Mark Sexton, 88, of Williamsburg, VA died on May 17, 2019 at Riverside Doctors’ Hospital Williamsburg. Mark was born in New York City on November 20, 1930. He attended Pelham Memorial High School in Pelham, NY, as well as Deep Springs and Haverford Colleges. In 1957 he married Marie McCarthy and together they had three sons, Mark, Adam, and James. Mark worked first as a reporter, for the New Bedford (MA) Standard Times and the United Press International. He spent most of his career in academic book publishing, at Cornell University Press, Random House, and ultimately as Director of Marketing in the U.S. and Canada for Cambridge University Press. Starting in 1966, Mark lived for nearly three decades in Pelham, where he volunteered on behalf of the Democratic Party and was elected to the Board of Education. In 1994 he and Marie retired to Williamsburg. There he devoted his time to a variety of progressive causes. Mark enjoyed playing doubles tennis and following current events. He was fascinated by language and was known for walking when- and wherever he could. He is survived by his wife and sons; two grandchildren; and his sister, Winifred West.
“Chris Blanchard,” the note read, “has left the building.” It went on to describe his love of Jimmy Buffett and purple shirts, of farming and his family, and said that he has passed at 4 am on October 28, 2018 in the presence of his family and loved ones. That’s how I, like most folks, found out that my old friend had died. The announcement tells us a lot about Chris—his iconoclasm, his aversion to easy sentiment, the enjoyment he would have taken in that opening line, and, of course, the farming—but there is so much more to how I remember him: I met Chris in the fall of 1991, when I was in my first year in the valley and he had just returned from his term away. He quickly became a mentor and then a friend. Chris was the guy who introduced me to the writings of Wendell Berry and Ed Abbey, the guy who opened my eyes to the possibility of farming as an avocation, the guy who waxed eloquent about growing hops and garlic, the guy who—when everybody else was quoting Horkheimer and Adorno—taped a quote to his wall that read, “Despite all our accomplishments, we owe our existence to a six inch layer of topsoil and the fact that it rains.”
When he left the valley, Chris invested himself fully in the organic farming community, running his own farm in the Driftless region of northeastern Iowa for a number of years and then transitioning to consultancy work. In recent years, Chris produced a podcast of interviews with small-scale growers around the country called Farmer to Farmer. It is fair to say that his podcast was a vital resource to organic growers throughout the country, especially young growers just starting in, and that this work was a completely fitting culmination of a life devoted to building the capacity of small-scale farmers to live balanced lives filled with hard work for a clear purpose, that purpose being building our communities and healing the planet. In my time in the valley, the student body spent a lot of time debating Nunn’s dichotomized vision of a life of service: the public servant versus the blacksmith with an abundance of heart. Chris was the most abundant of blacksmiths.
Chris was also irascible, contrarian. Probably even, it’s fair to say, a little gruff. But, though it borders on cliché, there was a huge heart beneath that shell. As his friend, I felt guided and taken care of in ways I rarely have since. Though the best stories to illustrate this aren’t fit for mass dissemination, it is safe to say that I have never been told to shut up in a more loving and supportive way. I miss him. I could go on, but all things considered, it’s probably best to end with some Wendell Berry, in this case an excerpt from his poem ‘Manifesto: The Mad Farmers Liberation Front’. I think Chris would approve. — Brendan Taaffe DS91
So, friends, every day do something
that won’t compute. Love the Lord.
Love the world. Work for nothing.
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it.
Denounce the government and embrace
the flag. Hope to live in that free
republic for which it stands.
Give your approval to all you cannot
understand. Praise ignorance, for what man
has not encountered he has not destroyed.
Ask the questions that have no answers.
Invest in the millennium. Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.
Say that the leaves are harvested
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.
Thomas Leroy Kinney, age 90, passed away peacefully April 6, 2018, in Minneapolis, MN from natural causes. He was born March 28, 1928, in Detroit. A full obituary in his local paper can be read here.
Tom’s classmate and lifelong friend, David Cole, kindly provides the following reminiscence.
Tom and I grew up together in Royal Oak, Michigan; were classmates from the 8th grade on; and left Royal Oak High School in the summer of 1945, in the middle of our senior year to go to Deep Springs. Tom arrived in the summer and I in the fall of ’45. In Royal Oak we sang in the same high school choir, played second string on the same football team, and spent a lot of time together.
Tom’s uncle, Carlton Kinney, was a Telluride Pinhead about the same vintage as my father, Harold Cole. Carlton’s son, of the same name as I remember, also attended Deep Springs a few years later.
After two years at Deep Springs, Tom went to Swarthmore to complete his undergraduate studies, and I, after spending a year in China, went to Cornell. We both were drafted into the Army for the Korean War and then came together again at the University of Michigan for the 1953 spring semester, where we were roommates. He began graduate work in English, and I in Economics.
A year or two later, Ed Hoenicke DS46 joined us in Ann Arbor where he was in the Law School. The three of us and our respective spouses at that time spent some wonderful times together. When we finished our graduate work, Tom went to Bowling Green and never left. I went to Vanderbilt, the US Aid Program in Washington and Korea and then on to Harvard, from which I retired in 1994, one year after Tom retired from Bowling Green.
We kept in touch over the years and both attended our 50th high school reunion together in 1996, which was the last time we met. He was a good buddy, sang a good solid bass and was a dear friend.
Ralph D. Comer, MD, PhD, DS44 died on March 10, 2018 at his home in San Antonio TX. He felt that his time at Deep Springs had a profound influence on his life. Bent upon serving, he earned five university degrees over time and used them for 22 years as a doctor in the Navy, first as a general practitioner, then in communicable diseases and preventive medicine and, thanks to a recovering alcoholic friend, ended his career working with alcoholics, drug abusers and their families, both in the Navy and in the private sector. After retirement, he was active in senior sports events, made music with friends, fished at every opportunity and enjoyed his family. He and his wife Joanne enjoyed 68 years of marriage, four children, six grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren. Ralph was 90 at the time of his death and avowed it was “a long and blessed life.”
Darren Olson, beloved friend and member of our Deep Springs Class of 1997 died unexpectedly at the end of March. He is survived by his wife Meghan Stone, his children Corinne, Loudy, and Gunnar, his father Stephen, his mother Linda, and his brother Kevin.
A memorial service will be held in Pittsburgh, Saturday, May 5 at 7:00 PM at Garden Dreams Urban Farm & Nursery, 806 Holland Ave, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania 15221. This will be an open service in the Society of Friends tradition. Please feel free to join the family afterwards for a reception. You can RSVP online on his Facebook memorial page:
In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to Garden Dreams Urban Farm or The Pittsburgh National Aviary Encounters Sloth Program.
Darren is remembered keenly and warmly for his smile, laugh, energy, wit, style, and enduring humanity and friendship by all who knew and loved him. We miss you Darren.