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Phyllis Ohanian, RIP

Phyllis B. OhanianRecently our once-upon-a-time classmate, Don (Ohanian) Freeman, sent me notice that his wonderful mom, Phyllis, had passed away at the amazing age of 101!

You may remember that Phyllis was the wife of John Ohanian, our erstwhile Superintendent of Music. If you spent 7th grade in Bedford Junior High, you may also recall Phyllis’ son (by first marriage), Donny—a musical talent, himself (and fellow fiddler). Phyllis was very well liked as I recall.

Phyllis was employed in our school system for many years as teacher, (piano) accompanist and school librarian. Before Don sent me this photo I had no mental image of his mom. Once I received the photo I recognized her immediately. That means (to me) she was contemporary with our years at Bedford and Staples—at least as our piano accompanist for the many concerts we put on. Obviously music is fortissimo in Freeman/Ohanian DNA.

From Don (October 13):

Hi, Cliff. Just a quick note to say that my mom died a month and a bit ago at age 101. She had a long and good life and passed peacefully and in no pain.

I thought you might want to run this on the Staples 55 website, since a number of people in our age cohort knew her… The funeral home did run an obit for her in whatever the local paper is there now [Newton, MA]. Feel free to edit it if you want, particularly the paragraph about the memorial service. Unfortunately we can’t accommodate people who might want to come, because her assisted-living place is putting on the service and we’ve already given them a headcount.

Hope all’s well at your end.

Best—
Don

Phyllis had been living in Newton, MA, near Boston, a couple of hours away from Don’s home in western MA. Here is the (abbreviated) obit that ran in Westport Now:

John Ottinger, RIP

John C. OttingerWith heavy heart and mixed emotions, our classmate and friend to many of us—old “John Boy” or “Otto” or just plain “John”—is now, hopefully, in a better place. “Mixed emotions” because the last few months of his life must have been hell for he and his wife, Peggy. John suffers no more, and it is certain that his family (wife, Peggy, and brother, Hank, in Columbia, MO) can finally feel some relief.

Peggy contacted me from Madison, WI, last Wednesday to tell me that John had passed away the day before, July 1. I had been planning to call my long-time buddy this past July 4th weekend, for our traditional every-other-month-or-so phone call. John had been ill for many years with emphysema and had spent the last couple of months since mid-April in a nursing home.

Peggy would visit every day, usually during evening visiting hours. Sometimes in the afternoon, as well. His breathing issues had become severe over the past month or two. He had been managing the illness, remarkably, for more than ten years, with near heroic at-home assistance on the part of Peggy. At about 4pm this past Tuesday, she got a call at home from the nursing home to the effect that the end was near. He died with his beloved Peggy beside him at 5:35pm.

A friend of John’s, a George Hesselberg, journalist for the Wisconsin State Journal, wrote a very nice article about John.

John’s obituary can be found here at the Cress Funeral Home website, along with many fond recollections about him from friends and acquantances he’d met along the way. On the obit page scroll down to the link: “Add or view memories” and click.

More on John’s passing on his obit page

—Cliff
Hendersonville, NC

‘Oops! I Did It Again…!”

[Yearbook] Deanna (Basta) WarrenWay to go, girl…:)! A week ago I opened a somewhat cryptic email in my inbox. It was from Deanna. It announced that she had gone and gotten married while on a cruise last October and that her new husband was her neighbor…! You can’t make this stuff up and you don’t want to miss the details.

Vince DePierro, RIP

Vincent DePierro Sad to report: Vinnie—our popular class VP, track and football standout and all-around funny man—has passed away. He died early Monday morning, April 8, at his home in Westport. The official cause of death is not known, but he did suffer from a long-term kidney-related illness. Obituary.

Serenading their Wives…

[Yearbook] Dave RuckertI am just now posting a long overdue update to Dave Ruckert’s Classmate Update page. This update features a photo of Dave and Walt Soderlund—still friends and still in touch after all these years. In this photo (scroll to bottom) they were serenading their wives with “songs we used to sing during the Staples years.”

“If You Go First…”

[Yearbook] Deanna BastaLast summer whilst yours truly and family (Ronnie and our two dogs) were moving to North Carolina (or at least still digging our way out of boxes), Deanna sent this beautiful, touching poem to Sandra Eskey following Len’s death in April. Here is the poem by A.K. Rowswell (not a misspelling) on Len’s Deceased page. Scroll to bottom.

Chip DiBlanda, RIP

[Yearbook] Charles E. "Chip" DiBlandaChip DiBlanda, sad to report, passed away on January 24, 2011. Long overdue on getting this posted, we learned of Chip’s passing last year. Picking up from an earlier post, I had heard from Chip a year ago. He had learned through his son that John Ottinger and I were trying to locate him. He called me one evening after dinner in January, 2011, and we spoke for a long time on the phone catching up.

He explained to me that he had been on strong medication for some time for a painful leg ailment, but that he was happy to hear that some of his old high school classmates were trying to reach him. We had a good long talk (see earlier post). About a half-hour into our conversation he confessed that he had me confused with another Clifford—that he thought he was talking with Clifford Garlick…:)! We got that straightened out after awhile.

Some time later I again heard from his son, Gary, a CT resident, that—a mere three weeks after our phone call—he had slipped and fallen at home, been rushed to the hospital and there—shockingly—suffered a stroke and died.

I’m glad we had a chance to speak and bring back old times, Chip. And don’t be embarassed. There are days when I think I am Clifford Garlick…

Len Eskey, RIP

[Yearbook] Len EskeyThis is going to upset quite a few classmates, seeing as how popular Len was…

Len passed away yesterday, Saturday, March 26, at a hospice facility in or near Vero Beach, FL.

I took a call today from Mike Hyman who relayed this sad news to me—he, in turn, having been notified by Judy Gault who had spoken directly with his wife, Sandra (Sandra Salembier, class of ‘56) earlier today or perhaps yesterday.

Len had been battling cancer for five years since being diagnosed in early 2006. About three weeks ago we received an email from Len that, in his words, “…when the chips are down, the Turk comes calling”—an analogous reference to the process by which an NFL football player is notified that he is being cut from the squad. His oncologist had notified him three days earlier to “contact hospice”.

Pursuant to all this I spoke with Len just last Sunday for a good 45 minutes. His hospice care was taking place at home by visiting nurse professionals and, of course, by Sandra. He seemed to be in fine spirits and was more eager to discuss other matters than his state of health. I did, however, manage to learn more about his condition which I am sharing with you on his Deceased page.

On the very next day, Monday, I learned from John Ottinger—who had spoken with Sandra briefly when he tried to reach Len—that Len had suddenly been taken to a hospice facility.

All very sudden. And then…

Yesterday, Saturday, March 26, Len’s five-year battle with cancer—a truly remarkable post-diagnosis stay—came to an end.

According to Judy a quiet family service was being held for Len at their home in Vero Beach, FL. I will attempt to reach her in a few days to learn more and to see if she is planning an obituary.

To reach Sandra by mail:

1240 40th Ave., SW
Vero Beach, FL 32968-4951

Cliff

Francis (”Bud”) Bennett, RIP

[Yearbook] Francis "Bud" BennettIt saddens me to post news of another classmate’s passing, Francis Leroy “Bud” Bennett, Jr. Thanks to Jacee McCluckie for forwarding this to our attention. Bud passed away in his sleep last September. Jacee has been trying to get in touch with his family. You’ll find his obituary here.

A Life Without Left Turns

[Yearbook] Janet WahrlichFrom a Wilton classmate who’s been kind enough to submit an occasional comment to this blog, Janet Wahrlich has submitted an interesting, well-written commentary by a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, Michael Gartner. It appeared in a June, 2006, edition of USA Today (I hope they continue to leave the page up…).

A one-time president of NBC News, Mr. Gartner has had a long and distinguished career in journalism. (Beside the point, but you might recall that it was Gartner, as president of NBC News in 1993, who apparently manned up and took the fall for the “Dateline NBC” piece showing a GM truck in a staged explosion-for-broadcast without explanation to its audience).

Gartner was born in 1938—just a year or so younger than the rest of us. He has written what struck me as a fascinating bit of Americana about his parents. Our Americana—the kind we can look back to and relate to. He tells a story of the doting relationship between his mother and father and the curious way in which they came to deal with owning and driving a car at a time in our history when owning and driving a car was something of a social as well as physical challenge. He tells it in such a plainspoken but compelling manner that I couldn’t stop reading it until the end. Perhaps it takes a journalist of Gartner’s caliber to deliver such prose.

In passing I can’t help but wonder why Janet saved this piece (going back to 2006) to share with people on her email list in 2011? Obviously, she feels it has significance for us at this time of our lives. I wholeheartedly agree, Janet… :O)!