H, H, & W

Heilman '42, Hutin,'48
& Williams '4 ?_

Alan Gerald Gowman
Class of 1943

Alan graduated in 1943 and almost before he had his mortarboard off, through some clerical error in the Army, he found himself at the landing at Anzio in Italy. A piece of shrapnel hit him across his eyes leaving him alive but totally blind. He was returned to the States and went through several years of rehabilitation, which really wasn't through until the war was over in 1945.

From there his career was only up. He attended Union College and graduated in 1949, Summa Cum Laude and Phi Beta Kappa. This by only being read to! (He never learned Braille) He went on to Harvard in 1950 and got his PhD. From there he went to the University of Pittsburgh and eventually to Stanford University as a full Professor.

He was published several times during these years, all on subjects relating to the blind and assimilating them into the mainstream of society.

Alan died of a heart attack in 1987 and through the efforts of his brother Owen and friends; arrangements were made to have his ashes interred in Arlington Cemetery. The ceremony was attended by Owen (Class of 40), Bob Butler and Mike Benkert (also 1940), Shirley Helms (widow of Tom Helms), Ralph Heilman (1942) and Harry Wilcox (1943)

Out of that day came this "Memory" which was read on Memorial Day 1990 at the presentation of his burial flag to the Bell School, which was raised by "Zipper" Zingone and Bob Butler and then lowered to half-mast.

It was a scene from "Our Town". The crowd wasn't as large but it was raining just as hard. We didn't have a "voice over" to tell us what was going on but we had our eyes and we had a Chaplain. We had mourners but we weren't mourning. We had doers and watchers. The doers were in uniform and they didn't seem to mind the rain. The watchers didn't seem to mine the rain either. Their feet were wet from walking the 50 yards or so through wet grass, between rows of white headstones, being careful not to step on the space in front of the headstones although the residents of those spaces couldn't have cared. But it wasn't "Our Town". It was 250 miles away. It wasn't Fair Ridge Cemetery. It was Arlington National but the watchers; the mourners that weren't mourning were from our town. Although they, with a few exceptions, hadn't even seen our town in a long time, 47 years for one, 35 for another, 40 for another, they still had our town in their blood. San Antonio, Miami, Washington, Providence and the words kept tumbling out - where is Franny?, what happened to Dudley? Is Red still in town? I heard John got a divorce, I've got three grandchildren, we never had children, Tom died 6 years ago - and on and on.
We almost were able to forget why we were there until the sound of 6 rifles in perfect synchronization brought us back and then again and then again. There was an ethereal quality with the rain and the mist and the light trails of smoke from the gun barrels. They were so precise that one knew that it wasn't the first time for that team but they surely didn't always have that much rain. From another direction came the lonely sound of Taps as an echo to the rifle salute. Eyes were drawn through the mist to a solitary figure in the same army dress blues and olive raingear but something was different and the bugler was a girl.
Alan would have liked that touch. Alan was only a bronze urn now being covered by an American flag held tautlyby an Honor Guard of 6 and a Sergeant in command. They too were in army dress blues and olive raingear but they were luckier than their associates, they were under the plastic shelter with the watchers.
I think Alan might not have wanted the Chaplain to have said so much. Not that he said a lot except to recite Alan's birth date and where and when and how he was injured and what and where and how Alan had done in the last 43 years and it was impressive. Except Alan was a private person. He wrote books but only the peers in his own profession knew it. And he, too, had not been back to our town for a long time. But what the Chaplain said was appropriate and necessary and it set the stage for the rifles and the bugle.
And then it was over except for a precise and measured folding of the flag and a precise and measured presentation to Alan's brother with precise and measured salutes from the Sergeant to the Chaplain and the Chaplain to the brother. And then it was over except for returning through the rain and the wet grass and the white stones and the doers and the watchers went their separate ways and the watchers were maybe a little bit mourners, too.

Ralph Heilman '42

Editors' Note: we invite more personal information, not necessarily obituaries, but they, too are woven fabric of who we are, where we/ve been and where we are going.
We are seeking pictures, notes and feedback.

Our sincere thanks and appreciation to Ralph Heilman for kicking off this column. LCG & DR

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