Russ Moro—his late-life nom de plume Tom Reveille—died in Napa Calif., March 9, 2008. A memorial service was held May 18 at his son Sandro’s home, with classmates Dave Keightley and Paul Schmidt among those in attendance. The shock of losing this intellectual giant of our Class was biting. One of two ’53 summa cum laudes, Russ was a legend in our day, from his high-90s course marks to recitals from memory of page after page from Virgil, The Iliad and other classics. He made a mark on all who knew him or knew of him—including Robert Frost for whom he had great love and admiration.
Born in 1932 in Rome, Russ was the son of an Italian businessman and an American mother, whose family moved to New York City in 1937 to escape Mussolini. He graduated from Trinity School in Manhattan, valedictorian of his class. At Amherst, his intelligence somehow absolved him from English 1-2. He spent his Amherst years learning, writing and performing with great resonance in roles such as Claudius in Hamlet and Prospero in The Tempest.
After Amherst, he earned a master’s in comparative literature at England’s Cambridge, where he continued to appear in Shakespeare plays. From 1956-1959, he studied at the Yale School of Drama, acting in summer stock and the New York Shakespeare Festival. He later taught English at Amherst for a year.
Then it was on to Paris and his best, most productive years. There he married his only wife, Ginger. They had a son, Sandro, and helped found the English-speaking Studio Theater, acting in plays like Brecht’s Mother Courage. Russ directed Ginger in La Ronde. He also translated and dubbed many foreign films, creating the “English” voices of Vittorio Gassman, Marcello Mastroianni and many others. He was post-production secretary for The Trial, directed by Orson Welles, who highly respected his talents.
In the turbulent ’60s, he and Ginger started to support radical causes and events, like the Paris student uprisings. Russ decided they should return to the U.S. to take part in the changes occurring here. While searching for a place to settle, he joined a commune, Ginger opting for an apartment in San Francisco with Sandro. They divorced in 1975, as Russ became more deeply involved in political causes and the pursuit of social justice.
Russ attended his only Amherst Reunion—our 30th in 1983—after changing his name to Tom Reveille, an amalgam of Tom Paine and a passion to awaken the public to government/social/economic ills. He kept in contact with classmates, Professor Bill Pritchard recalling quite regular conversations, sometimes helping Russ identify poems from lines he already knew in his own head. His main pursuit in the last two decades of his life was the establishment and management of a charitable and educational trust through which he touched the lives of people from many different walks of life.
Health problems took over, starting in the ’60s. Russ suffered permanent hearing damage from a blank shot to the head acting in Clint Eastwood’s 1962 film Magnum Force. Much later, two open heart surgeries and refusal of hip surgery left him in a wheelchair. With non-Hodgkins lymphoma, he died of pulmonary edema and congestive heart failure in hospice near Sandro’s home in Napa, Calif. Survivors are his brother Anton (Tony) Moro; Sandro Moro, a photographer and California wine businessman; and Sophia, Sandro’s three-year old daughter. Ginger Moro, who also deeply suffered the loss, is now a writer in Los Angeles.
Classmates contributed tributes and anecdotes, some brief excerpts here. Dave Slawson: “I never had discussions about literature with anyone else who had his insight . . . I liked him immensely and will miss him very much.” Jim Davis: “He played a key role in a real intellectual feast those years at the Lord Jeff Club.” Bill Sayres: “No one but Russ could have guided my brain and hand through a particular King Lear assignment” and “He died in a world he didn’t know or, rather, wasn’t interested in knowing him.”
Sandro Moro recalls that Russ thought of himself as “The Oven Bird” and often cited two lines from another Frost poem called “The Lovely Shall Be Choosers,” sometimes referring to others, sometimes referring to himself:
She fails from strangeness to a way of life
She came through too high too late to learn.
—Philip W. Ransom, Jr. ’53