Amherst Magazine

Neil A. Franzen ’53

Neil A. Franzen ’53 died January 1, 2010.
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On Jan. 1, 2010, Neil Franzen ’53 died at his lakeside home in Cotuit, Cape Cod. Legally blind, he had been plagued with severe cancer and major operations for some time. On Feb. 6, more than 30 of his family, friends, classmates and others gathered for an hours-long memorial at that home—including his daughter, Claudia, who came from China, and his sons, Larry and Robert. It was a powerful, uplifting gathering—full of anecdotes, insights, readings, reminiscences, even the group singing a French sonnet—all set up by separate decades of Neil’s life. Truly a beautiful send-off.

            From Itasca, Ill., Neil was Amherst ’53 but graduated with ’55 after U.S. Navy duty. At the memorial, Cap Woodruff ’53 read a compassionate, anecdotal letter from Harvey Gerry ’53, who could not attend. I added notes from my close friendship with Neil on the Cape, plus those of a recent conversation with John Kunz ’53 and his wife, Mary. In our sophomore year, Neil, Cap, Harvey and John roomed together in NorthCollege—reuning in 2002 at the magnificent home Neil had built on Cape Cod.

            A charmer and savant, Neil was best known for his love of learning and languages, his brilliant career in international banking—at Chase, Continental Illinois and Banco di Sicilia—and, most of all, his passion for foreign travel, visiting some 140 of the world’s 200 countries in his lifetime.

            At the memorial, his son, Larry, a Los Angeles video producer, spoke of a moment hiking in Joshua Tree National Park, just before learning of Neil’s death: “Something in me kept pushing me forward, higher and higher. I had this vision of climbing Mt.Kilimanjaro with my dad. I strongly believe it was my father saying goodbye to me.”

—Philip W. Ransom, Jr. ’53

 

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