Sunday, December 14, 2008

In Memory of...

So on some days I would just assume not open email or answer the phone or for that matter read the Gazette obituaries (yeah, I’m now at that age where I go there rather quickly.)

As of now I learned all three ways about that irrevocable thing we call--oftentimes only in a whisper--death. And the People’s Republic of Amherst is now ever so diminished by the loss of these three individuals.

From an email I learned of the sudden sad passing of Amherst Call Firefighter David Pollack (the song refrain “Only the good die young” springs to mind--but that would cast a shadow on the other two, who were not exactly young but still full of life the last time I saw them.)

I only met David a few times (the most recent 9/11 ceremony at the Amherst Central Fire Station was the last time) but we obviously shared that core respect for all things American that he was happy to tell me about and encourage me to fight on.

Homer Cowles, the quintessential Yankee Farmer, also passed last week that I was surprised to see in the Gazette. Strangely enough, in addition to forever farmer and long-time service in Town Meeting and a half-tenure as Select man he was also a former call firefighter who worked his way up to Deputy Chief in charge of training the Student and Call force (although retired by the time David Pollack came on board)

I can honestly say in my 15 + years enduring Town Meeting Purgatory, the ONLY person I ever looked forward to walking up to the podium to speak was Homer Cowles who just had that engaging homespun way of telling a story.

And my long-time neighbor--and even longer time commercial landlord--Dick Johnson, a larger than life kind of guy (who always wore a cowboy hat and at well over 6 feet tall let’s just say he stood out in a room) succumbed to cancer.

When I was a teen-ager living in the Amherst Irish enclave of Crow Hill, THE upper crust place to be (that my mother only dreamed about) was Echo Hill Development (built by Dick Johnson and his long-time partner Gerry Gates).

And as part of the attraction they had an indoor swimming pool and outdoor tennis courts that spun off from the housing development and became the stand-alone Hampshire Fitness Center, my main business competitor for the first ten or 15 years of my existence (now of course it is Ponzi scheme idiots like Planet Fitness)

Although he tried to stay below the radar over the past 40 years or so I did hear that in the late 70’s or early 80’s Dick ran for Select Board and lost. No big surprise since that was about the time Amherst started down the road to anti-business zealotry.

Rest in peace my three friends. You will be—and in fact already are--missed.

AmherstFD website


Anonymous said...

Was a brilliant scientist who about to defend his PHD thesis at UMASS. HE was going to work at the Naval Research Lab in Washington D.C.

He also was a great firefighter both in his hometown of Ledyard CT and here in Amherst. He will be sorely missed by all who loved him.
We love you David.
Ryan And Sherri Willey

Ed Cutting said...

Dick Johnson -- a landlord I respected back when I was working for the Housing Authority and the ONLY person who EVER quietly pointed out that I had made a mistake with code (which didn't happen often).

Yes, I knew that sprinklered places had different rules regarding egress, but I was fighting with landlords about working smoke detectors and hadn't before encountered someone retrofitting sprinklers into existing buildings.

Seemed to be like a really nice guy. Shame to hear this news.

Anonymous said...

Thank you, Larry, for bringing these fine men to your blog to be remembered, They were all very good men and will never be forgotten.

Until later..............

Anonymous said...

Yes thank you Larry for the posting of remembrance of these three fine people. May we all take their best attributes and try to put them into our daily lives.

-Ryan Willey

Ed said...

UM Grad Dean's statement:

To the Campus Community:

We are deeply saddened to inform our campus community of the passing of David V. Pollack, a Ph.D. candidate in Microbiology, last Thursday,
December 11th, of natural causes. He was scheduled to defend his
completed dissertation on January 9, 2009 and will be granted his degree posthumously. David was 27 years old.

In addition to being an outstanding student and colleague in his
program, David served as a call firefighter in the Amherst Fire
Department since September 2005 when he came to Amherst to pursue his Ph.D. in Microbiology. He was a lieutenant in the Call Force. He had served previously in the Ledyard Fire Department in Connecticut.

At the request of his family, a memorial service will be held at the Ledyard Emergency Services Building, in Ledyard, Connecticut, on Saturday, December 20th, at 2:00 pm. For details, visit

On behalf of the Graduate School and the entire campus, we extend our heartfelt condolences and deepest sympathy to David’s family, friends and colleagues. It is clear he will be sorely missed.

John R. Mullin, Ph.D., NAICP
Dean of the Graduate School