YAM Notes: May/June 2012

After however many years writing this column I have learned not to be surprised by anything. So I was not surprised (O.K., I was a little) when Herb Rule emailed me that he will be running for Congress this fall as  a Democratic candidate  in the Second District of Arkansas, which includes Little Rock.  Unopposed in the primary, Herb will challenge the incumbent, Tim Griffin, a Karl Rove protégé now in his first term.  This is great news on many levels, not least as an admirable  display of energy and enthusiasm at an age when a lot of people have packed it in for a lower handicap. Herb certainly has the professional pedigree; he was the senior  partner (and the one most often pestered  by a press corps that, I recall, he found increasingly annoying) at Hillary Clinton’s  old firm, the Rose Law Firm, during the Whitewater mess  in the 1990’s.

His  fellow Whiffs will undoubtedly be rooting for Herb, whatever their individual political inclinations. Herb says that anyone else with ideas or suggestions can reach him at 501-831-7747. He will bring the wisdom of the ages to his job, should he win. The average age of the members of the 112th Congress is something like 56.7. Griffin is not quite 44. Herb is 75.  He has a ton of hard work ahead; Griffin won with 58 percent of the vote last time. We wish Herb the best of luck.

Some shorter notes: Curt Kamman was invited to help the American embassy in Riga, Latvia, celebrate the 20th anniversary of the restoration of U.S..-Latvian relations, and to dedicate a new building. Curt had signed the document restoring relations in 1991 during a visit to the three Baltic states as the old Soviet Union was collapsing. Ken MacArtney is only semi-retired, living in York, PA., mentoring small business clients and traveling a lot as a consultant to high-end furniture stores in Mexico City and China. Ed Bloomberg, retired now as a professor of literature, has finally realized one more goal in life: He’s in the wine business. Ed found the youngest Master Sommelier in the world *(there are only 122 of them) and teamed up to form Peripherique Wine Merchants specializing in complex wines from areas surrounding the Alps. Check the new website, www.pwmwine.com.

And now three who are with us no longer: Robert Mark Hitch III, D. Vertrees Hollingsworth, and Stephen M. Umin.

Robert Hitch graduated from Taft and earned a law degree at the University of Georgia. He was born in Savannah and spent just about all of his life there, serving as an assistant district attorney and practicing law. His father was a prominent Savannah attorney,  his grandfather Savannah’s mayor in the late 1930’s. Robert apparently never married, and is survived by two sisters and a half brother.

Vertrees Hollingsworth, much beloved  by his  classmates and colleagues in the Yale Alumni Chorus, and a frequent contributor to this column, succumbed to cancer on Feb. 14. Vertrees led a full and rich life that revolved mainly around the Navy and the practice of medicine, two strands that were frequently intertwined. He grew up on a Kentucky horse farm, graduated from Yale with a degree in American studies, received his medical degree at Cincinnati College of Medicine,  served in the U.S. Navy Medical Corps, then spent much of the next two decades in private practice.  In the 1980’s, he effectively rejoined the Navy, teaching and practicing at the Uniformed Services University in Bethesda, Md. He semi-retired to Pinehurst, N.C. in 1998 but remained active in medicine as a family physician at Fort Bragg. He was also very active in the Southern Pines community. He is survived by Alice, his wife of 51 years, and by four children. Contributions in his memory may be sent to Plowshares Institute, PO Box 243, Simsbury, Ct.

Steve Umin died in Washington in February of Frontal Temporal Degeneration, which began slowly but took a terrible toll in his last year. Steve was an outstanding person in every way: generous, funny, and extraordinarily bright. His Yale career was the stuff of legend: Scholar of the House, Scroll and Key, tops academically in our class, and thus Class Valedictorian. A graduate of Yale Law School, he clerked for Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart and then spent a long and distinguished career (1966-2004) with Williams and Connolly, one of Washington’s best and most influential firms. There were  many warm tributes at his memorial service.  I quote here  from a lovely note from a Yale contemporary and close pal, Ernie Schoen-Rene, that at once captures Steve’s intensity and humor.

Ernie recalls hearing someone “cursing, moaning and shouting” on the other side of a fire door that separated his room from Steve’s freshman year.  “I climbed out onto the iron fire escape basket between our two top-floor windows and knocked on Steve’s.  Steve had been frustrated at the time by some calculus problem he couldn’t quite conquer or by the conflict in his mind between his Catholic girlfriend in New Rochelle and his mother, who had forbidden him to have anything to do with her. “

“Thus began a long friendship,” Ernie concludes. A friendship enjoyed by many others.

Steve is survived by his wife, Candace, and daughter, Courtney. Donations in his memory may be sent to the Association for Frontotemporal Degeneration.