Harry M. Sisson, Jr.
Harry M. Sisson, Jr.image

I have had the pleasure of knowing Harry for 60 years.  It all started in 1947 when we together entered Roosevelt Junior High School in Westfield, New Jersey.  That was a long time ago and I have few such good friends that I have known as long.  So it is with great sadness that I must acknowledge Harry’s passing on September 19, 2007.  Harry succumbed to esophageal cancer which was first diagnosed during the summer of 2006.  Harry became ill as he and Lou were about to begin an extended trip to Alaska in their beloved RV.

Harry was born on October 9th 1935 in Rahway, New Jersey.  His parents who predeceased Harry were Harry M. Sisson, Sr., Amherst ’29, and Helen Tripp Sisson.  He graduated from Westfield Senior High in 1953 and from Amherst College in 1957.  While at Amherst Harry majored in Economics and was a member of the freshman and varsity football teams.  He was a member of the Beta Theta Pi fraternity.

Harry was known by several names.  At home and among his many friends he was known as “Pete,” presumably to differentiate him from his dad.  Among his Beta Brothers he was often referred to as “Harry the Cat.”  My dad called Harry “Silent Harry.”  Harry was indeed the epitome of the “strong and silent type,” but by no means did that mean that he lacked strong feelings that he was reluctant to express when occasions warranted.

From Junior High School through his years at Amherst Harry was a warrior on the football field.  What he lacked in size he more than made up for in heart.  We were all proud to call Harry a teammate.  I don’t believe he ever missed a practice over this ten year period.

On September 1st 1962 Harry married the love of his life, Lou.  Together they had two daughters, Janet S. Wilson of New Hampshire and Judianne S. Wallace of Connecticut.  Harry is also survived by grandsons James and Jason Wallace, sons-in-law Dan Wilson and Jeff Wallace, his brother Jerry, Amherst ’61, of Colorado and his sister Sally Sandberg of New Hampshire. 

After a long career with Armstrong Rubber Company Harry retired in 1986 and he and Lou became innkeepers.  They purchased the Wakefield Inn in Wakefield, New Hampshire and ran it successfully for 16 years.  But as many have discovered, running an inn involves more than a 24/7/365 commitment.  They sold the inn in 2002 and embarked on the next adventure of their lives.

In September 2002 Harry and Lou began full time RVing.  During their time on the road, they saw much of the United States, traveling at their own pace and enjoying the ride.  Several times they stopped for three-month periods and volunteered at campgrounds and state parks as hosts which gave them the opportunity to really get to know the history of the area.    They especially enjoyed going to events they had always wanted to see such as the Hot Air Balloon Fiesta in New Mexico and the Rose Bowl Parade on New Year's Day in California. They also gathered with other RVers for caravans into Mexico and Canada.  National Parks across the United States were their favorite places to go and stay for extended periods of time exploring and hiking.  This was a very special period in their lives, filled with good times and wonderful places and people that they met along the way.

When Harry became ill he and Lou returned East and he went under the care of oncological specialists at Yale New Haven Hospital.  His classmates were very happy that Harry and Lou were able to join us for our 50th Reunion.  While he needed to take time outs from time to time to restore his strength, there was little that he missed.  While on campus Harry was able to find and visit his Dad’s memorial, which is uniquely located near Valentine Hall.

Many thanks to Lou Sisson for her contributions to this In Memory piece and to Harry’s brother Jerry ’61, sister Sally and roommate Bill Ziegenfus for reviewing it.

-Bill Donohue '57