Deceased October 29, 2007
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Stephen I. Allen, 92, died Monday, Oct. 29, 2007, at Cooley Dickinson Hospital after a brief respiratory infection. A memorial service was held at the First Congregational Church.
Steve was born in Holyoke, MA, the grandson, son, and younger brother of physicians. He went to Holyoke High School, then to Deerfield Academy, Amherst College, and Harvard, where he took every chemistry and English course he had time for, but he loved the order in math. He liked explaining things as a camp counselor, so he went into teaching at prep schools in Cuba, Wilbraham, and Palm Beach before the war, and then for thirty-three years at UMass afterwards.
When Pearl Harbor happened, Steve had already been drafted, pulled into the artillery, and through ninety-day officer training. He was attached to a former Tennessee National Guard unit; they shipped out from San Francisco in October of 1943, practiced a little in Australia, then fought in New Guinea and the Philippines. With his natural appetite for precision, order, and logic, he was the obvious guy to load the unit into landing craft; you have to fit everything possible in it, while remembering that the first stuff needed out has to go in last.
After the war, Steve continued in the reserves, driving to Springfield an evening each week to teach artillery matters and to Fort Leavenworth for two weeks each summer. When he became a colonel, he told his sons it was how the US Army got people out of the way. In fact, the army had asked him to become an active-duty general, but he didn’t want to put his family through the move.
Four weeks before shipping to Australia, he had asked his fiancée, Gretchen Friedrich, to drive to San Francisco, where a classmate of his father married them. After two years of war, they settled in Amherst, arriving at UMass in its very last year as Massachusetts Agricultural College. They began slowly improving a small cape on Fairfield Street, where they raised two sons (John of Buckland and Eric of Amherst) and lived a lifetime only a stone’s throw from where both had been born (Holyoke) and both had gone to prep school (Stoneleigh-Burnham and Deerfield) and to college (Amherst and Smith).
Nearly every summer of Steve’s life, with Gretchen and before then, was spent a little farther north at Steve’s family’s camp in Marlow, NH, where hemlocks, pines, and granite meet a beautiful lake, and generations of cousins reacquaint each year. In other spare time, Steve played violin or sang tenor with the First Church choir or improved their house, performing most skilled trades himself.
Steve was a modest man, quiet, given to reading and thinking, and with a wry New England humor.
In very recent years, peripheral neuropathy made walking more difficult and memory loss rendered everything harder, but Steve forged on with a dogged commitment to being independent.
Steve leaves two great-grandchildren, two grandchildren, his wife of sixty-four years, two sons who worship the air he breathed, and a Pyrenees mix that counted on Steve to stop the thunder. His determination and integrity will be missed by all of them.