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Hamilton Alumni Review
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Alumni Review — Spring 2013

 

John Karl Poppe ’33

John Karl Poppe ’33, a long retired thoracic surgeon, believed to be the last surviving member of his graduating class, was born on January 18, 1911, in Hammond, NY. His parents were the Rev. John D. and Harriet Clayton Poppe, a school teacher. Karl Poppe grew up in Clayville, NY, south of Utica, and later Clinton, where his father was pastor of the Methodist Episcopal Church. He entered Hamilton in 1929 from Utica Free Academy, became a member of Lambda Chi Alpha, and engaged in dramatics with the Charlatans. He also lettered in track and cross-country, and was captain of the cross-country team in his senior year. Described by The Hamiltonian as “on the whole, a pretty good egg,” he pursued a premedical course of study and was graduated in 1933.

Karl Poppe went on to medical school at the University of Rochester, where he earned his M.D. degree in 1937. After an internship in pediatrics at Strong Memorial Hospital in Rochester and in surgery at New Haven Hospital in Connecticut, he served his surgical residency at the latter. On May 30, 1940, he was married to Eleanor J. Wells, a nurse, in the Hamilton College Chapel.

In 1942, following a year as a resident in thoracic surgery at the Central Tuberculosis Sanatorium in Uncas on Thames, CT, Dr. Poppe took up a fellowship in that specialty at Washington University in St. Louis, MO. He remained on its medical faculty as an instructor in chest surgery until 1945. The following year, he settled permanently with his growing family in Portland, OR, and there established his private practice, which he would maintain for 32 years. During that time he treated thousands of patients and was credited with having saved many lives.

While in Portland, Dr. Poppe served as a consultant in chest surgery at the local Veterans Administration Hospital, as well as at the VA Hospital in Vancouver. He was also a consultant and instructor at the University of Oregon Medical School. The author of numerous articles in professional journals and contributor to the development of thoracic surgical techniques, he was a past president of the Oregon Lung Association and the Northwest chapter of the American College of Chest Physicians. Within the Portland community, he chaired the board of the First United Methodist Church.

Karl Poppe, who retired from his practice in 1978, enjoyed spending time on the beach at his summer home on the Pacific Ocean, “whenever the weather permits.” In old age, he maintained his fitness by swimming and working out in the gym. A widower after 47 years of marriage, he was wed to Joan Currie in 1988.

J. Karl Poppe, who remained close to the College through the years, died on November 22, 2012, at the age of 101. In addition to his wife, he is survived by his four children, Joanne Hesterman, Barbara Smith, David W. Poppe, and Betty Lou Pratt.
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Van Wyck Williamson ’36

Van Wyck Williamson ’36, who retired after 38 years with Public Service Electric & Gas Co. in his native New Jersey, was born in Newark on June 2, 1913. The son of James A., a civil engineer, and Helen Van Wyck Williamson, he grew up in Newark, where he was graduated from Barringer High School in 1932. Van Williamson enrolled at Hamilton that fall and soon added his tenor voice to the Choir. Credited by The Hamiltonian with having “a nice smile, a good radio, and above all a cute little convertible,” he focused his studies on economics and geology, and earned his B.S. degree in 1936.

Van Williamson found employment during the Depression era with the National Council of the Boy Scouts of America, serving as secretary of its Division of Operations at its headquarters in Manhattan. On August 6, 1938, he and Doris S. Knecht were married in Asbury Park, NJ. In 1940, he began his long career with Public Service Electric & Gas. Initially employed in its residential sales department, he later moved to merchandising as a sales clerk promoting energy for commercial and industrial uses. He retired from the public utility’s consumer affairs department at the mandatory age of 65 in 1978.

Van Williamson, “a confirmed Jerseyan,” as he once described himself, resided in Rutherford and Wood-Ridge at various times, and was actively involved in community organizations as well as the Presbyterian Church. Following his retirement, he and his wife moved to Lakehurst in Ocean County, where they both enjoyed the seashore and swimming. They also enjoyed travel and, adhering to the popular slogan “See America First,” they undertook recreational trips that extended from Bar Harbor, ME, to Seattle, WA, and Key West, FL, to San Diego, CA, as well as Hawaii. Along the way, Van had the opportunity to pursue one of his favorite hobbies, photography.

In 1996, the Williamsons moved from Lakehurst to Cape Cod, MA. Van Wyck Williamson, a faithfully supportive alumnus, was residing in Brewster when he died on September 21, 2012, in his 100th year. Predeceased by his wife after 67 years of marriage in 2006, he is survived by a daughter, Helen Bruinooge; a son, Richard D. Williamson; and three grandchildren, five great-grandchildren, and a sister.
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Frank Joseph Clark, Jr. ’37

Frank Joseph Clark, Jr. ’37, a private school teacher, musician, and exceptionally devoted alumnus, grew up in Utica, NY, where he was born on December 2, 1914. A son of Frank J., a police officer, and Gladys Roberts Clark, he entered Hamilton in 1932 as a graduate of Utica Free Academy. An accomplished violinist who had played with the Utica Symphony Orchestra, he soon took a prominent role in the musical life of the College. A member of the Musical Arts Society, he also played in the Glen Lane Jazz Band. His athletic activities were centered on baseball, and he became captain of the varsity team in his senior year.

Following his graduation in 1937, Frank Clark pursued his interest in music at Westminster Choir College in Princeton, NJ, where he earned a B.M. degree in 1941. He went on to acquire an M.A. in music from Columbia University in 1947. Through the years, he was a faculty member at various private schools, including Princeton Country Day, where he taught Latin, French, and music, and coached seasonal sports from 1945 to 1953. He was subsequently head of the foreign language department at Peddie School in New Jersey (1953-63) and the Pennington School, also in New Jersey (1964-71). In addition, he was for 15 summers an associate language instructor at Princeton High School.

While teaching, Frank Clark “moonlighted” as musical director for the DuPont Co. of Wilmington, DE. For 25 years, from 1947 to 1972, he conducted its 100-voice chorus and its chamber orchestra consisting of 50 instrumentalists. From rehearsal to performance, he led their participation in com pany-related public events ranging from annual spring concerts at Longwood Gardens to appearances on Cavalcade of America on radio. He also directed the U.S. Steel Chorus for a time.

Another phase of Frank Clark’s career began in 1970, when Films Inc., in association with Encyclopaedia Britannica, asked him to head a pilot program in coordinating audio-visual materials, especially films, for the curriculum of New Jersey secondary schools. He enjoyed being in touch with developing curriculum techniques and remained the project’s coordinator until his retirement in 1986.

Frank Clark was wed on December 25, 1941, in Princeton, to Jean H. Craig, a graduate of Westminster Choir College who shared his avid interest in music as well as collecting antiques for their large Victorian home. They also enjoyed winters in Florida and summers in New Hampshire. Frank, who was especially fond of tennis, played the game year-round for many years.

Above all, Frank Clark was devoted to Hamilton. He served the College in numerous capacities on virtually every level, and was a longtime president of the Alumni Association of Princeton as well as a member of the Alumni Council. Sporting buff-and-blue trousers, a straw boater, and a blazer festooned with Hamilton buttons and badges, he was a long familiar presence in the annual Reunion parade. In addition, he and Jean graciously opened their home to Hamiltonians in the Princeton area, making it the local alumni headquarters. In 2002, in recognition of his many volunteer contributions to his alma mater, Frank Clark received the College Key Award from the Alumni Council.

Frank J. Clark, Jr., a resident of Rocky Hill, NJ, long in declining health, died on January 11, 2013, at a skilled nursing facility in Lawrenceville, at the age of 98. In addition to his wife of 71 years, he is survived by three daughters, Christine G. Kerr, Abigail C. Ford, and Jennifer R. Clark. Also surviving are three grandchildren and five great-grandchildren. His brother, A. Kermit Clark ’38, predeceased him in 2008.
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John Gray ’37

John Gray ’37, a former naval aviation instructor and longtime real estate broker in Pensacola, FL, was born John Gray Adler on February 14, 1916, in Rochester, NY. The son of Mark L. Adler, a men’s clothing manufacturer, and the former Eleanor A. Flynn, he grew up in Rochester, where he was graduated in 1933 from Monroe High School. He enrolled at Hamilton that fall, joined Psi Upsilon, and participated in a variety of sports, earning letters in football and track. Known for his individualism and dubbed by The Hamiltonian “the dilettante and genius of the campus,” he was awarded his A.B. degree in 1938.

After leaving Hamilton, John Gray attended Rochester Institute of Technology and Harvard Business School before entering the U.S. Navy in 1941. Commissioned as an officer while at the U.S. Naval Academy, he became a naval aviator and served through World War II’s end until 1946. Recalled to active duty during the Korean conflict in 1950, he was an instructor at Pensacola Naval Air Station when he retired as a lieutenant commander in 1954.

Thereafter, John Gray resided in France for a time while retaining connections with Florida as president of Warrington Oil Corp., near Pensacola. In 1956, he and Yvonne Famel Rey-Millet, a native of France, were wed in New York City. The marriage would end in divorce. In the meantime, John Gray had entered the real estate field in the Pensacola area, purchasing properties for development and sale. Extremely canny, he became highly successful as a small-scale real estate operator. He took great pleasure in his business activities as well as his investments in the securities market, making money in the one and losing it the other, as he once ruefully remarked.

Well into advanced age, John Gray continued to be remarkably active physically as well as mentally. He was always eagerly ready on an almost daily basis for a good game of tennis or a round of golf. Also an avid runner in his 80s, he participated in 5k races and, accompanied by his German shepherd, Sam, ran that distance just about every morning as well. In addition, he did a bit of rock climbing on the side. As for sedentary activities, his favorite was chess. A sociable man, ever welcoming of visitors, he kept in close and constant touch with Hamilton and with College friends. While in his late 80s, he served as class correspondent for this magazine.

John Gray’s devotion to Hamilton was exceptional. Generous in support of his alma mater, he deeded several real properties to the College, which were sold for its benefit. In recognition of his contributions, the John Gray Tennis Courts were dedicated on the campus in 1980.

John Gray was still residing in Pensacola when he died on September 28, 2012, in his 97th year. Predeceased in 1986 by his second wife, Lyn Smith, whom he had wed in 1980, as well as his sister, Anne Whitehouse, he is survived by a niece, Wendy Whitehouse.
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Robert Lorenz deCourcy ’38

Robert Lorenz deCourcy ’38, a retired business owner, community leader, and conservationist, whose devotion to Hamilton was unstinting, grew up in Darien, CT, where he was born on April 27, 1914. A son of Frank R., a bookkeeper, and Bertha Schlichting deCourcy, he enrolled at Hamilton in 1934, a year after his graduation from Darien High School. A member of Chi Psi, he focused his attention on English literature and mathematics, and left the Hill with his B.S. degree in 1938.

Bob deCourcy began his working life as an actuarial trainee with the Metropolitan Life Insurance Co. in New York City. In October 1940, while employed in Met Life’s actuarial division, he was married to Helen A. Seeley in Washington, CT. In 1942, after three years with the company, Bob deCourcy decided to take up teaching. He taught mathematics at Norwich (CT) Free Academy for five years until 1947, followed by two years at Staples High School in Westport, CT. In 1947, he earned an M.A. in mathematics education from Columbia University.

In 1949, the deCourcys moved to Helen’s hometown of Washington to help her father, Henry Seeley, manage the family business, Washington Supply Co. Bob soon took over that retail lumber, fuel, and hardware business and, as president, operated it until the company was sold and he retired in 1977.

Bob deCourcy, who served as president of the Lumber Dealers Association of Connecticut and as a director of both the New England Hardware Dealers and the Northeastern Retail Lumber Dealers associations, was also highly active in the Washington community. At various times he was an officer, trustee, or director of some 27 local organizations. His civic involvements ranged from president of the PTA and the Lions Club to treasurer and chief of operations of the Ambulance Association, as well as a trustee of New England Hospital and a director of the First National Bank of Litchfield. He was also a deacon and trustee of the First Congregational Church of Washington.

However, Bob deCourcy’s principal community interest was in conservation, especially open-space preservation. He was a longtime trustee and president for 13 years of the Steep Rock Association, a 1,500-acre preserve in Washington. In addition, he was a director of Weantinoge Heritage, also some 1,500 acres of preserves, but scattered through northwestern Connecticut, as well as an advisor to the Roxbury Land Trust. In 2010, he received the Major Stephen Reich Award for Exceptional Citizenship, in recognition of a “Washingtonian who stands out among the many people who give so much, in so many ways, to the community.”

Throughout his long life, Bob deCourcy remained utterly devoted to his alma mater. He once remarked that he was “always willing to help where needed,” and that help could always be depended on. He served the College in innumerable ways, large and small. For several decades a class agent, he also was among the most dedicated and enthusiastic recruiters of prospective students for Hamilton. He was a frequent visitor to campus and enlivened many Reunion gatherings with his humor and wit. For example, when hearing about Hamilton’s GOLD Group (Graduates of the Last Decade) for young alumni, he tongue-in-cheek suggested that Hamilton add a SILVER Group for older alumni (Seniors Investing the Last of their Vanishing Resources). In recognition of his many contributions to the College, he received the Bell Ringer Award from the Alumni Association in 2011.

Following Bob’s retirement, he and his wife Helen divided their time between Connecticut and Vero Beach, FL. Helen died in 1993, and five years later, Bob married Virginia Risley, an old friend who was also widowed. She predeceased him in 2008.

Robert L. deCourcy was residing in New Milford, CT, when he died on January 28, 2013, in his 99th year. He is survived by three sons from his first marriage, John R. ’66, Alan S., and David L. deCourcy, and six grandchildren, and three great-grandchildren.
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Stanley Elliott Gilbert, Jr. ’38

Stanley Elliott Gilbert, Jr. ’38, who left the business world to turn his lifelong love of horses into a vocation, and who later operated a Christmas tree farm, was born on June 25, 1915, in Utica, NY. He was the only son of Stanley E., Class of 1907, a banker and trustee of the College (1933-50), and Laura Root Gilbert, daughter of Oren Root, Class of 1856, the elder brother of the statesman Elihu Root, Class of 1864. Stan Gilbert grew up in Utica, where he attended Utica Country Day School. He entered Hamilton in 1934, after preparation at the Wooster School in Danbury, CT. During his two years on College Hill, he became a member of Chi Psi and played varsity hockey and soccer.

Stan Gilbert was employed for many years in the heating industry, beginning in the foundry of Utica Radiator Corp. (1936-40). In 1938, he became its branch manager in Philadelphia, PA. Married to Madeleine Potter in nearby Chestnut Hill on September 5, 1939, he was working for American Radiator & Standard Sanitary Corp. in 1941 when a company transfer took him and his family to Elmira, NY. There, he sold mill supplies for a time before starting his own businesses, Chemung Valley Supply Co. (heating supplies) and Admiral Plumbing & Heating Corp. (installation contracting). He also acquired and operated Elmira Wiper Co., and from 1952 to 1961, he worked in sales for Oneida Heater Co. as well.

In 1961, Stan Gilbert went into the equine business full time. As owner of Gilbert Stables, a riding academy, he engaged in training and showing horses, both hunters and jumpers. He also taught riding at Elmira College and became active in the sport of polo.

After relocating to a farm in Barneveld, north of Utica, in 1971, Stan Gilbert, by then a professional horseman, continued to ride horses while also doing a bit of farming and playing some golf and tennis. There, he originated the Trenton Falls Hunt Club and ran its fox hunt for several years. Later, with his son, John, he turned to growing and marketing Christmas trees as proprietor of the Gilbert Tree Farm.

In 1985, Stan Gilbert’s wife Madeleine died, and the following year he wed Gale Crouse Baldwin, also widowed, whom he has known since they were children at Utica Country Day School. While residing in Barneveld, Stan, an ever faithful alumnus and onetime president of the South Central New York Alumni Association, often came down to College Hill to root for the home team at football and hockey games. Always a genial presence, full of good cheer, he, along with Gale, had recently taken up residence at Preswick Glen, a retirement community in nearby New Hartford, where Stan would frequently be seen taking his corgi, Clarabell, for a stroll.

Stanley E. Gilbert, Jr. died on August 20, 2012, at the Lutheran Home in Clinton, at age 97. Besides his wife, he is survived by a daughter, Nancy Thoreson; two sons, John Y. and Thomas N. Gilbert ’66; and four stepchildren, 10 grandchildren, eight grandchildren, and a great-great grandchild.
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David Soule Bate ’39

David Soule Bate ’39, an attorney and civic leader who practiced law in his native Montclair, NJ, for 62 years, was born there on March 15, 1918. A son of Oscar M., Class of 1908, also an attorney, and Gladys Soule Bate, he entered Hamilton in 1935 from Essex Fells, near Montclair, following his graduation from Montclair Academy. Dave Bate joined the Emerson Literary Society, of which his father had also been a member, and engaged in three varsity sports, hockey, cross-country, and tennis. He lettered in the latter two and would continue to play tennis for most of his long life. After obtaining his A.B. degree in 1939, he followed his father to Harvard Law School. There he studied for two years before leaving as a naval reservist to go on active duty the day after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.

David Bate served through the end of World War II on three different destroyers on three oceans. At first he was involved in convoy duty, escorting vessels across the North Atlantic to Ireland and Scotland. He was subsequently assigned to a destroyer in the Mediterranean which took part in the landings in North Africa and Sicily, and at Salerno, Italy. During the latter phase of the war, he was in the Pacific theater and saw action at the series of landings that led from the Marianas and the Philippines to Iwo Jima and Okinawa. Having earned 11 battle stars and the rank of lieutenant commander, he concluded his naval service as executive officer of the U.S.S. Dewey.

David Bate, who was a naval ensign when he and Janet G. Mallon were married on May 29, 1942, in Washingtonville, NY, returned to Cambridge, MA, with his wife and young daughter after the war to complete his law studies at Harvard. After receiving his LL.B. degree in 1946, he served a clerkship in Newark, NJ, before joining the firm of Boyd, Dodd, Keer & Booth (now Booth, Bate, Grieco & Briody) in Montclair in 1948. It was located just a few blocks away from his birthplace. By that time the family had settled in his hometown of Essex Fells, where he would serve for 35 years as borough attorney.

Among David Bate’s other community activities were a stint as president of the Essex Fells Planning Board as well as the Board of Education. He was also a member for 15 years of the volunteer fire company and a chair of the West Essex United Way. In addition, he served on the vestry and taught Sunday School at St. Peter’s Episcopal Church and was a trustee of Mountainside Hospital and a director of Glen Ridge Savings and Loan Association. Among his many activities, however, he took special pride in his work with the Juvenile Conference Committee in assisting youngsters who had behavioral problems.

David Bate, a former president of the Montclair and West Essex Bar Association, and a specialist in real estate law and estate planning, retired from his practice at age 92 in 2010. A devoted alumnus, he served the College and his class in numerous capacities, and generously assisted Hamilton with its fund-raising, especially through contributions from the Florence and John J. Schumann Foundation, on whose board he sat.

David S. Bate was still residing in Essex Fells when he died on October 5, 2012, at the age of 94. He is survived by his wife of 70 years. Also surviving are two daughters, Suzanne Morris and Catherine Bate Bull ’80; a son David S. Bate, Jr. ’69; and seven grandchildren and a great-grandson. An uncle of Adriana M. Bate K’76, he was predeceased by a daughter, Nancy Bayne, in 2001, and by his brother, Frank L. Bate ’42, who was tragically killed in an attempted robbery in Manhattan in 1989.
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Harry Lucullus Gilmore, Jr. ’39

Harry Lucullus Gilmore, Jr. ’39, an obstetrician and gynecologist who practiced in Syracuse, NY, for more than 40 years, was born in that city on October 8, 1917. A son of Harry L., also a physician, and Dorothy Lewis Gilmore, he enrolled at Hamilton from Central High School in Syracuse in 1935. Harry Gilmore, also known as “Gilly,” joined Alpha Delta Phi and devoted his extracurricular time to his two favorite activities, golf and singing. A member for four years of both the golf team and the Choir, he also sang with the Octet during his senior year. He was graduated in 1939.

Harry Gilmore immediately returned to his hometown, where he entered the Syracuse University School of Medicine. While in medical school he joined the Army’s Reserve Officer Training Corps and, on June 8, 1941, was married in Syracuse to Phyllis Blocksidge. A Syracuse University graduate, she had been Hamilton’s first Winter Carnival Queen in 1940. After receiving his M.D. degree in 1943, Dr. Gilmore served a two-year residency in gynecology at Syracuse Memorial Hospital. In 1945, not long before World War II’s end, he went on active duty with the U.S. Army Medical Corps and served in the Pacific theater. Released as a captain in 1947, he resumed his medical training in obstetrics and gynecology at Boston Lying-in Hospital.

In 1950, back in Syracuse, Dr. Gilmore established his private practice. He also became a member of the staff of Syracuse Memorial and University hospitals, and an instructor in gynecology at the New York State College of Medicine in Syracuse. In addition, he became one of the earliest medical directors of the Planned Parenthood Center in that city. He remained an ardent advocate for women’s health throughout his professional career. For him, medicine was a healing art that he felt privileged to practice.

Dr. Gilmore, who limited his practice to gynecology after 1957 and no longer performed major surgery, nonetheless continued to do minor surgery as a gynecologist in solo practice until his retirement in his 70s. Ever an avid golfer as well as a fisherman, he was also known to his devoted circle of friends as “a ceaseless wit, a robust singer, and a gifted storyteller.”

Harry L. Gilmore, Jr., a devoted alumnus who had long resided in the Syracuse suburb of Manlius, died on December 7, 2012, at the age of 95. Predeceased in 1973 by his wife Phyllis, he is survived by two sons, Harry L. III and Stephen L. Gilmore, and three grandchildren. Also predeceasing him was his brother, George L. Gilmore ’43, in 1982.
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Robert Foote James ’39

Robert Foote James ’39, a retired president of an automobile dealership, was born on January 19, 1918, in Sherburne, NY. The son of Howard F., a dentist, and Olivia Foote James, he grew up in Mohawk, southeast of Utica, where he was graduated in 1934 from Mohawk High School. The following year, Bob James entered Hamilton. He joined Delta Upsilon as well as the College Band, and ran with the cross-country team.

After his graduation in 1939, Bob James intended to work for a year and save money for dental school. However, his draft number came up and he was called into military service in March 1941, months before Pearl Harbor. Commissioned as a U.S. Army second lieutenant following Officer Candidate School, he was assigned as a platoon leader to the 34th Tank Battalion, 5th Armored Division. With his unit, he landed on Omaha Beach in July 1944, a month after D-Day, and took part in five campaigns in the European theater during World War II. With General Patton’s Third Army, he went from Normandy to the Elbe River, engaging in combat along the way and earning a Bronze Star.

By the time Bob James was discharged with the rank of major in December 1945, after the war’s end, he had lost his desire to go to dental school and even gave thought to remaining in the Army. Instead, he returned home, and, on April 27, 1946, was married in Lebanon, PA, to Elizabeth W. Runkel, whom he had met while in military service. Her father was a Ford dealer in Lebanon and had recently acquired a Lincoln-Mercury franchise that needed a manager. After some training for the job, Bob James took over the Lincoln-Mercury dealership. Later, in partnership with his brother-in-law, Richard Runkle, he added the Ford franchise to it as R. & J. Motors, Inc. As president, Bob James operated the dealership until 1985, when he sold the business and retired.

Throughout his many years in business in Lebanon, Bob James participated actively in local affairs. He served as president of the Lebanon County Board of Public Assistance, treasurer of the County Housing and Redevelopment Authority as well as the Greater Lebanon Hotel Enterprises, and as a director of the Chamber of Commerce. In addition, he was a member of the vestry and senior warden of St. Luke’s Episcopal Church. In retirement, he took an interest in local Republican politics. With his home situated along a golf course, he frequently took to the links, and he did cross-country skiing when snow was available.

Robert F. James, an ever devoted and supportive alumnus, died in Lebanon on Christmas Day, December 25, 2012, at the age of 94. Predeceased in 1991 by his wife Elizabeth, he was married in 1997 to Beverly Santry, who also predeceased him, in 2008. He is survived by two daughters, Barbara Boltz and Beverly Burkhart; a stepdaughter and a stepson; and three grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.
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