YAM Notes: July/August 2013

By Marty Snapp

Nobody ever loved Yale more than Peter Bonoff, who served the Class of 1967 twice as class secretary and twice as reunion chairman. Peter died suddenly from a heart attack on March 13, just hours after attending a concert by the 2013 edition of his beloved Whiffenpoofs.

“The Whiffs of ’67 are shocked and saddened at this great loss,” said pitchpipe Norm Hile, speaking for the group. “We had the benefit of over 46 years of Peter’s friendship and will miss him dearly. Each of us can remember innumerable individual acts of kindness that Peter showed to us on so many occasions over the years, and each valued his friendship immensely.

“Peter was the ‘Popocatepetl,’ or business manager, of our Whiff group, and he shined in that role during our senior year. As our Popo, Peter arranged our tours of Bermuda, Puerto Rico, Mt. Tremblant in Quebec, and performances at such places as Boston’s Symphony Hall and the New York restaurant 21. But Peter continued to arrange great venues for us as alumni as well. It was Peter who conceived of the Woolsey Hall concert the Whiffs of ’67 gave at our class’s 25th reunion in 1992. The concert was so successful that it is now a yearly tradition during reunion weekend for all classes, and is known as the ‘Celebration of Yale Singing.’

“While Peter’s passing stuns and saddens us, there is one thing about his death that slightly mitigates our grief. Ironically, the night he died Peter attended a Whiffenpoofs of 2013 concert in south Florida. We are heartened to know that Peter passed away with the sound of Yale songs he loved so much still ringing in his ears. As we sang to Peter so many times at Mory’s and elsewhere: For the Whiffs of ’67, our ‘Popo’ truly made the world go ’round!”

Tom Jones added, “Peter and I stood side by side as we sang at countless Whiffenpoof concerts during our senior year and at many reunions, both official and unofficial, ever since. Gail and I were newlyweds during our Whiff year, and we were poor as church mice. In many ways known only to him and to me, Peter was generous and kind to us. Although we weren’t in frequent contact, he somehow managed to call when I most needed to hear from him. Peter was my great and good friend. I feel as if I have lost a brother.”

The news of Peter’s passing hit the class listserv like a ton of bricks.

“Oh no! Anything but that!” exclaimed Chris Kule. “Elaine and I are in a state of disbelief,” said Ned Flynn. “Peter was always the gentleman and a wonderful friend.”

“Peter was a good friend, interested in others and always interesting to be with,” said George Lazarus. “He contributed his time and energy to our class and enjoyed maintaining his connections to his classmates and to Yale. Now he has passed, but he will not be forgotten with the rest.”

“He seemed to be at a new pinnacle in his life—so happy about going to Florida, his new girlfriend, hearing the Whiffs,” said Jim Lavery. “For some reason this hits home especially hard.” Jay Hines said, “Having moved to Florida from England just over 30 years ago after my own divorce, I was silently cheering him on. Should have been less silent.” Which caused Dick Pechter to reply, “I have been thinking about Jay’s regret about having been ‘silent’ in reaching out to Peter, and that the time to do it is now, not at a wake or a shiva. So let me ‘yell’ my appreciation for the interactions, thought-provoking comments, humor, and growth that all of you have given to me over the last few years. Sometimes silence is not golden, and I want to yell before I lose my voice.”

Tom Devine said, “I, too, am shocked and saddened, especially since Peter seemed to have found such great happiness so recently and seemingly unexpectedly. I have profited (literally) from his financial postings, and although I did not know him at Yale, he was extraordinarily gracious and friendly to me when I met him at the Yale Club in New York a few years ago. I will miss him.”

“While I too did not know Peter at Yale, I—like Tom—met Peter at the Yale Club in New York City around 2006,” said Alan Burdick. “As with Tom, he was very gracious and friendly. Much more recently, he had advised me on what’s dearest to my heart—music, counseling me to listen to Mahler’s Third, Fifth, and Ninth symphonies. Alas, like so much, I have postponed the pleasure and have now lost the chance to share my thoughts about them with Peter.”

“Peter exhibited great, maybe unparalleled, loyalty to Yale and to our class,” said Bob Lehrer. “It followed, for this but for other reasons too, that we, his classmates, were all his friends, meaning that, to varying degrees of course, he considered each of us his friend, and each of us considered him our friend.”

“His posts sounded like he was having such a ball in life, and that he lived fully to the end,” said Steve Witty. “Where can we send condolences?” (Answer: to his daughter, Jennifer Koppel ’91, at Jbkoppel@yahoo.com or 404 Northline St., Metairie, LA 70005.)

“I think Peter would be pleased and proud to know that he lives on in the memory of his Yale classmates,” said Mike Orlansky. “He was a complex man with a good and generous spirit. The Class of 1967 won’t be quite the same without him. As Peter wrote in the 25th reunion class book, ‘I’d rather simply share my thanks for immeasurable blessings which have been bestowed upon me all the days of my life … so far. … This emphatically includes the parts of me that identify with Yale.’”

Namaste, Yaleman. To use one of your favorite phrases, thanks for all you’ve done for Yale.