Amherst Magazine

Edwin H. Hastings '38

Deceased December 3, 2008
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Edwin H. "Ned" Hastings

A vibrant voice is gone.

Ned Hastings will be missed and not least in the Class Notes.  A letter in Ned’s scratchy hand always came through, throbbing with political and environmental angst and with barbs often directed at the caliber of the notes themselves.

An ardent Democrat and activist, Ned despaired of arousing classmates to weigh in on national and world affairs instead of offering what he dismissed as “trivia” about promotions, cruises, family doings and health reports.

He fulminated against Republican presidencies from Reagan through the Bushes. He anguished over the cost in blood and treasure of the Iraq war.  But the light touch was not missing, as in advice he quoted from his U.S. Army intelligence days to “burn before reading.”
 
Despite all this, Ned wished mostly to be remembered for something that happened when he was barely out of Amherst. Shortly before he died at 91 on Dec. 3, 2008, in Warwick, R.I., he mailed a self-obituary highlighting his role in a 1939 Amherst-Harvard paleontological expedition to northwestern Texas.  Fossils they dug up in a quicksand bed turned out to be some of the earliest land-living reptiles and amphibians.  One is now in the American Museum of National History in New York “where it is the lead exhibit on the evolution of mammals,” Ned wrote. Another is on display at Amherst.

A Theta Delta Pi, Ned cited in his obit his pleasure at Robert Frost’s visits to the house for poetry readings. Frost belonged to the same fraternity at Dartmouth. One of Ned’s daughters, Jill Crane of Merrimack, N.H., said her father taught her Amherst’s “Hand Me Down My Bonnet” when she was 4 years old.

In WWII U.S. Army intelligence, Ned dealt with diplomatic code interception. Before that he was an infantryman and later served in the Korean War as a medical administrator.

With a law degree from Columbia (1941), Ned practiced for decades in Rhode Island where he was a state bar examiner for eight years, two years as chairman. He was active in many causes, including, in the 1980s, the Rhode Island Peace Mission to Washington, “helping persuade the whole Rhode Island (congressional) delegation to vote against contra aid—our tax money used to hire Nicaraguans to kill Nicaraguans.”

His wife, Sue, who predeceased him by a year, also was active politically, serving as a Rhode Island board member of Women for a Non-Nuclear Future. Just a few years ago, the Hastings retired to an assisted-living facility in Warwick.  Ned taught varied seminars and led sing-alongs there.

Born Jan. 2, 1917, in Yonkers, N.Y., Ned was one of our younger classmates. Besides Jill Crane, another daughter, Judy Johnson, of Apple Valley, Calif., and three stepchildren survive. A son, Andrew, died in 2004.

George Bria ’38

 

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