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Posted March 19, 2018

Celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Peace Corps, John Stickler has a unique tale to tell. Click to read it.

A Remembrance of Walter Sterling, ’59

The Yale Alumni Magazine reported that Walt passed away on Christmas Eve, 2017.

I didn’t know him well, but our paths crossed freshman year due to our similar abilities in Spanish. Walt was an anomaly, an Anglo from New Hampshire fluent in the language. My skill was not so unusual, being from Tucson, Arizona with proximity to Mexico and four years study in high school.

The details have escaped me over the decades, but Walt and I competed for some Yale recognition in Spanish which he won handily. And deservedly. He was really fluent. The summer of 1956, back in Tucson, I read, perhaps in the YAM, that Walt would be working in Mexico that summer as an advisor to a mining company. His Spanish was great, OK, but what the hell did he know about mining?

Inspired by this intriguing notice, I set out to find him in my parents’ car. All I knew was that he would be in Cananea, an 18th century mining town in the northern part of the Mexican state of Sonora. I had no address or phone for him in the settlement of perhaps 30,000 people. How hard would it be to locate a pale gringo from New Hampshire?

One afternoon in August I crossed the border at Naco, just south of Bisbee, Arizona, and headed south toward Mexico Highway 2. In the desert outside of Naco I was surprised to see a well-dressed fellow by the side of the road with his thumb up. Normally I wouldn’t pick up a hitchhiker, and normally people in Mexico don’t hitchhike, but for some reason I pulled over. It was another surprise to hear him speak American English, asking if I was going to Cananea. What are the odds? I’ve forgotten his story and why he had no car, but when I told him my mission he immediately engaged. “We’ll find him,” he said confidently, apparently feeling that he owed me at least that much in return for giving him a ride.

It was getting dark when we arrived in Cananea and he directed me to stop at a cantina once we were in town. “Shall I come in?” I asked. “No, just wait here,” he said closing the door behind him. He was back in a few minutes, smiling. “I found him,” he said pointing the way.

Walter, it turned out, was working for the Cananea Consolidated Copper Company and living with the mine manager in his company-owned quarters in the heart of the city. My helpful passenger guided me to what appeared to be the entrance of a park and asked me to stop. “I’ll get out here,” he said. “All you do is follow this road up. Your friend is staying in the large house at the top.” I wanted to ask which house, but got the impression that there was only one.

I thanked him for his enthusiastic help and started up the hill. The paved road curved upward as my headlights illuminated acres of lawns dotted with stately trees. At the top was an imposing, 19th century Victorian mansion with a porte-cochere undoubtedly built for fancy buggies pulled by matched stallions. Stone steps led up to the front door.

A butler answered my ring, confirmed that Senor Sterling was at home and invited me in.

Walt was naturally surprised to see me and pleased to have company. The mine manager was away on business and Walt was rattling around alone in this huge place. Alone, that is, except for the servants. He assured me of a room and went to arrange for my supper in the formal dining room.

Walt was a gracious host and after breakfast, mission accomplished, I said farewell and headed back to Tucson. I don’t recall connecting with him during the next three years at Yale.

Rest in peace Walt.

John Stickler, ’59

Jon Russin and Ernie Schoen-René got together for a Yale Russian Chorus Alumni concert along with a Georgian Choir at Bard college

Attending the Men’s Lacrosse Ivy Tournament May 7, Charlie Griffith, Tony De Paul and Hugo Krantz. Yale won against Brown 10-9 in a squeaker!

Post-game party

Thanks to Jim Connors, we have our 1955 copy of “The Old Campus” here online for classmates to view! Click here to see it. (8/11/16)

Sandy Wiener’s news (3/8/16)

News has reached us of Edward T. Foote’s death. (added 3/02/16)

Ben Zitron calls for another look at the “Virtual Yale Station.” (2/26/16)

Jack Killion reports on his wife Judy’s impact on aspiring young female entrepreneurs. (2/15/16)

Sandy Wiener invites us to ponder the wise words on getting close to 80 by Oliver Sacks, Donald Hall, Henry Miller and others. (2/10/16)

Also, Kent Hackmann and Jack Killion invite your suggestions on how to launch an effective PR campaign against ISIS. (2/16 and ongoing)