a fulfilled life. John made good things happen – for himself and Jeanie, and for those of us lucky enough to have known him.”