YAM Notes: November/December 2009

By Rich Banbury

Although at an undisclosed location, Peter Parsons is ubiquitous.  That’s what computers can do. As the tireless and talented editor of the 50th Reunion Book, Peter is pulling together a disparate team of classmates, publishers, and AYA personnel to bring this momentous project to the printer by mid-November.  A major piece of the undertaking is locating members of the Class who have gone astray, some apparently to remote seaside retirement shacks in the Fiji Islands.  For those who have received the Reunion literature, you need to respond before Mike Dickerson, who is chasing down the procrastinators, comes knocking on your front door.  It’s better and probably safer to deal with Mike, the determined and dedicated domain master of the class website, in cyberspace.  Go to our website <www.yale60.org>, which will lead you to the reunion site for opportunities to submit, promptly and electronically, family photographs and humble essays for the Reunion Book.  Act expeditiously and don’t forget to hit save once you have entered the appropriate data and materials. (The deadline for these submissions has now been extended from mid-November to mid-January.)

Although the June Reunion may seem like an over-the-horizon commitment, tempus fugit.  I can guarantee that this will be a strictly egalitarian affair with no trace of the latent competitiveness which may have lurked in the corners of our 25th conclave.  The 50th will be more like crossing the finish line of a marathon which we have run together as a team rather than as individual competitors.  When we get to New Haven, some of us may be raising Cain, while others are raising canes, but at this stage it’s all for one and one for all.

Brother Parsons is also recognized for producing a number of DVD videos documenting the resistance and guerilla warfare against the Japanese occupying forces in the Philippines during World War II.  One of the projects, Manila 1945, was a 2007 winner at the Myrtle Beach International Film Festival.  Mixing contemporary interviews with survivors and vintage film taken during the occupation, Secret War in the Pacific tells the story of how Chick Parsons, a long-time resident of the Philippines prior to the War, became the catalyst for organizing the armed resistance and also the escape of many unsurrendered American and European families from various hide-outs in the Philippine archipelago.  Adjectives such as courageous and inspiring only touch the surface of this amazing story of Peter’s remarkable father.  Suffice it to say, when General Douglas McArthur famously returned to the Philippines in October of 1944, he referred to Chick Parsons as “the bravest man I’ve ever known”.  A global citizen, Peter has lived for many years in the Philippines and can best be reached at petercparsons@gmail.com.

In 1974, at the age of 36, Steve Johnson serendipitously realized that he was an undiagnosed inventor.  As the editorial cartoonist for The Sierra Club Bulletin, he was asked by the editor to “invent whimsical recreational vehicles”.  Steve surprised himself by coming up with 109.  Earlier this year, the New York Times published a feature story on Steve’s career as inventor, author, cartoonist, and urban planner, comparing him to the inimitable Buckminster Fuller.  (One admiring comment on the Times blog stated “My father Bucky Fuller would love this wonderful, provocative, thought stimulating article …”.)  Admittedly, many of Steve’s creations and illustrations cross the line from visionary to fantastical.  Not all of his concepts are impractical, however, as evidenced by his 1991 predictive drawings of a hands-free telephone.  Steve’s conceptual creations also include a work desk that converts into a napping cot.  A superb illustrator, with an unbridled imagination, Steve describes himself as being “sneakily outrageous”.  By the way, and actually by coincidence, it’s a good bet that Steve will be contributing a number of age appropriate illustrations for the Reunion Book.

Formerly nationally-ranked tennis player, Davis Cup Captain, Wimbledon television commentator, and extraordinary contributor to the game of tennis in many capacities, Donald Dell was inducted with this year’s Class into the International Tennis Hall of Fame in Newport.  Ranked among the top five United States players in 1961, Don remembers perhaps his best match as a four-set loss to Rod Laver in the quarter finals at Forest Hills.  Don joins the late Gene Scott, who was inducted posthumously at Newport in 2008.

Our class is connected to the world of tennis in many ways.  The Cullman-Heyman Indoor Tennis Center at Yale has received the 2009 USTA Outstanding Facility Award, and will be the site of the ITA Indoor National Championships this month.  Sam Heyman played a leadership role in the financing and design of this magnificent athletic facility.  Perhaps not by coincidence, this year’s freshman class for men’s tennis is ranked fourth best in the country. (Since the processing and publishing of these Notes in the Yale Alumni Magazine, Sam sadly passed away on November 9th.)

Ketchum, Idaho, once the redoubt of Ernest Hemingway, is in the shadow of the Sawtooth Mountains, just downrange from Sun Valley.  That’s where you’re likely to find Anndel and Bruce Smith, with Bruce perhaps beginning a new work of sculpture.  Off to the west a bit, Renate and Joe Hixon are enjoying the natural wonders of Big Sky country at their seasonal cattle ranch and staying active with the Nature Conservancy.  From their home in Walpole, New Hampshire, Ellie and Fred Ernst, active in forest land preservation, often visit the Ketchum area, where their son Michael now lives.  That presents welcome opportunities for three old friends and their wives to get together for vittles and congenial conversation.  Bruce reports that a round-up of such good friends can also on occasion lead to a little trout fishing.