Bart Cummings died suddenly on Christmas Day, 2008. I spoke with him the previous week, after his Christmas letter indicated he had not been feeling well. Diagnosed as having calcific aortic stenosis he was considering a valve transplant. He sent me a copy of his echocardiogram, but I received it a couple days after his death. Unfortunately, sudden death without much or any warning is quite common with this condition.
Bart came to Amherst following a long family tradition which included his father (1919), several cousins, two granduncles, a grandfather (1880) and two great-grandfathers (1847 and 1849). Born in Brooklyn, N.Y., Jan. 19, 1926, he grew up in New Rochelle. After high school, he enlisted in the U.S. Army Air Corps in 1943 at age 17, serving as a tail gunner and control tower operator in the U.S. and Pacific. At Amherst, he was three or four years older than most of us, as such we looked upon his debonair, experienced, man of the world demeanor with some deference, especially for advice on how to “improve our chances” with the opposite sex, little of which, unfortunately, proved effective. Bart was a good athlete, pitching for the baseball team and playing on the line in football.
Bart, Al Lerner and I roomed together at Psi U. our last two years. He was uniformly admired for his commitment, warm friendship and wry humor. He and I bonded particularly in the arduous task of having the Boston Globe and New York Herald Tribune concession our senior year. Up at 6 a.m. daily, we ran up and down the stairs at all the dorms and fraternity houses delivering the papers to the subscriber’s rooms, each of us earning a few hundred bucks for the year to help us through.
Bart was always of good spirits and fun to be around. A twinkle in his eye indicated some sort of mischief, and he was not one to lag behind or discourage some crazy idea or endeavor. He was one of the perpetrators of the Sabrina heist as he, Moose and Hobie violated the Mann Act by transporting the lady across the state lines to an old barn in Brattleboro, Vt., owned by a friend of Bart’s father. I carried around the acetylene torch in the trunk of my car, wondering when I would be busted for contraband.
After parting Amherst, we remained in pretty close contact, he making the long trek to Presque Isle, Maine, in 1956 to usher at my wedding to Arlanne MacDonald.
Bart had a successful business career, beginning as a purchasing agent with U.S. Rubber. Later, he became president, New York Federal Savings & Loan Assn.; senior vice president, Dry Dock Savings Bank; and, finally, a financial planner with the Mutual Life Ins. Co.
He married Margaret Murray in 1961, and they had two children, Robert and Allison, the latter producing two grandchildren, Gavin and Audrey Davies. Retiring in 1989, he and Margaret moved to an antique farmhouse in Bradford, Vt. Ten years later, they moved to Tryon, N.C., where he was active in the Rotary Club and golfing.
Bart was devoted to Amherst, expressed not only by his support of the Alumni Fund but regularly attending reunions. He contributed to the frivolity but also to the existential and philosophic discussions about which our reunions always centered. To that I can hear Bart saying “Har de har har” as I wipe away this tear. He was a great guy and great friend.
Margaret’s sister has a condo in Palm Coast near us, and Arlanne and I got together with Bart, Margaret and her sister on several occasions. We came to love Margaret and appreciate that old buddy Bart was lucky enough to have a life with such a person. We extend our sincere condolences to Margaret and the family. If you would like to contact Margaret, her information is available through the Alumni Office.
—Dick Snodgrass ’51