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Lynn George Ackley

Died: May 11, 1984

George remained in the New Haven area after graduation. He married Sally Connelly, an accomplished ballerina. After a seemingly happy time together, their marriage ended in divorce. George worked at various jobs, but never settled on a career. He eventually moved back to his home town of Avoca, New York. On May 11, 1984, George committed suicide. He was a good, kind and intelligent man who was never able to quite find his footing in the world.

James Luce remembers:
George and I were randomly, yet fortuitously, assigned as roommates freshman year in Durfee Hall and then voluntarily remained roomies for the last three years in Silliman. We were both relatively quiet, cerebral, and unassuming “small town boys” but from opposite coasts. Both of us majored in psychology. Neither of us pledged a fraternity or tried out for any varsity sport. Other than that we were complete opposites who got along just fine because we shared a love of learning and respect for the concept of doing no harm.

George never figured out what he wanted to accomplish in life, nor was he ever comfortable in the hustling, hostile world outside of our small college and his tiny hometown — not that he was unreservedly happy even in those two relatively small environs.

He and I grew apart during senior year, pursuing new friendships and different interests. We reunited as great friends for several years shortly after graduation. George hung around the greater New Haven area, drifting as an occasional taxi driver and maintenance man. We would meet frequently on weekends when I came up from New York, often staying with him and his patient, loving wife in whatever cozy habitat they’d moved into last.

We lost touch again in 1971 when I moved back to California. At some point thereafter George got divorced and reluctantly returned to his ancestral village. There he commenced and ended his last retreat from himself. George committed suicide in 1984 shortly after The Big Chill made it to my local theater. I’ve often wondered if he saw it before I did. Certainly George could easily have seen himself in the unseen Alex.

The minister’s words in the movie are apt: “It makes me angry. Are not the satisfactions of being a good man among our common men great enough to sustain us anymore?”

Certainly they were not enough for George — and that really pisses me off. A good, kind, intelligent man lost to the rest of us for no reason other than he couldn’t put enough distance between his present and his past for his future to have any meaning for him.

Viva enim mortuorum in memoria vivorum est posita

The life of the dead is retained in the memory of the living. (Cicero)

Robert Fischer remembers:
Dear Ack,

My memories of nearly three years as roommate with you and Jim Luce have remained strong the past 50 years. How you two psych majors put up with an electrical engineering major remains a mystery, but our many late-night conversations about life in general and Yale in particular indicate the strength of our friendship. What were the odds that two first-chair high-school oboists would end up as roommates? I pray that God reached down and raised you up to Heaven on eagles’ wings at the moment of your passing. I hope to see you there when my time comes, God Willing.

Your friend and former classmate/roommate, Bob Fischer