Deceased December 1, 1974

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In Memory

Tragedy befell Tom Weiskel and his family on Sunday, Dec. 1, 1974. Late in the afternoon, Tom had been skating on a pond near his home in Leverett, towing his 2-year-old daughter, Shelburne, behind him on a sled. The ice gave way and both drowned. A number of other people were in the area but were not aware of the accident. Shelburne’s body was recovered that afternoon, but Tom’s body could not be found until late the next morning.

Tom was born in Hackensack, N.J., on June 5, 1945. He prepared for college at Newton High School, studied at Cambridge University in 1965 and graduated from Amherst magna cum laude and a member of Phi Beta Kappa and Alpha Delta Phi. He was a Woodrow Wilson Fellow at Yale where he earned his M.Phil. degree in 1969 and his doctorate in 1970. He then joined Yale’s English Department and was an assistant professor at the time of his death.

Tom was married to Portia Williams (Radcliffe ’65), of Belmont, in 1966. Since 1970 they made their home in Leverett from which he commuted regularly to New Haven.

He had recently completed a book soon to be published. Speaking of him and his work, Prof. Dwight Culler, chairman of the Yale English department, said: “Tom Weiskel was the kind of teacher who has a decisive impact on students’ lives, and he was one of our most brilliant younger members. His book on Romantic poetry and poetic theory, which he had just finished, is, we think, one of the finest to come out of our department.”

An editorial in the Amherst Record commented as follows:

“You will look far to find anyone who loved this area more than Tom Weiskel, who drowned with his young daughter at Leverett Pond on Sunday. … At a time when other young couples were putting money down on homes in suburbs, the Weiskels stretched their resources to buy some hilltop acres and a summer cabin in the Old World section of Deerfield. After Amherst, there were some years of hard work at Yale, with Portia teaching in a Connecticut high school (which had not seen her like at the head of many classrooms). Every chance they had they were back in the wide Connecticut valley of Massachusetts, sometimes in Deerfield, sometimes in Leverett, where they had rented while Tom finished his Amherst studies. The hilltop became a vegetable garden, a horse corral, a viewpoint over the Deerfield River (where inner tube cruising was a popular sport). Always Tom and Portia had projects going. Always, too, they had time to stop and visit with friends. … With his career launched through a faculty appointment at Yale—in the face of still competition for jobs—he might have moved south. But not Tom. Home was here, so he arranged a schedule which kept him in New Haven part of the week and here the rest of the time.

“Rest in peace, Tom, in this valley.”

Besides his widow, Tom is survived by his parents, Rev. and Mrs. Frank M. Weiskel, and two brothers, Tim C. and Peter-Paul K. Weiskel, all of Belmont. His father and his father-in-law, Rev. George H. Williams, both participated in his memorial service on December 5 at the Friends Meeting House in Leverett.