Darwin died on March 20, 2007, a month after his eighty-seventh birthday, at a nursing home in Lake Placid, NY. I was recently informed of his passing by his son Barry ’70, who reported that he had endured a seven-year struggle with Alzheimer’s. Darwin is also survived by his son Steven ’67.
“Speak Memory,” wrote Vladimir Nabokov; I turn mine back seventy years to a golden afternoon at Amherst College, Room 29 on the fourth floor of South College, South Entry. There, three young men with disparate talents and personalities—Darwin, William Wylly Lamar, Jr. and the writer—met as roommates for their upcoming freshman year. I still remember our “suite”—a cavernous front study with three massive wooden desks, a cramped room in the rear with three cots and dressers. The view from our aerie, the Pelham Hills to the east, the College Hill to the west, was a redeeming factor for our daily hikes up four flights of stairs!
Dar and I were to do many things in concert during our years at Amherst. We both joined the Lord Jeffrey Amherst Club, worked for our meals at the Club’s designated eatery, toiled on nature trails in the wildlife sanctuary and served Sunday dinners and cleanups at the College infirmary. On the fun side, we participated in the College’s active intramural sports program—touch football, basketball and softball. Despite his ocular limitations, Darwin was extremely well-coordinated and athletic.
For our junior and senior years, I joined Dar at digs in a tiny frame house on Railroad Avenue, across the tracks from the Amherst station of the CVRR. I recall, on cold winter nights, the sounds of the chuffing freight engines as they climbed the long grade from below the Mill River to North Amherst!
Academically, we took the prescribed freshman courses. I was able to give Dar some help with math and English—stemming from our respective secondary schools’ preparatory curricula—but our tracks then diverged as sophomores. Darwin went to the physical sciences, I to the social ones. Googling Darwin’s name, I found a citation from the Amherst College archives for his honors thesis in chemistry, the unlikely title “Experimentally reproducible liquid-liquid junctions.”
Together with almost two hundred classmates, we graduated from Amherst in June 1941. Memory recalls the prescient words of one of the Commencement speakers —John J. McCloy, Assistant Secretary of War—who told us in effect that most of our Class would be in uniform by year’s end. True for me, but Darwin’s employment with American Cyanamid on defense-related research kept him on the home front.
As our paths diverged during the war years, they converged thereafter. I had changed residence from New Jersey to New Canaan, CT. Darwin and his wife Janet lived in neighboring Norwalk. In a later switch, Dar and Janet were to establish permanent residence on White Oak Shade Road in New Canaan with their two sons, while in 1953 Margaret and I began our first year out of the air force at Wright-Patterson as residents of West Norwalk, just over the New Canaan line. Janet and Margaret grew a friendship throughout the fifties and sixties, comparing notes and news on our maturing families, their sons and our daughters, up to the years preceding Janet’s death in 1964.
In 1974, Dar married Kathleen Fackler, who had been active in education as a guidance counselor on Cape Cod and other locations. About the same time Darwin, after some thirty-five years with Cyanamid, elected to take early retirement from the company rather than accept a proffered relocation to New Jersey. Not that Dar sat on his hands in idleness! Always active (and outspoken) in New Canaan’s educational and political affairs, Darwin had served on that town’s Board of Education and its Parks and Recreation Commission. In the later seventies he became one of the founders of the Senior Men’s’ Club of New Canaan and one of its early presidents.
I should also mention that in “Googling” of the DeLapp name, one also finds it listed as an inventor on numerous patents issued to Cyanamid. Also cited are several of Darwin’s pithy and whimsical letters he was wont to address to the media. One of these, entitled “Fairy Tales” and addressed “To the Financial Editor –The New York Times,” compared the discipline of hard sciences (physics, chemistry) with that of the soft, specifying economics. Truly a multi-faceted individual, possessing a broad spectrum of interest and talents!
And so, good friend, “Ave atque vale,” hail and farewell! Swinburne said it better: ”For thee, O now a silent soul, my brother,
Take at my hands this garland, and farewell.”
—Edwin Dewey Frost, Jr. ’41