Francis T. Plimpton '50
Deceased March 21, 2014
Our lifetime friend and roommate TP died in March at the age of 86.
A quiet man with a steadfast sense of purpose, TP's lasting contribution to the college was to found the Amherst College rowing program in 1948. He had learned to row at Exeter and brought his dedication to the sport with him. He started with one hand-me-down Pocock shell from Yale which Bob Buchanan '50 from the first crew remembers helping TP transport it from New Haven on top of the Plimpton family's 1930s four-door Pontiac convertible. The rickety first boathouse on the Amherst side of the river washed away, but by the second season, TP had us all building the second boathouse on the higher ground of the west side. The program has flourished ever since.
After Amherst TP served as an officer on a mine sweeper in the Korean War, and while still in the navy, he was married to his wife of 63 years, Susan Wadsworth (Smith '53). Released from the navy, they settled in North Kingstown, R.I.
TP worked first at Brown University as its liaison during the design and construction of the medical school, but soon thereafter, he turned to landscape architecture, forming Plimpton Associates with his wife, also a landscape architect. He became professionally licensed in the New England states and in Florida. Together they developed a highly regarded practice. TP served two terms as a trustee of the American Society of Landscape Architects. In 1987 they sold his grandfather's family home in Ormond Beach and moved themselves and their business to Florida.
Throughout his life TP was an avid oarsman. He was a steward for the crew at Brown, and he served as president of the Narragansett Boat Club in Providence where he started its continuing sponsorship of annual regattas. In Florida he cofounded the Halifax Rowing Association in Daytona Beach. Once again he was instrumental in the construction of a substantial boathouse which is today the home of a full-blown community rowing program. And all the while he rowed and competed in his single scull, finally retiring when he became ill at the age of 82.
Sailing his beloved ketch, Maltesa, beekeeping and music were other passions. TP played his flute daily and in church, played piano duets with friends and developed a treasured collection of woodwind instruments.
He is survived by Susie, their children Peter and Jane, and three grandchildren. TP was a committed individual who touched many lives by his leadership and dedication.
John Stookey '52
Some of my classmates may not know that I spent an extra year at Amherst graduating in February 195` and then staying on for the spring semesters to take extra courses to better qualify for Naval OCS. This gave me an opportunity to pin my sweetheart Susie who was attending Smith and coach the freshman crew from a single scull. Our marriage started in the South while I served on a destroyer in Norfolk, then on minesweepers in Charleston and a tour in the Mediterranean with the 6th fleet.
Back in civilian life we settled in the Philadelphia area where I got deep into the technical world of the instrument business and technical editing at IRON AGE being thankful for my English degree under Armour Craig. We were blessed with two children, Peter in 1955 and Jane in 1959. During this time Susie got her training in horticulture and landscape architecture at the Ambler Campus of Temple and we built our first greenhouse in Gladwyne.
A yearning to move to New England and a boat business led us to Rhode Island where we spent the next 30 years on 17 acres with a farm house and vacations under sail and eventually two more greenhouses. While Susie slowly built her practice of landscape architecture, I went on sales engineering in oceanographic instrumentation and then to Brown University as an administrator during the formative years of the new medical school. I served as a liaison between the faculty and architects and engineers during the development of the medical center seeing its construction to final completion.
Coinciding with my commitment to Christ in 1971, I joined a church orchestra with my flute recalling many hours of practice in the Octagon. This is a pleasure I continue to this day.
Having been involved with Susie’s practice on the side, I joined a landscape architecture firm for a year before joining Susie with her practice. Thus began an exciting adventure of a practice throughout New England and New York combining Susie’s horticultural knowledge and my graphics ability. We specialized in coastal and residential design. As members of the American Society of Landscape Architects we were founding members of the Rhode Island Chapter or ASLA and I served for five years as Trustee of the national organization.
Planning ahead, I studied Florida plantings and in 1987 became licensed to practice landscape architecture in Florida. We were fortunate enough to be able to buy back my Ames grandparent’s home “The Whim” in Ormond Beach in 1987. We moved here full time in 1991. We built orchid greenhoueses for Susie’s orchid collection following my grandfather’s orchid background. We’re both serving on commitees of the American Orchid Society, the historical for me and the outreach for Susie.
Living on the banks of the Halifax River, I continue my rowing and am one of the founders of the Halifax Rowing Association in Daytona, running regattas and competing in masters events.
While I retired in 1988 and sold all my CAD computer equipment, I do occasional consulting, loving being back drawing designs by hand. Son Peter is in computers in Hood River, OR. Daughter Jane, a landscape designer like her mother, lives in West Simsbury, CT with husband Harold Gottier and my children, Ashley and Melissa.