Amherst Magazine

Peter King ’66

Deceased October 16, 2010

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    I just spoke to the widow of Peter King ‘66 — Dedie “Schmit” King — who graduated from Mt. Holyoke in 1966 & went with Peter to Nepal.   I had not spoken to Dedie since Peter died and when I asked her about how she was doing, she said that she was still still in mourning and misses Peter tremendously.  However, she said she was keeping up with her own life, working part-time as an acupuncturist, and now writing a series of bi-lingual children's books, the latest of which is about Afghanistan:
                 http://www.iseethesunbooks.com/

    In our senior year, Dedie was the leader of the Mt. Holyoke chapter of SDS (Students for a Democratic Society) & was one of the greatest militants protesting the war in Vietnam in what was then a sleepy 4-college area.   Mt. Holyoke was particularly soporific & Dedie was one of three Mt. Holyoke students who triple-handedly together woke up the Mt. Hadley campus to the crimes being perpetuated in the name of the American people in Vietnam.   Peter was my friend who had come back from his Junior year abroad in England & we had become hiking buddies exploring the hidden hills of Western Massachusetts.

    I found out (almost) exactly 45 years ago today (this is being written in 2011 just after Easter) that they both had been assigned to the Peace Corps in Nepal, & when I had made a Platonic date with Dedie in order to patiently explain to her why it would still be a while before we could stop the war in Vietnam — I had told her that my re-search had revealed that President Johnson had become an even more committed war criminal after he had totally fabricated the Gulf of Tonkin incident so he could mercilessly drop more & more bombs on essentially defense-less North Vietnamese civilians:

            http://www.infoplease.com/ce6/history/A0849037.html

As we were driving with her at the wheel (in her white Nash ever so monstrously huge American car) right past the apple orchard where Hampshire College was eventually to be, I told Dedie about the coincidence of 2 of my good friends being assigned to the Peace Corps in Nepal.

    Having given Dedie this crucial piece of data, she & Peter did see each other for literally only 10 seconds in Amherst (Peter told me he was impressed by her even in those 10 seconds), but got to know each other a little bit more at the Peace Corps training camp in Hawaii, but then quite a bit more in Nepal (where they got married after 2 years spending much time together in each others’ Nepalese villages).

    A little bit of their story later, after marrying, they had 2 children, one of whom was named Simon & was also to become an Amherst graduate (‘96), another of whom was named Sophie & like the root of her name was to grow greatly in wisdom, & each of these 2 children was to become a parent of 2 more children: 
                                        http://www.gazettenet.com/2010/10/20/peter-king-66-amherst-college-alum

    Peter took 10 months to die from a rare form of duodenal cancer between December 2009 & October 16th, 2010.  He died in his home in Hardwick, Massachusetts where I had visited him about a dozen times in the 1970’s & 1980’s where Dedie & Peter always gladly put me up & even taught me cross-country ski-ing.  Dedie told me that Peter had died in their bed late in the afternoon (at around 5:30 PM) & she had asked for the body to remain exactly where it was at least until the wee hours of the morning & because she never left the body she watched his face change after death & (just before mid-nite) Peter’s mouth that had been frozen open at the moment he had died had (gradually) somehow closed & after his mouth had closed, there arose a sweet smile & he began looking 20 years younger.

    In this same room,  Dedie was present two weeks after Peter’s death & she saw the room fill with a type of light that she had never seen before in her home — what Wordsworth had described in his ELEGIAC STANZAS:

       
Ah! then, if mine had been the painter's hand     
           To express what then I saw, and add the gleam,     
       The light that never was, on sea or land,             15
                     The consecration, and the Poet's dream,—
I can apperceive that Peter King left me with this gift:
      The light that never was, on sea or land,
                The consecration, and the Poet's dream,
 

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