Harry and I went back a long way to second grade in Holmes School in Darien, CT. He was the first person to say “hi” to a new transfer student. He has been saying “hi” to every one since. I was reminded by a Darien friend about Harry’s skill in conducting and organizing skits in our Cub Scout pack, the start of his great interest in theater.
Harry was a leader in our school days, not on the athletic fields, but in the classroom, on stage, in singing groups…Class President more than once, Honor Society, etc. But most of all he was respected by all for his big smile, his “yes, we can” (long before that became politically correct). He was such a leader that he even got called down (with 5-6 other real culprits) to the Principal’s office at our high school when some of our class had gone out of bounds. He was part of the gang, and he loved it.
Harry and I decided to go to Amherst together, following behind his brother Jerry. But before we left for Amherst I helped get Harry his first real job….pick and shovel at a local nursery company…real blisters too. In the second week he found himself on a small crew digging up an enormous yew and was working right next to a man who had just been released from prison after serving 10 years on a manslaughter charge. There he was with an unfamiliar shovel and an ex-con with a knife in his hand as they bagged that yew. Harry worked hard and fast!...and became a good summer acquaintance with the ex-con who, it turned out, loved to paint. So Harry arranged a sidewalk art exhibit in Norwalk, CT. Harry saw and brought out the best in people, including himself.
We all knew Harry as the Psi U with big energy and big voice, driving our yearbook through to a successful edition, and becoming a deep student of English literature, especially Dickens. His trek through and with Amherst continued on for the next 51 years, right up to his death on February 4, 2009. Leading us in song on so many different occasions, following behind Alan and Alison Schechter (even though it hurt) on our tour of Italy several years ago in pursuit of Robert Frost, his backstopping Ted Kambour as Vice President of our Class, and, for all too short a time, as Class President. And who can forget his memorable rendering of “Mending Wall” at the dedication of the Frost statue at our 50th Reunion.
After Amherst we all went our own ways, staying in touch as best we could. Harry and Julie married in 1962 and started an energetic trip together through life….and you all know the strength and energy that Julie brought to the trip. Harry continued the pursuit of his education with a Master of Arts from Stanford and a Doctorate from Columbia. He pursued a corporate life with J Walter Thompson for 29 years…admirable dedication…in New York, then to Frankfurt Germany, then back to New York. The sale of JWT created the opportunity for Harry to “spin himself out” and he established a management consulting partnership, Smith Clark Associates, helping multinational companies with multiple issues. He developed a computer simulation software program that continues to be used to train promising young executives all over the world in management skills.
Along the way, Harry and Julie produced 2 boys, Toby and Gregor, who became young men and husbands and fathers themselves. Five grandchildren came to know and love Harry deeply as their grandfather, and of course it went both ways.
We all know Harry, so no one will be surprised to learn that he became an active community member in Princeton, then in Amenia, NY and then back to Princeton where they have so many close friends. Zoning Boards, Planning Committees, local theater groups, the Trenton Children’s Chorus, and a very active participation in the life and leadership of the Trinity Episcopal Church in Princeton.
I can’t help but quote from Harry’s obituary as crafted lovingly but painfully by Julie and I’m sure Toby and Gregor too...”In the late ‘70’s he was a regular participant in the Inn Cabaret at the Nassau Inn where he appeared as the Lone Ranger at an Encounter Weekend, Clark Kent on his wedding night and as one of two multi-roled figures in a beloved and oft-repeated sketch, ‘Okay, Okay, Okay.’ He also appeared in many PJ&B productions including South Pacific, Brigadoon, and My Fair Lady, as well as a local production of The Runner Stumbles.”
And a further quote from one of Harry and Julie’s friends, Jim Flaherty, in a recent email...”Until you’ve seen Harry (and Julie) performing a Half-in-the-Bag Water Ballet presentation in Acapulco, you don’t really know Harry. For all his solidness, his good Christian structure, his thoughtful insights, he was basically a Class-A Whacko, and we’re going to miss all parts of his multi-faceted personality.” I think we all missed some great performances!
Does any one doubt that Harry left this world a better place, with big smiles and deep thoughts all around?
Sue and I sang a hymn in our church last week that spoke to me as I sat to write this last note to Harry.
"You raise me up, so I can stand on mountains;
You raise me up, to walk on stormy seas;
I am strong, when I am on your shoulders;
You raise me up, to more than I can be.”
Julie, you are always a member of the Class of ’57, and thank you, Harry…go in peace.
-Ken Kermes ‘57