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Yale 62

The Gathering That Wasn’t
’62’s Seattle Decision
By James Wechsler

Ann and Jim Wechsler at the Bacon Mansion in Seattle


(EDITOR’S NOTE: Jim Wechsler’s report explains how Yale62’s Seattle Gathering became an example of the decisions we’re all facing and are also being made for us. Our postponement came several days before the nation realized the urgency of the challenge.

In our own small way, we want to help classmates and their families collect and understand information during the Coronavirus Global threat, but we cannot be a primary news source. If you have information or reasoned opinion about the situation, particularly concerning your own or other classmates’ experiences, good or bad, please email them to We will share them on our website and on a delayed basis in our alumni notes in Yale Alumni Magazine.

At the same time, we truly could use a few volunteers to help us with communications and project planning, not only about Coronavirus but also on other topics of interest to people of our age and life experience. Please email if you’d like to participate.)


Copying the action of Y62 in postponing its Seattle Gathering/Mini-reunion scheduled for late March, the Masters Golf Tournament postponed, the New York and London Marathons rescheduled, and lesser events, such as March Madness, have canceled. Even if you have lost your iPhone, you know that this results from the novel coronavirus, COVID-19. It introduced itself in the Seattle area and made this region the epicenter of the US outbreak. The effect on life here previews what you can expect where you live.

Background.  After hearing gripes at a Class Council meeting about one attempted mini-reunion, planned to be elegant, but failed because it cost too much, fellow Class Council member Roman Weil recognized the misdirected focus: we want to talk to each other, not gather to consume in luxury.  As a frequent visitor to Seattle, Roman asked me, a relatively recent (2011) transplant to Seattle, if I would join him in organizing such a gathering focusing on the people attending, and I agreed.

Execution.  Many erroneously assume we spent endless hours on the arrangements. We did not, but we did spend time, under the veteran guidance of Al Chambers, carefully making a plan and wording every email promotion  to classmates. We did try to hold the cost down and keep our focus on a physical setting that would foster conversation and socializing.

The Bacon Mansion

The Bacon Mansion

By the time we postponed the event to an undetermined date, the number confirming and paying stretched the limit for the smaller, but more elegant and less expensive, of the two venues. If the rescheduled gathering receives similar interest, we will gather at the Bacon Mansion, a spectacular bed and breakfast.

Seattle.  A number of classmates had planned to come from out of town, perhaps because on a reasonably clear day one sees a rather majestic city framed by Mt. Rainier to the East and the twin peaks, known as the The Brothers, to the West. That Seattle with nearby hiking, many outdoor activities and an active cultural life was the Seattle we moved to 10 years ago. It is certainly true that our son’s living here with our grandson was a major influence.

Seattle, now is trendy and rapidly growing, known more for Amazon, Microsoft, Zillow and its tech industry than for lumber as in days of old. Today, however, Seattle differs from last month; coronavirus and its unchosen role as US epicenter has changed its face. Traffic no longer clogs the streets, not even I-5, the often sclerotic interstate artery for rush hour.

With schools closed until late April and many working from home, residents are finding the creeping ghost town aura disconcerting. A member of my tennis mid-week doubles group, who lives in a retirement community has, for the first time in years, bailed out until the end of the emergency. He does not fear for himself but fears being the one who brings the virus into his circumscribed community. This signals a change in people’s daily calculus, and is becoming more and more evident. It is a change that, while seemingly subtle, alters Seattle’s characteristic easy sociability.

The Problem. Coronavirus makes the health of aging graduates more of a concern. Seattle’s fame as the source of the US epidemic is because the disease arrived in a nursing home facility in a Seattle suburb. That is, it was noticed and characterized as new because it was prevalent in a particularly vulnerable population. I am now surmising based on my own molecular biology/microbiology background. This suggested possibility conforms to the current wisdom that the population most in danger is the elderly.

“Elderly” is itself probably a very inexact category of convenience — the elderly is a population characteristically beset by most of the diseases, diabetes, lung problems, heart disease, etc., that make coronavirus deadly. A quite reasonable possibility, then, is that the virus has been circulating in the Seattle area since December or earlier, but was not noticed among the general population because its effect on the gross statistics was small.

If that possibility is more or less correct, the local epidemic and worldwide pandemic is still quite scary but will not last as long as the more dire predictions suggest. I certainly hope that this scenario is influenced more by science-infused rational thinking than by my own natural optimism.

Reflections.  In addition to being reminded by coronavirus of unforeseen forces and events, we have also learned how fragile our cohort’s health can be, even without a threatening novel virus. In the past month or so, we’ve had two surgeries, one an emergency, one stroke, and one debilitating disease onset that had all diminished turnout among those wishing to attend.

Future.  Eventually, the pandemic will end. Then, Roman and I will reschedule and invite Yale62 again. With everyone feeling reassured, the Gathering might then be a hot ticket.


We invite your comments.

1 comment to The Gathering That Wasn’t

  • Jonathan Ater

    Thanks to Jim and Roman for all their effort in planning the Gathering. Deanne and I look forward to the time when we can gather in health and in peace.