Richard R. Willoughby '69
Richard R. Willoughby '69 died on October 27, 2010.
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The phone rings.
An old friend calling after a long hiatus, especially at our age, gets the “what’s wrong?” vibe going. But Richard R. Willoughby ’69, aka Willows, sounded as jovial as ever.
We’d stayed in touch, sporadically, since graduating, and at times had come to one another’s emotional rescue, whether we were both in New York City, in the mid-1980s, when he worked at NBC, or were separated by a continent after he moved home to Sebastopol, Cal. and got involved in the dot-com world as a senior vice president at PC World Communications.
I commented on the long time between calls. He replied, with his Willows chuckle, that, after a series of examinations, it turned out he had six months to live. Cancer. “I didn’t want you to learn that I’d died by seeing some item in the Amherst alumni notes,” he said. “I’m telling you and I told Bill McGowan. Bill asked to see my tests and showed them to his doctor friends.” He laughed again. “They told him, ‘Your friend’s fucked!’”
Advised that chemotherapy could extend his life, he decided, with his beloved wife, Janet, that they wanted to enjoy as long as possible what had been a long and happy marriage—a life private and idyllic—without affecting its quality by the ordeal of a chemo regime.
I was recovering from pneumonia. “I thought I had it bad,” I said. Typically, he became more concerned about my illness than his own. His last e-mail to me was a reply to a note I’d passed him from Doug Clark ’70:
Hi Mon Ami,
Many thanks for passing along Doug’s note. What a good guy! His question same as mine: you now fully on the mend?
No substantive news here. Pls e-mail w/Ed med update when you get a chance...
PS: Here’s one of Janet's fav pix of me from back in the days when I actually (sort of) had some hair. :-)
When I first met Willows, he indeed had hair. He looked elegant, and a little feral. I learned he was a gentleman, cored with steel, who feared nothing, not even heartbreak. Chivalry was his standard. In the end, he didn’t want sympathy, didn’t curse his luck. As usual, his concern was for another.
Edward Lee Corey ’70