It is our sad duty to report that our classmate and friend, Peter Trinkaus ’75, passed away on March 29. Two years ago, Peter had the misfortune to be diagnosed with lung cancer even though he never smoked. True to form, he waged a courageous and inspiring battle against his disease before ultimately succumbing.
We first discovered Peter was no ordinary freshman when he popped into our room through a fourth floor window in Stearns. To our amazement, he simply explained that he did a little mountain climbing, and this was his idea of fun. It was all so typical of Peter—understated and impressive. That was our introduction to his passion for rock climbing, which he shared with several of us on the sheer walls of the Shawangunk Mountains. He was an excellent natural athlete and was the co-captain of his varsity soccer team at the Horace Mann School, though he never played varsity sports at Amherst. After Horace Mann, Peter went to Ann Arbor where his father taught history, and he graduated from Pioneer High School in 1971.
Peter influenced all our lives and was a part of the special chemistry that made our freshmen year together such a wondrous experience. We bonded over late-night sessions listening to Beethoven, talking about the Italian Renaissance, and debating who could scrape together the cash for a Bell’s special and borrow a car to pick it up.
At Amherst, Peter majored in neuroscience. He attended the Univ. of Michigan Medical School, graduating in 1979, and then went on to a residency in pediatrics at Stanford. It was there that he met his future wife, Martha Morrell, who was then a medical student. Peter subsequently went on to a fellowship in pediatric intensive care in Philadelphia and after that held clinical positions at Kaiser Permanente in the Bay Area as well as academic positions at Columbia and Stanford. His field of pediatric intensive care was well chosen as it required both the kindness and decency that were so characteristic of Peter, as well as his considerable intellect.
Despite his very challenging professional life, his family and home remained his first love. He was an excellent father to his three children, always finding the time to participate in their activities and remaining fully immersed in all aspects of their lives. Peter also was an avid gardener and naturalist. Even though he lived in many different parts of the country at different times, he always seemed to know every plant, tree, and shrub wherever he happened to live. On some of our visits, he would walk into his garden, pluck this or that, and use it to produce an excellent meal.
However, as accomplished as Peter was, it is the basics that remain with us—his generosity and grace and character.
After Peter was diagnosed with his illness, he fought hard, and there were times it appeared as though he might prevail. Sadly, that was not to be, but he was able to derive a measure of satisfaction from dying peacefully in his home, surrounded by those closest to him, his three children, Sam, Emily, Madeline and his wife, Martha. Our Class extends our sincerest condolences to them and to his mother, Sarah Trinkaus.
—John Spiegel ’75