Class of 1966
ALBERT GRAHAM LEE, JR. (1944 - 2016)
Bert died on Christmas Eve 2016 in Rumford, Rhode Island.
He grew up in Newington, Connecticut, and followed his father, Albert ’38, to Princeton after graduating cum laude from the Loomis School. At Princeton Bert majored in economics and was a member of Campus Club, the Glee Club, and the Conservative Club.
After graduation he entered the Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania and was awarded an MBA in 1968. He then joined the Navy, earning a commission and serving in the Mediterranean.
Bert’s professional career began in New York City, where he worked for Standard Oil and Singer Sewing Machine. He moved to the Midwest, working for Monsanto and Emerson Electric. He ultimately established his own executive recruiting firm, serving the pharmaceutical industry and headquartered in Rhode Island.
Bert’s interests included singing, playing the piano, and sailing. He spent years lovingly restoring his 1850-era home and gardens in Rumford. He was a volunteer mathematics tutor in Providence.
Never married, Bert is survived by his sister, Judith Lee Moeckel, cousins Lee and Don Chapman, and their spouses. The Class extends its heartfelt condolences to them.
The photos at the top are from the Nassau Herald and the 25th Reunion Book.
The photos below show: 1) David Barber with Bert at the Saturday 50th Reunion Lunch, 2) Bert at a Tanglewood (Lenox, MA) concert last summer, and 3) Bert with his red MG. The last photo was provided by Betsy Shea-Taylor, a friend (see Betsy's eulogy below).
Eulogies and Memories
Bill Woodward '67 delivered Bert's eulogy at the January 10 funeral service in Providence, RI. '66 Classmates John Goodrich, Ned Groth, and John Hart also attended.
My friendship with Bert Lee goes back 54 years to the Princeton Glee Club. During the 1960s the Glee Club’s traditional pride and camaraderie were lifted further by our dynamic conductor, Walter Nollner, who led us in ambitious concerts from Baltimore to Boston to Pittsburgh. In rehearsals or on concert trips, Bert’s outgoing personality and stalwart tenor ensured that everyone in the Glee Club would get to know him. An added incentive to become Bert’s buddy was his knack of chatting up the girls.
In the summer of 1965, 35 Glee Clubbers including Bert and me had the great good fortune to join the first ever Princeton Glee Club tour of Europe, along with 45 Smith College women and a small chamber orchestra. Between our first concert in Munich and the last one five weeks later in Chartres Cathedral, we sang at music festivals in Italy, Provence and Holland. A high point came in Venice, singing the Monteverdi Magnificat at high mass in Saint Mark’s Cathedral. That evening brought a lighter moment when Bert and I hired a gondola and under the Rialto Bridge, the biggest and fanciest over the Grand Canal, we serenaded two Smith women with "Old Nassau.” Whether amused or embarrassed, the Smith women smiled discreetly.
Following Bert’s MBA studies and Navy service, we both ended up in the early 1970s in New York City as young corporate types and also neighbors on the Upper West Side. We soon started an informal a cappella group and along with Clif Fenton ’65 and Tim Smith ’66 took weekend trips to Hamptons beaches and to Vermont for skiing. Crewing on Bert’s sailboat on Long Island Sound provided welcome breaks, and his social and musical talents found congenial homes in the Canterbury Choral Society and in the Blue Hill Troupe for Gilbert and Sullivan.
After Bert’s mid-career moves to St. Louis and Chicago, he eventually came back East to enjoy the social and cultural assets in Providence. While taking special pride in renovating his old house in Rumford with its fine historical details, he contributed to a wide range of local activities. Princeton friends visiting Bert would invariably meet some of his many friends at a local coffee shop, and be treated to a rich interpretation on his baby grand of a 1930s or 40s popular classic.
Bert, like many Princetonians retired from a business career, occasionally wondered whether academia, government or social service might have yielded more long-term fulfillment. His keen and inventive intellect certainly qualified him for an academic career. But Bert had a further strength: the courage to gently challenge the convictions and conventions of others, as well his own. He was a natural contrarian, sometimes exasperatingly so but always thought-provoking.
We will never know -- in the end such speculation is fruitless. But the reality of Bert’s unique life and spirit has generously enriched our own lives and will always remain among our fondest memories.
Betsy Shea-Taylor, a friend, delivered this eulogy.
May you continue to inspire us:
To enter each day with a generous heart.
To serve the call of courage and love
Until we see your beautiful face again
In that land where there is no more separation,
Where all tears will be wiped from our mind,
--- Poet John Donohue
And where we will never lose you again.
To the family of Albert Lee – From Betsy Shea-Taylor, a friend
Long ago in a coffee shop on the East Side of Providence a sketch of a man’s face caught my eye. It was hanging on a wall, and prominent. I probed the owners, with a smile: "Who is that and how come he gets such celebrity?” They said, "Ask him. He’s sitting over there with the person who made the sketch.” So I went over and introduced myself. There I learned the portrait’s subject was a denizen of many coffee shops and had a friend with art skills. It was as simple as that.
The person in the portrait was named Bert.
Because of that chance meeting I eventually got to know a man who became a buddy and generously gave me these gifts over the course of many years…
1. … introduced me to the concept of the Socrates Café, a discussion group on ideas of universal significance, that he had started in Providence and moderated. It gave me a place to share ideas after I retired from newspapers. Now I moderate two cafes and am grateful to Bert for showing me the way.
2. … took me for a few spins in his snazzy red convertible MG sports car that made the neighbors sit up and take notice. (I said "No, Bert, absolutely not” to his invitation to head out onto Interstate Route 95. He was much braver than I.)
3. … included me in several swell dinner parties at his home (he made the best grilled burger ever) and through those parties put me in touch with new people, some of whom have now become friends of mine. Bert was notably generous about sharing his friends; not everyone has this quality of beneficence.
4. … told me about a fellow resident of Rumford, his home community, who would be glad to pull up some bee balm for my garden, just as she’d been willing to do so for his garden. Because of Bert, I have bee balm.
5. … brought creamed onions to my house one winter evening for a dinner and dropped them on the doorstep due to a mis-step. We both laughed it off. Now, that is class for a chef who spent significant time on a dish.
6. … introduced me to a friend with a home in the Berkshires, whom we met up with there one weekend and then traveled ensemble with a picnic to a concert at Tanglewood.
7. … played with skill gorgeous classical and ‘40s music on his piano under a living room ceiling full of painted constellations and just beyond a window looking out toward his amazing rose garden.
8. … treated me to many cups of coffee at an eclectic eatery, White Electric, in Providence, near one of the sprawling public high schools where he donated time, encouraging kids to learn math and taking pride in those who plunged in. Those who were hesitant got a few words: "Remember, after you leave here you will be on your own, so you’d better start learning now.”
9. … hosted tenants from foreign countries, studying here at universities and hospitals. He brought one, a PhD candidate from Senegal, to my home for dinner and for a Super Bowl game.
10. … took me for a car ride one day into South Providence, a more modest part of the city, to view a beautiful outdoor wall mural on a neighborhood supermarket – a mural that was alight with messages of peace and love and co-existence.
11. … cheered me up during the time when my old cat was failing, with daily phone calls of support.
12. … visited me when I was critically ill with pancreatitis and the hospital was filled to the gills with hideous flu cases during a particularly nasty season of illness. Some people preferred to stay away in safety; Bert soldiered in, wearing a face mask.
13 … changed my life in a profoundly significant way by saying one day, "Did you ever think about tutoring literacy at Literacy Volunteers of East Bay?” He was already doing that, and I checked it out. Because of Bert, I discovered a passion I could not have forecast, for working with men in need of adult basic education.
Someone sweetly said one day, "They broke the mold when they made Bert” to which I replied: "There never was a mold for Bert. He was one of a kind.”
Any one of the people in Bert’s universe will have as many stories as those offered, and all would be reflective of a man who dove into life with courageous strokes, learning, striving, outrageous at times, courageous at times, kind and compassionate always, and always curious about life, always engaging with people.
He relished the grapes on his arbor and his gigantic evening salads as much as he enjoyed crushing one newspaper editor or another in letters bristling with opprobrium over irksome issues.
Every day, with immense courage that was not always visible, Bert got up and out, making his mark, changing each one of us in significant ways just by being who he was. He was never a visitor to this life; he was fully engaged. And he will be deeply missed.
May 14, 2017: Service of Remembrance
Bert's service or remembrance was held Monday, June 19, 2017 at 11:00 am at the Church of the Epiphany, 196 Main St. (Rte. 17), Durham, CT. Burial at Mica Hill Cemetery, Mica Hill Rd., Durham followed with a reception at home of Judith Lee Moeckel and Jeffrey Moeckel, 78 Birch Mill Rd., Killingworth, CT
Jim Parmentier attended the service and reports:
"Bert Lee's memorial service this past Monday went very well. Bill Woodward '67 spoke...told several funny stories of touring Europe with Bert while on a combined PU-Smith Glee Club trip in '65. Bert was a great barroom pianist...singing Bach when appropriate and bawdy when possible. The service was well attended. A full military burial....honor guard, rifle salute, taps.....and about 10 Vietnam Vet Patriot bikers ringing the gravesite with flags of all sorts. There was a big table in the back room of his sister's home that now holds Bert's grand piano and it was piled high with Princeton paraphanalia for the taking. T-shirts from most of our major reunions, hats, mugs, books about and from the campus...Cliff Fenton "65 and I added a fair amount to our own personal collections.
Click here for the Providence Journal obituary.