In Memoriam

The In Memoriam page is where Amherst College posts notices of the deaths of any current faculty members, staff members, students or trustees, as well as faculty or staff who have retired from the College. Scroll down on this page to see the most recent notices.

Members of the Amherst community are invited to log in and leave comments on each notice, to share memories and honor the deceased. Login is also required if you wish to read comments left by others.

Alumni obituaries and remembrances can be found on the In Memory page and in the print version of each issue of Amherst magazine.

Elizabeth Perry (1937-2022)

Amherst College mourns the passing of Elizabeth Perry on July 7, 2022. Perry came to the College in 1965 and worked as a key-punch operator and quality-control clerk. In 1984, she became a custodian and worked in that position until her retirement in 1999.
 
Please see this obituary for more information.

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Marlin Ball (1950–2022)

Amherst College mourns the passing of Marlin Ball on May 23, 2022. Ball came to the College in 1975 as a dining hall assistant. In 1980, he transferred to Landscape and Grounds, where he worked as a groundsman, and in 2007, he became the truck driver in the recycling program. Ball retired from the College in 2014.
 
Please see this brief obituary for more information.

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Richard J. Cody (d. 2022)

Amherst College mourns the passing of Richard J. Cody, the Eliza J. Clark Folger Professor of English, Emeritus, on April 30, 2022. Professor Cody taught at Amherst from 1963 until his retirement in 2002.
 
Please see this obituary for more information.

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Raymond J. Decker (1926–2022)

Amherst College mourns the passing of Raymond Decker on April 24, 2022. Decker came to the College in 1981 as a post office clerk and was promoted to post office supervisor in 1984. He retired in 1989.
 
Please see this obituary for more information.

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Gordon A. Jones (1938–2022)

Amherst College mourns the passing of Gordon A. Jones, on April 11, 2022. Jones came to the College in 1989 as a patrol officer in the Amherst College Police and worked in that position until his retirement in 2000.
 
Please see this obituary for more information.

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Hardy Thrasher (d. 2022)

Amherst College mourns the passing of Hardy Thrasher on March 31, 2022. Thrasher came to the College in 1991 as a second cook in Dining Services and worked in that position until his retirement in 2021. 
 
An obituary will be linked here when it becomes available.

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Lorraine Martinelli (1936-2022)

Amherst College mourns the passing of Lorraine Martinelli on March 2, 2022. Martinelli came to the College in 1994 and worked in the salad prep area of Dining Services until her retirement in 2000. She continued to work at Dining Services in a casual capacity for an additional 10 years.
 
Please see this brief obituary for more information.

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James Maraniss (1945-2022)

Amherst College mourns the passing of James Maraniss, professor emeritus of Spanish, on Jan. 9, 2022. He arrived at the College in 1972 and retired in 2015.
 
Maraniss' life and career—including his work as librettist for the Pulitzer Prize-winning opera Life Is a Dream, composed by music professor Lewis Spratlan—were the subject of a pair of articles in the Summer 2010 issue of Amherst magazine.
 
For more information, please see this obituary by Dave Zweifel and this New York Times obituary, as well as the following obituary prepared by Professor Maraniss himself:
 
James Maraniss, a retired professor of Spanish and European studies at Amherst College, died on Jan. 9, 2022, in Chesterfield, Mass., where he had lived with his wife, Virginia Kaeser, a photographer and nursery school teacher, for [many] years. He is survived by his wife; their children—Ben, of New York; Elliott, of Boston; Lucia, of San Francisco—stepson Michael Kelly, of Berkeley, Calif.; brother David, a biographer, and his wife, Linda, of Washington, D.C.; sister Jean, a librarian, and her husband, Michael Alexander, of Pittsburgh, Pa.; plus five nephews, one niece, seven grandnieces and two grandnephews. His youngest sister, Wendy, died in an auto crash in 1997. She was a distinguished pianist.
 
Jim was the eldest son of Elliott Maraniss and Mary Cummins Maraniss of Madison, Wis. His father, born in Boston and raised in Brooklyn, met his mother, born in Superior, Neb., at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, where Jim was born on March 22, 1945, while his father served as a lieutenant in the Army of the United States for the invasion of Okinawa. Both parents were targets of the Red Scare of the 1950s, and the family of six led a life of internal refugees in Michigan, New York, Ohio and Iowa until finally settling in Wisconsin in 1957, where Mary and Elliott found work as editors, one for a progressive newspaper, the Madison Capital Times, and the other for the University of Wisconsin Press.
 
Jim attended Madison West High School, where his English teacher was Gretchen H. Schoff, a native of Stevens Point, Wis., who embodied his newly adoptive motherland, and who showed him what a teacher could be, until 1962, and then Harvard College, from which he graduated in 1966. In college he caught an interest in Spanish literature from Professor Stephen Gilman, and later, after graduate school at Princeton—where his important teacher and mentor was a Texan, Professor Edmund L. King—he taught at Amherst College for more than 40 years.
 
His role in life was that of a professor at Amherst College, where his favorite and most popular courses dealt with Cervantes, the cinema of Luis Buñuel, 17th-century European theater, the Spanish Civil War (in which his maternal uncle Bob Cummins had been a volunteer in the Abraham Lincoln Brigade) and poetic translation. He never really understood why so many generations of students seemed to find him interesting, but they did, and he certainly valued them. He lived for the classroom.
 
It was as a translator that he sought to influence the wider English-speaking culture, first as the librettist of the Pulitzer Prize-winning opera Life Is a Dream (music by Lewis Spratlan), an exaltation of the Baroque play by Pedro Calderón de la Barca, and second as the maker of translations of the work of the exiled Cuban author Antonio Benitez-Rojo, notably the historical novel Sea of Lentils (El mar de las lentejas) (University of Massachusetts Press, 1990) and the essays concerning the Caribbean in The Repeating Island (Duke University Press, 1992). He could be considered an authority on the works of Calderón de la Barca, although he thought such a distinction transitory.
 
Jim and Gigi lived in a near-paradisiacal near-wilderness beside the Westfield River in Chesterfield. Jim was a friend to some well-known cultural figures, without being one himself. Some of Jim’s closest friends were the actor John Lithgow, his classmate at Harvard College, and John’s brother David P. Lithgow, an ace pilot; the singer James Taylor, for whom he wrote part of the song “Only a Dream in Rio”; the novelist Robert Stone, an intimate friend, a poet of destructive passion, whom he met in Amherst in the early 1970s, and who was his traveling companion to Cuba and Central America; as well as his Amherst colleagues and collaborators Lewis Spratlan and Antonio Benitez-Rojo, whose glory he could be said to have reflected or shared. He enjoyed eating out with a regular group of friends, including Russianists Dale and Lorna Peterson and Stanley Rabinowitz; his interest in film was shared by Christian Rogowski and Helen von Schmidt of Amherst and Ted Braun of USC; his love of baseball by geologist John T. Cheney and UMass historian Bruce Laurie; his tie to the great tradition of Amherst English by William H. Pritchard '53; his love of science by the learn’d astronomer George Greenstein; his love of music by Smith College composer Donald Wheelock; his love for art and art history by Timothy Segar, Charles Kanwischer, Nicola Courtright and Mark and Katja Oxman; his ability as a friend by Amherst College historians Frank Couvares and William Taubman, by Janice Stone, by Paul Rockwell, by Smith College Luso-Brazilianist Charles Cutler, and by his lifetime best friend Charles Warren of Boston and North Carolina.
 
He was a member of the West Cummington Congregational Church, UCC, where his minister was Stephen Philbrick.

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Sophie Rajter (1927-2021)

Amherst College mourns the passing of Sophie Rajter on Dec. 28, 2021. Rajter came to the College in 1949 and worked for several years as a secretary in the Health Office. She returned in 1968 and worked as a research assistant in the biology lab. In 1988, Rajter moved to Frost Library as an assistant in the audiovisual department. She retired in 1993.
 
Please see this obituary for more information.

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Robert W. Derynck (1943-2021)

Amherst mourns the passing of Robert W. Derynck on Dec. 14, 2021. He came to the College in 1976 as assistant equipment manager in the athletics department and worked in the position through his retirement in 2009. 
 
Please see this obituary for more information.

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David Reck (d. 2021)

Amherst College mourns the passing of David Reck, professor emeritus of music and Asian languages and civilizations, on Sept. 30, 2021. Reck was a member of the Amherst faculty between 1975 and 2006.

Provost and Dean of the Faculty Catherine Epstein wrote the following in an Oct. 7 email to faculty and staff:

David’s departmental colleagues describe him as a generous, passionate teacher who embodied the spirit of music in the liberal arts, a colleague and mentor of exceptional warmth, and a musician and scholar whose gifts, curiosity, and accomplishments transcended boundaries.

The professor’s family is planning a memorial service for early 2022; more information will be provided, as will a link to an obituary, when it becomes available.

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Joel Gordon (1930-2021)

Amherst College mourns the passing of Joel E. Gordon, the Stone Professor of Natural Science (Physics), Emeritus, on Aug. 10, 2021. Joel taught at Amherst between 1957 and 2000.

Provost and Dean of the Faculty Catherine Epstein wrote the following in an Aug. 13 email to faculty and staff:

Joel’s departmental colleagues describe him as “a kind and dedicated teacher who also maintained an active research program at Amherst and lively collaborations around the world for five decades in condensed matter physics. In addition, he was a generous guide and mentor to generations of faculty, staff, and students.”

No information is available at present about services for Joel, but if we learn more, we will post this information on the college’s In Memoriam page.

Please consult this obituary for further details.

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Stanley Mieczkowski (1934–2021)

Amherst College mourns the passing of Stanley Mieczkowski on June 12, 2021. Mieczkowski came to the College in 1985 as a carpenter and cabinet maker and worked in that profession through his retirement in 2006.

Please see this brief obituary for more information.

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Marjorie Farrell (1928–2021)

Amherst College mourns the passing of Marjorie Farrell on April 23, 2021. Farrell came to the College in 1971 as a clerk/typist in the Dean of the Faculty's Office. In 1980, she became the secretary in Financial Aid. She became the fellowship assistant in 1989 and worked in that position until her retirement in 1991. 

Please see this brief obituary for more information.

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