YAM Notes: March/April 2016

By Martin M Snapp, Jr.

On October 17 Jim Lavery’s daughter Megan posted this on her Facebook page: “Today is a very special day. Today is the day my hero was born. He inspires me, encourages me, supports me, and makes me laugh harder than anyone I know. Happy birthday to my best friend and my father, Jim Lavery. I’m the luckiest daughter alive.”

Eight days later, she posted this: “My father, James Flavian Lavery, passed away peacefully in his sleep this morning. He was 70. He was the greatest man I have ever known. He has touched more lives than I can even count. Anyone who has ever known him can attest to this. He was larger than life. They don’t make them like that anymore. Rest in peace, Dad. Heaven really made out on this one.”

She and Jim were very close. “Not only do I strongly resemble him, I inherited an incredible amount of his attributes: his love of facts, of history, of sports, of statistics, and, if I’m lucky one day, maybe his sense of humor,” she says.

She also inherited his love for all things Yale, especially Yale football. He took her to The Game—with obligatory stops at Pepe’s or Sally’s—more than a dozen times as she was growing up.

“I did not have the privilege of attending Yale University, but I’m fairly certain I came out of the womb wearing a Yale beanie. My father’s unwavering love and respect for Yale was a staple in my upbringing; and for me, that respect only grew stronger the older I became. Going to The Game was like having two Christmases in a single year. I learned how to say ‘(Bleep) Harvard!’ at an early age, and to this day, I’m still pretty good at it. It pains me beyond belief that I will never see a Yale/Harvard game with him again.”

Her grief is shared by many in our class.

“This really hurts,” says George Lazarus. “When I heard the news I felt like I had been kicked in the gut. Jim was one of the first people I met freshman year in Bingham Hall. He was the quintessential nice guy. I can’t imagine anyone ever being angry with Jim. His passing—way, way too early—hit home and made me realize how precious every day is. We have lost a truly sweet classmate, a wonderful man.”

Russ Sale adds, “I can’t believe he’s no longer with us. He was an exceedingly kindhearted soul who loved to laugh. He also loved sports in general and Yale in particular. We were good friends in senior year and shared adjoining rooms overlooking Sterling quad, as well as occasional trips to Wooster Square for Pepe’s pizza. With the Vietnam War potentially calling, he was not alone in becoming ensnared by senior-year anxieties and what lay beyond the breast of Mother Yale.

“Jim and I caught up years later over lunch in New York, after his stint in the military and having finished his degree. He was in business then, working as a comptroller for a financial or insurance company. But I’m pretty sure he was already expressing an interest in a holistic approach to mental health, and would subsequently explore various avenues of alternative medicine, such as his more recent involvement as a practitioner and teacher of Reiki. Rest in peace, my friend.”

Chris Kule says, “Jim and I knew each other only as alumni, via the listserv and, more lately, via Facebook. He was a reasonable, and rational, voice for political and economic conservatism. How I will miss our almost daily exchanges regarding the progress of the Yale teams! How I will remember the afternoon in the Bowl when you indulged my constant jib-jab regarding the strategy. How I looked forward to your uncomfortable political insights. Now I will look forward to our reunion someday in the hereafter. We all will miss you, but seeing you again will take much of the sting out of our eventual leave-taking. Rest well, Brother Jim.”

In lieu of flowers, his family is requesting memorial donations in Jim’s name to one of his favorite organizations, the Ancient Order of Hibernians, Division 4-JFK, P.O. Box 793, Huntington, NY 11743.

And if you want to do something else for him, share your Yale lore with his daughter. “Although a dozen trips to The Game have yielded a good amount of evenings in the city, I want to really visit New Haven—the New Haven that my father loved so much,” she says. “You may be thinking that this is a great excuse for a Long Island girl to eat some New Haven pizza (and, by the way, it is). But any suggestions you have as to places I could go that my father loved—or maybe places that you loved—throughout your years in New Haven would be greatly appreciated. I know the whole Sally’s vs. Pepe’s dispute is alive and well, but what about Modern?

“This ‘Yale Pilgrimage’ will be a huge part of my healing process. I want to do everything my dad didn’t get a chance to do. And revisiting—I mean really revisiting—New Haven was absolutely one of them. It is my intention to visit every place that held value to my father and to the entire class of ’67. It will give me clarity, peace, and hopefully some entertainment and humor. Whether you knew Jim personally or not, I want to thank each and every one of you for your friendship with him—whatever it may have been. He loved communicating with you guys over any number of topics. Any friend of my father’s is a friend of mine.

“My e-mail is MeganELavery@yahoo.com. Please help me plan my itinerary so that I do not miss a beat. Let’s do it for Jim—because he hated Harvard more than anyone I’ve ever met. But as much as he loved to hate Harvard, he loved Yale even more.”