YAM Notes: March/April 2019

By Scott G. Sullivan

The second most startling change in the composition of the Yale student body since our brightest, gladdest years—the first, obviously, was coeducation—has been the emergence of a large, visible, articulate, and sometimes quite contentious contingent of “queer” Elis. The politically correct appellation is Gays, Lesbians, Bisexuals, and Transgendered, and the LGBT community is now firmly established not only on campus but among alumni as well. A gay graduates’ organization was founded in the early 1980s by Larry Kramer, the celebrated writer and activist from the Class of 1957, and our own Robert Leuze. It sponsors multiple activities, including a Gay Week in New Haven every summer, which combines thoughtful discussion with raucous partying and is warmly welcomed by the university administration.

So why begin class notes with this sociological information?

Two reasons: 1. Because Leuze died recently (see his obit later); and 2. Because I have come across a truly fascinating story about our truly fascinating classmate Dave Waterbury, to which we now proceed.

In the summer of 2009, at the first Summer Week of Yale’s LGBT Alumni Association, Waterbury and his wife Ruth received a silver bowl and the organization’s highest honor, the GALA Award, for their “unstinting support to the LGBT community.” Not that there was even a hint of homosexuality about either of them, but because they had, over decades, accepted and sustained their eldest daughter Margery through her painful and expensive journey from girlhood, through years of lesbianism and on to fully transsexualized manhood. Now known as Marcus, the former Margery is living the life that she/he yearned for. He is married to Jacqueline White, of the Yale class of 1983. Ever since Margery’s first coming out, the Waterburys have worked hard to educate those around them about the realities of the queer experience, advocating the virtues of trust and understanding rather than fear, rejection, and hate. Dave wrote a modest account of his family’s saga in our 50th reunion book, but that was before the GALA award—and well before most people took much interest in the subject. Commenting recently, Dave deadpanned: “They desperately wanted to give the award to somebody straight, and we fit the bill.”

P.S.The same Dave Waterbury, now retired from the vice presidency of Morgan Stanley, is busily planning our fifth mini-reunion, in Minneapolis next September.

In other non-obituary news, the San Francisco Chronicle informs us that Larry Bensky, my friend and strong right arm on the Yale Daily News, has come out of retirement from his career as an award-winning correspondent for Pacifica Radio. Last year, he broadcast a series called Count Down 2018 on the midterm elections. His newest venture is Ideas and Ideals, which airs Mondays from noon to 1 p.m. on Pacifica’s KPFA station.

Tom Schoenemann writes to report a lunch with his old roommate Dunnie Sherer last October in Petaluma, California. Dunnie has retired from practicing law in Silicon Valley and is now doing volunteer work with the land conservation trust in Sonoma County. Back in Harwinton, Connecticut, Tom is active in the new Connecticut SCORE chapter, which counsels small businesses, and he chairs his hometown Economic Development Commission, which aims to keep Harwinton “rural.”

Richard Carlson writes, succinctly: “Still working, still married, still peckin’ away, peckin’ away.”

Now for the hard part. We have lost five classmates since the last issue.

Henry Randall III, a lifelong account executive with the Hartford Life Insurance group, died October 5 in Marin, California. Henry served two years in the Navy aboard Essex-class destroyers, then joined Hartford. The company sent him to San Francisco in 1961, and he remained in the Bay Area for the rest of his life. In 1997, he retired to play and follow golf.

Clarence Fleming—known as “Toppy” or “C. D.”—died October 25 in Onancock on the Virginia Eastern Shore. After Yale,C. D.earned a master’s degree from William and Mary, then returned to his native Eastern Shore, where his family owned and operated a large lumber business. He taught at several schools in the area, including the Eastern Shore Community College. He was active in local politics, serving two terms on the Accomack County Board of Supervisors; he was especially proud of the seawall erected on the west side of Tangier Island. He contributed hundreds of acres of timberland to the county forestry department; he was an enthusiastic member of the Ruritan Club and the Shriners.

David Kennedy died December 5 in Liverpool, New York, where he worked his whole life as an engineer with Allied Chemical and later for General Chemical in nearby Syracuse. He was a Jehovah’s Witness. 

Robert Leuze died in New York on December 14 of Lou Gehrig’s disease. He was cared for remotely through his illness by more than 50 friends around the country and the world. He had worked as a high school teacher and a desktop publisher, but his true passion was operatic singing. He had a brief singing career, including appearances at the Amato Opera in the East Village. Robert was openly gay, as he explained in his contribution to our 50th reunion book. He was a founding member of the Gay and Lesbian Association (GALA) of Yale alumni. Despite his orientation, he enjoyed a 40-year marriage with Sarah Harwood, a psychotherapist, recalling Cole Porter’s long marriage to Linda Lee Thomas.

Happy Mardi Gras!