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YAM Notes: July/August 2020

By Gregory Weiss

Mark Greenwold has let us know of the passing of Tom O’Brien in January after a long battle with cancer. “Tom and Pam had lived for many years in Conway, MA, where they had a home design and construction company. They moved to Sacramento about two or three years ago to be near their son and his family. Spending time with the O’Briens was an integral part of our annual August trips to the Berkshires.”

Mark himself continues to be active on the Leadership Council of the Yale School of Public Health, whose faculty members are playing a leading role in addressing the pandemic in CT and around the world. Another Classmate working to solve some of the many problems created by the new Coronavirus — in a totally different way — is Willie Monaghan. To help the homeless in his hometown of New Orleans, who are, by definition, unable to shelter at home, Willie has built a public shower. As reported in a local newspaper, “It’s a simple thing: just a garden hose with a sprinkler nozzle and two pieces of corrugated sheet metal for privacy. But for the homeless men and women who happen upon artist [Willie’s] coronavirus-era public shower stall on Erato Street, it’s a godsend.”

Further on the Coronavirus, we are sad to report our Class’ first victim of whom we are aware. Ted Blatchford died on April 19 in Natick, MA due to complications from late stage Parkinson’s and Covid-19. Ted was a lifelong educator. Most recently, he was the co-founder and founding principal of the Four Rivers Charter Public School in Greenfield, MA, which opened in 2003 and today educates over 200 students each year. After Yale, Ted taught for a year at the American School in Beirut, met his future wife of 50 years, Claire, in Oxford and earned a Master’s Degree in English at Columbia. Ted was a conscientious objector during the Vietnam War and, for his alternative service, taught at Tuskegee Institute in Alabama. What followed were a series of teaching and headmaster positions, including ten years as the Headmaster of The Country School in Madison, CT. In his free time, he was a skilled woodworker and a passionate hiker.

The recent death of Little Richard has sparked a series of reminiscences triggered by Jeff Hill’s circulation of a hilarious version of “Good Golly, Miss Molly” sung by LR and actor John Goodman. Rich Look remembers hearing LR as a 14-year-old in a military housing development in Okinawa, ”It changed my world view.” Peter Lownds remembers: “South Beach, Key West, winter of 1957. A 13-year-old refugee from Manhattan, sunburned, hormonal, floating in the ether of early adolescence, hears the first frantic bars of ‘Lucille.’” Bill Hannay had just returned from Russia when “a friend gave us front row tickets to a live concert of LR and Jerry Lee Lewis. Jerry Lee played a couple of songs and threw a hissy fit about the piano. He then up and walks off the stage. After a couple of minutes (and a lot of offstage shouting), LR walks on, smiles a toothy grin at the audience, sits down, and proceeds to play two hours of non-stop music.” An interesting side note: LR and Classmates Don Burton and Cary Koplin all hailed from Macon, Georgia.

At some point the email discussion veered off in the direction of other long ago rock legends, including Big Brother and the Holding Company, bringing back to Tom McCaffrey fond memories of hearing them in Chicago in the late sixties, meeting and talking into the wee hours with lead singer Janis Joplin and, at some point in the evening, cavorting with her in the nude in Lake Michigan. (Since Janice died in 1970 we have no way of confirming Tom’s description of these events, but, in any event, it makes for a great story!)