YAM Notes: March/April 2013

By Marty Snapp

Once again, our class has suffered a pair of grievous losses. First, I received this e-mail from Peter Lee: “This is a sad report that Rick Hayden died on November 16 at his home in Lake Oswego, Oregon, after a nearly two-year fight against brain cancer (glioblastoma). His services were held on November 20, attended by many family members, neighbors, and friends. Rick was beloved by those who knew him—generous, optimistic to the end, and a loving husband and father. He is survived by his wife, Yee Ling, and his daughter, Ashley (Pierson ’01). In attendance from our class were John JacksonGeorge Pataki, and I. All of his Pierson friends will miss him; he loved Yale.”

And as if that weren’t bad enough, it was followed by news that Lonnie Nesseler has finally lost his gallant battle against multiple myeloma, a rare, incurable, universally fatal blood cancer. Lonnie documented his struggle in a blog, Medical Musings (http://nesseler-medical.blogspot.com), which gave hope and direction to many other victims of the disease and their caregivers. “The average survival in 1998 for the newly diagnosed was three years with conventional chemo, five years with a autologous bone marrow transplant,” he wrote me in 2011. “Through a combination of diligent study and miraculous luck, I’m in good shape nearly 14 years later. I’ve had just about every treatment medicine has to offer: chemotherapy, autologous transplant, allogeneic transplant from a matched but unrelated donor (a MUD), and a donor lymphocyte infusion (DLI).”

Lonnie started blogging about his disease just before he was scheduled to have his second autologous transplant in early 2009. “But there was too much cancer in the marrow. I was devastated. By November, my tumor burden was astronomically high. I had run out of time. So I gambled on the rare and dangerous allogeneic transplant from a matched but unrelated donor, which is when I began my blog in earnest. But after a month I couldn’t blog because I had become so weak I couldn’t lift my hands to the keyboard. I was hospitalized for nearly three months; nearly died three times; and I continue in recovery more than a year later. My wife was once told to make ‘final arrangements’ for me.

“I wanted especially to describe my struggle with fear. Fear often leads to bad medical decisions: Its acid eats away one’s quality of life. Fear leads to too much treatment too soon, or to treatment too long delayed. I hope to explain the tools I’ve developed to neutralize it.”

My sincerest sympathy to Lonnie’s wife, Ivonne; their children Rubin, Jared, Nahomy, and Sharon; and his many friends in Morse likeSteve Doan, who wrote, “Lonnie was my friend—someone I laughed at and held in not a little awe. His intellect and sardonic sense of humor were well known. But he helped me so unselfishly as I prepared for our senior comprehensive exams that last semester. We pored over poets I knew little about, and thanks to him I was able to do better than I ever imagined. I admired him and laughed at his perspective on life, but I grew so much because of his friendship. And I am thankful for his life today.”

On a much happier note, Ron Meister’s legal career has taken a whole new direction. “After a brief hiatus of 38 years, I have resumed my judicial career, having last served as a military judge in the Navy JAG Corps in the early 1970s,” he reports. “Early last year I was appointed to the lofty office of town justice in the town of Mamaroneck, and have just concluded my first successful election campaign, in which my coattails were apparently long enough to help President Obama to his large majority in Westchester County. Our court conducts arraignments and bail hearings in criminal cases arising in the town, and tries the misdemeanors, although the only life sentences we can impose are at weddings. We also have a modest civil jurisdiction, including landlord-tenant disputes and motor vehicle cases. This is a part-time gig, so (with a daughter at Carleton College and a son in high school) I am not quitting my day job. I have finally found a home in chambers for those portraits of Holmes and Brandeis that my Navy clients who were sentenced to the brig kindly framed for me as part of their rehabilitation program, and for the ‘Great Teams of the Fifties’ poster that combines photos of the Warren Court and the Brooklyn Dodgers.”

I also heard from two charter members of our San Francisco Y ’67 group, Gail and Harry Hull, who are greatly missed since they retired to Costa Rica. “Harry and I are still living in the boonies, and enjoying rural life in one of the poorest, but most beautiful counties in Costa Rica,” Gail writes. “I volunteer at a spay/neuter clinic quarterly. We process about 35 dogs and cats in one long day. It is rewarding work: My job is to prep the animals for surgery. After they are sedated, I shave them and clean their skin. Some are in better shape than others, but most of the people love their pets.” Meanwhile, Brinkley Thorne reports, “Winter home in Palm Beach. Spending time withScott MacLeodJim TaylorTom MooreDick Hawkins, and Shep Krech. Still designing buildings and promoting the Maine Media Workshops in Rockport, Maine.”

Finally, John Czaja wrote shortly before our last reunion, “After having been a university professor, physiological psychiatrist, researcher, and administrator, I recently retired with emeritus status from Miami University. I want to extend an invitation to old friends who find themselves in the Cincinnati area. My wife Brenda and I would love to hear from you. Recognizing the importance of a solid educational foundation, I fondly recall my time at Yale. If my health permits, I will attend the 45th reunion; but if not, know that my thoughts and spirit are with you.”