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Yale 62

YAM Notes: January/February 2021

By Stephen W. Buck, for the Communications Team.

While the election will hopefully be behind us by the time you receive this, the coronavirus won’t. We include three reports by classmates on the impact of the virus on them, starting with retired physician and epidemiologist John Marr. He writes, “As a physician I spent most of my career in infectious diseases and epidemiology. I also enjoyed investigating and publishing articles on otherwise obscure historical epidemics. They all seemed to require interactions between adverse environmental conditions and human susceptibilities.

“The advent of COVID-19 in early 2020 was disconcerting to me since, unlike SARS and MERS, it soon became an uncontrolled pandemic. Worse, as the United States approaches the winter season without an effective strategy to mitigate a response, we are seeing events that will characterize future months as presenting as a ‘perfect storm’—increased indoor activities, super-spreader events, social and political disruption, the lack of effective therapeutics/vaccine and . . . the arrival of a new influenza strain. The proper term for the convergence of adverse conditions is referred to as a ‘syndemic.’

“Syndemics have occurred throughout history (plague, smallpox, cholera, etc.), with the most recent example being HIV, HBV, drug addiction, and tuberculosis in the ’90s. But that syndemic did not affect most Americans. This one will.

“There may be a light at the end of the tunnel beginning in 2021, but it may be coming at us like a freight train. This will be our own winter of discontent. I wish I could be more optimistic.”

John also mentions that he’s in contact with Hank Resnik, who’s living in Florida.

An expanded entry, based on what John Hatch had originally posted to our, in response to our Question of the Quarter on how the coronavirus has affected classmates:

“COVID-19: My wife and I live in our own unit in a 100-plus-acre continuing care retirement community of 1,200. We are free to walk about, garden, meet and talk with neighbors. External activities are curtailed or ended (my weekly role as a middle school teacher’s aide); I don’t Zoom church; NGO board and committee meetings are Zoomed.

“Negatively, like many classmates, I suspect, I missed a family gathering in Lenox, Massachusetts, to celebrate turning 80; and a multi-generational birthday party over Labor Day on Nantucket fell through, too.

“Positively, containment has provided lots of time to excavate the various postage stamps I have amassed in the 60-plus years since I put one in an album. Sorting, soaking, and relearning a lot of geography and history has been interesting; a renewed appreciation of the powers of computer search engines developed; and my wife is delighted with the reduction of boxes and lightly-filled albums. Finally, the virus has provided the time and focus I needed to study/discuss/read and participate in workshops on racism arising from BlackLivesMatter. That is time and focus I might not have ‘found’ otherwise, so as to avoid confronting the issues and my awareness of and contribution to the problem.”

Upstate New York classmate Bill Weber reports retiring after 49 years as chair of his area Yale Alumni Schools Committee and 12 years as town supervisor of Branchport. This included dealing with fractious controversy over hydrofracking, reported on our class website. After his car-business partner died, sales plummeted and the COVID-19 pandemic was the final blow, shutting down car sales for many months. He reports a low rate of infections in sparsely populated upstate New York. “What it means to my daily life is probably typical of the rest of the country, with mask wearing at all times in public and no gatherings of any sort. My only real interactions with others are with my son and his 4-year-old daughter, who live only a few hours away.

“My breakfast meetings with my ROMEO (Retired Old Men Eating Out) have only resumed in abbreviated forms since the pandemic shut us down from the onset until some restaurants have reopened. The problem with the group of 5–7 fellows is that they are avid Trump supporters and of the belief that the Democrats are out to destroy America via socialism. We do not discuss politics at our meetings. They are fine fellows otherwise and I enjoy their company for what it is, a break from the daily grind of wondering what to do next. I wonder what is next in my life? Friends are passing away and I check for circling vultures every morning as life goes on.”

In cultural news, Bob Rosenkranz is delighted to report that Louise Glück, the Rosenkranz Writer-in-Residence at Yale, has been awarded the 2020 Nobel Prize in Literature.

Sadly, we note the passing of three classmates: Tony Gorry, John W. Blouch, and John Carr. We will post their obituaries on the class website in due course. We have newly posted obituaries for Tony Morris, Marvin Romanoff, and Dennis Snyder.