Patrick Stein

Our classmate and friend, Charlie Northrop, died last Wednesday in Denver.  He was at peace and with family.  He fought a brave battle against an abdominal malignancy that was incurable when discovered.  When I last saw him two years ago he said his oncologist was encouraged by his numbers.  But he had given away his dog.  He was curious about the end, particularly if there was a celestial moment as he stepped away.  

"Are there any roadsigns or signup sheets that hint at what's to do after check-in?" he had questioned playfully.

This was typical of Charlie's unique sense of humor.  He was delighted to tread the uncertain waters around irreverence and absurdity, willing to leave his listeners puzzled until they recognized that laughter was the only way to the surface.  After baiting his subjects he would look away pensively, then rescue them with a burst of laughter and a mischievous smile.  It's likely his humor was a key ingredient in his work as a lawyer, calming down angry clients and resolving conflicts out of court.

I first met Charlie the second day of Spring Rush, l960.  He was standing with Al Herzog on the back porch of AD.  We had the look of pound puppies still searching for a home.  Rush had not gone as planned and AD lost prized pledges to Beta and Theta Delt.  It appeared AD might be slipping from its pinnacle of self-importance.  They needed three warm bodies and we qualified.

The next year Charlie and I joined Lou Cushman to fill the second-worst room on the first floor.  It gathered all first floor noise and shared a bedroom wall with two sinks and three tall urinals in the first floor mens' room.  When flushed they roared like spring on the Colorado.

Charlie, like me, was a half-miler.  Also like me, he sucked.  If you remember his pigeon-toed gait you would call him a shuffler, not a runner.    He didn't train.  At the start of every freshman half-mile at Pratt Field he took off and led the pack for 200 yards.  Halfway through the race he was purple and in last place.  At the finish he was walking and looking for a place to lie down.  Couldn't talk or feel his feet.  People backed away for fear of having to carry him somewhere.  But he always finished.  Chip Conger, who could and did run every distance, is a Vermont country doctor who I'll bet could diagram Charlie's end of the race chemistry and testify it could not sustain life.

Charlie redeemed his athletic reputation in crew where he was a worthy oar in a very successful boat.

Charlie's pyre is ready.  If he could plan the whole thing he would place it in the varsity shell, fit the shell with a sail and push it gently into the Connecticut.  He would order the archers to shoot flaming arrows into the sail, counting on burning the boat to the waterline.  He would be delighted if the arrows missed or the burn was incomplete and the crew was left with an impossible cleanup.  Can you hear his laughter in the mist?

Bill Strong

Thanks for the link to the Denver Post obit.   Chuck certainly led a full and rich life.   As the only two Amherst ‘63 grads in our first year class at Penn Law that fall, Chuck and I shared an apartment in West Philly.   He was a delightful roommate--respectful, neat(organized our fridge into his side and mine), and with a droll wit.  I will never forget the two of us frozen in front of the small tv we had in our living room watching coverage after JFK’s assassination that fateful afternoon. 

I discovered at one of our reunions in the ‘80’s, when Chuck was serving as VP/General Counsel of Conrail in Philadelphia, that he was occupying the same office in 30th St. Station that my father-in-law had 20 years earlier as a senior executive of Penn Central.   Although we had not known each well at Amherst, we developed a very nice friendship afterwards.   He was truly one of the good guys.

Onnie McKenzie

Thanks, Patrick, for that wonderful tribute to Chuck Northrop. I was fortunate enough to have dinner with him twice, including the first day of our 50th reunion. I believe I got to know him better during those few hours than during our time at Amherst. He was a good man, and you are right about his sense of humor. Sometimes, when it seemed he was being critical, he had a twinkle in his eyes, a seeming laugh at the world as he saw it. This is another sad loss for our great class.