James Chapman

Jim sends us an update - January 16, 2017:

The last ten years have been pretty much dominated by Parkinson's Disease. Brenda continued to slowly worson as the disease progressed, requiring ever more medications untill she was taking 32 pills a day at her death, Nov. 16, 2014. She had become increasingly unstable and suffered a series of falls, one of which gave her black eyes and bad facial cuts. Her last three years were spent wheelchair- bound, causing me to "retire" in May, 2011, to become a continuous care-giver. Progressive bouts of dementia set in, probably caused by all those powerful mindbending drugs; "meltdowns" became more frequent until one, very public, resulted in a trip to the ER and committment to a psych ward "for observation". Early in our marrage we had agreed to take care of each other until the end, not allowing each other to be confined to a nursing home. The doctors refused to let her come home but insisted on a locked ward committment, so she decided that she had fought long enough and refused all nourishment, even water. Hospice was called and made her last eight days bearable.

Perhaps the high point of the last decade was when our siblings and our children threw an amazing 50th wedding anniversary bash for us in Dec, 2010. About 65 of our friends and relatives filled the hall. There was a good time had by all, including a short speech by my brother Ed who was best man at our wedding (at the tender age of 17), a terrific slide show presented by our techie son Daniel, and 2 huge posters (2 foot by 4 foot - seemingly life size) of Brenda and me at our wedding reception. An added treat was a slide show of our complete wedding album scanned into digital pictures. And of course there were balloons, a guest book, an album of old pictures that friends had taken, cards and notes sent in with space for adding the cards from the reception. But Parkinson’s was a real drag and dominated our whole life.

I am happy to report that I seem to have snapped out of the bloody-blue-funk that I was in during the first six months after Brenda passed. I know, I know, I had 18 years to anticipate the end and it was such a relief to have the caregiver burden removed. However I just moped around the house, talking to no-one all day and only going out to fulfill prior commitments or buy groceries. With no effort, in no time I almost became a recluse. I did join the Handbell Choir in Dec. of 2014 (B had refused to allow it earlier) and that plus the Sanctuary Choir and the SFC Chorus filled 3 evenings per week; but that was all. Then things fell apart. My wonderful primary family doctor of 30 years chucked me out; I was too healthy. He had diagnosed B's PD and, I later found out, kept us only because of her needs. Just try to find a primary doc these days! I broke a cap off a tooth, got it capped again, broke that off a month later and pulled it. The 26 yr. old Maytag washer peed on the floor so I got a new WD set. I had cataract surgery on my right eye in early Feb. '15. We had reservations in the Fleet plot in Oyster Bay, L.I. and I had B interred there, but they installed our headstones wrong. Three trips to L.I in the winter to fix that brought about a 4K car accident, in bumper-to-bumper traffic, on my brand new Honda CRV! My mother had entitled her memoir “All Alone Now”, even though, as young parents with her first grandchild, we tried to see her every month after Dad died. I now understood. To break out of my depression (so unlike me), I traveled South, starting over the July 4, 2015 weekend, visiting all my southern relatives. B's illness had prevented almost all traveling and I had not been South in 20 years. I visited sister Jane (Charlottesville Va.), cousin Martha (Raleigh, NC), niece Aari (Chapel Hill, NC), Aunt Catherine (Cary, NC), friends Faye & James (Waynesville, NC), cousins Louisa & George (Atlanta GA), and son Daniel, grandson Jesse (Piney Flats, TN). For an added treat, Dan took five of us to the VA Creeper Train bike path and we coasted on bikes 18 miles downhill into Damascus, VA. What Fun!

The following month saw me back on Mt. Dessert Island, just outside of Acadia Nat. Park, two thirds of the way up the Maine coast. For the first week, son Davis, wife Jana & grandson Galen, now age 10 and the one with all the health problems as a newborn, stayed with me and we “did” Acadia NP. Brenda had loved our annual stay (for 23 yrs.) at this cabin, without children, and only missed the last three years of her life there because it “became too painful to witness how much physical abilities I had lost”. Luckily I had been able to pick up a rent that had withdrawn at the last minute. Then, in October I joined a Road Scholar trip to the state of Hawaii for 18 days. What an adventure I had. I'll bore anyone who asks, to death, with my 350 pictures of 5 visited islands. The best part, however, was the evening lectures by college types on Polynesian history, language, travels, Hawaiian vulcanology, etc.. I held over an extra day and climbed Diamond Head to catch the sunrise, before [reluctantly] returning home. Now the world looks much brighter and things, though I'm still “all alone now”, are looking better.

For activities, Mon. is breakfast with bro. Ed, Southington Festival Chorale and clerk at the library bookstore, Tues. is Y's Men and handbell choir rehearsal, Wed. is church choir rehearsal, Thurs. is soup kitchen [serving ~150 people lunch, I run the dumbwaiter and the fluids table] and most every weekend has a planned activity. In 2016 those activities included Endicott in Jan. for granddaughter Allison's BYSO concert, playing with grandson Galen in Amherst in Feb. & Oct., doorman for Castle Craig Players in Mar. & May, lead in Roger Cerbie's radio play “Homefront 43” in Sept., Selling books at Ye Old Times Church Fair and visiting grandson Jesse in Piney Flats over Thanksgiving, in Nov. and NYC for the Rockettes in Dec. For travel I spent two weeks in Maine in Aug. and four weeks in the far West in Oct. visiting niece Devon in Vancouver BC, cousin-in-law Warren in Bellingham, WA and traveled on a Road Scholar tour of five national parks in Northern CA where I finally saw gigantic Sequoia and Redwood trees. They MUST be seen to be appreciated!

Eldest son, Davis, is firmly ensconced as Director of Finance of the Franklin/Hampshire Career Center Network, a MA state service organization to train and find employment for the workforce of those two MA counties. He has passed several state audits in the last two years, so is feeling secure. He and Jana and Galen have a house in a co-housing development in N. Amherst, MA where they farm, preserve produce and use solar for most of their power. Middle son Daniel is a project engineer for TRW in TN and travels all over the world installing machining and grinding lines for their various plants. He has 3 & ½ marrages (ask me about the ½) and with grandson Jesse, has about finished a 2-yr, project of stripping, rechroming, repairing and repainting a '64 Ford Fairlane, an excellent project for a HS Junior to show his school chums. Youngest son Tim “retired” (ye gads) from IBM after 25 years and is now happy with Concur Technologies, Belview, WA. He telecommutes from his Endicott home where he can oversee the growth of his two daughters. All seem happy with their arrangements.

Looking forward, there are several things I'm anticipating. My Bucket List is now headed by a railroad trip through the Swiss Alps. All I need is a companion to accompany me and bring down the cost by a third. There are also somewhat incomplete plans for a Horace Greeley High School 60th Class Reunion in Stuart, Fla. (of all places) which will probably happen in April of 2017. I am now able to say: “Life IS worth living!!”

Editor's Note - 2016  Jim informs us that his wife, Brenda, died in 2014.

MERIDEN, CT - Brenda F. Chapman died of complications from Parkinson's Disease on Sunday, Nov. 16, 2014, at home surrounded by her closest relatives.

Born on Oct. 15, 1939, in Mineola, N.Y., she was the daughter of the late Samuel and Dorothea (Rose) Fleet. Mrs. Chapman was a Phi Beta Kappa graduate of the University of Rochester, N.Y. majoring in psychology. She was employed for 30 years in several clerical positions by the City of Meriden, at the Meriden Public Library, the tax collector's office and at the time of her retirement, the guidance office of Maloney High School. Mrs. Chapman was a member of Center Congregational Church and was involved in all aspects of their music program, including many years of singing in the Sanctuary Choir. For nine years she was a member of the Cheshire Consort, an early music performance ensemble. She also participated in area choral groups, including the Greater Meriden Oratorio Chorus and the Wallingford Chamber Singers.

Mrs. Chapman is survived by her husband of 54 years, James Davis Chapman; and by three sons, Davis Chapman Howkowl (Jana Lussier,) of Amherst, Mass., Daniel Chapman (Melissa Salyer,) of Piney Flats, Tenn., and Timothy Chapman, of Endwell, N.Y. She leaves behind four delightful grandchildren, Allison and Michelle Chapman, Jesse Chapman and Galen Hawkowl. She is also survived by two sisters, Gretchen and Judith Fleet; and by a niece, Aari Zagarella.

(Editor's note. The following was received from Jim on 08/13/07)
Three days before our 40th HGHS Reunion Brenda received a positive diagnosis of Parkinsons’s disease. Drugs got the disease under control and we were able to continue our traveling. Russia from St. Petersburg to Moscow via the inland waterway was an amazing experience. The next year Greece and Turkey were also spectacular.

In ’98 we downsized from our 12-room 3-floor farmhouse to a new 6-room ranch with no stairs and a very small yard. Life has settled into a much slower pace, full of doctors and constantly changing medications. We had a nice time in Maine a week ago, with Brenda making her usual dent in the lobster population. We’ve stopped traveling long distances but still rent that cottage in Maine every summer. Our time there through the years has been spent hiking through Acadia National Park, canoeing on the waters of Mt. Desert Island, and picking wild blueberries.

While Brenda has retired, I am still a practicing engineer, now back at Pratt & Whitney Aircraft as a contractor. I lasted 8 years at Handy & Harman, South Windsor plant, as the Engineering Manager, and had that plant running really smoothly. Brenda had just noticed my longevity and had said “Keep your head down; this is the longest you’ve lasted at any job” when our CEO got indicted for financial crimes against Argentina, and the company was thrown out of the money markets, causing bankruptcy. Four plants were shut down and 250 people were let go in just two weeks. Anyone who works in manufacturing knows the inevitable lay-offs and plant closings which exemplify the plight of manufacturing in this country. But I don’t like to stay unemployed so I have been picking up full-time contracting jobs here at Pratt. I like to think that full time work keeps one young.

I’m still singing. I’ve even done some solo work at my church and with the Southington Festival Chorale. Singing is the one activity I’ve managed to do consistently and it brings me great pleasure. In fact, our first trip to Europe was to participate in an international Advent choral festival in Vienna.
I am also an avid gardener. Once you have tasted your own home-grown tomatoes you will never eat store-bought ones again. Since I am a trained chemical engineer, I realize the problems with pesticides and use them as little as possible. While raising our sons, we ate out of my garden all year, as Brenda, good sport that she is, put up as many as 200 quarts of veggies and fruits a year. For quite a few years, we even tapped our 26 maple trees to make our own delicious maple syrup.

Our kids have been doing their own thing. Davis (my oldest) now has a son Galen, born with some serious medical problems. Open heart surgery at Boston Children’s Hospital at one week of age repaired a hole between his ventricles. Galen also had a cleft palate (now repaired), 3 unfused vertebrae in his lower spine, a nonperforming thyroid gland (now OK) and eczema. You never realize how lucky you are until something like this happens. While Galen, now 1½, has overcome his immediate medical problems, Davis’ marriage is suffering. Wife Julie seemingly can’t take the stress and wants out. We just have to watch as this unfolds. We cannot live our children’s lives for them.

Dan has been having his marital problems too. He and his wife Jenn had a son Jesse, and after two years of motherhood, his wife bailed out. She got a lawyer who took him to the cleaners, then remarried and took our grandson to the Marshall Islands (!!) where her new husband works for the Navy. Dan remarried on the rebound and that gal turned out to be a druggy. Tim, our youngest, lives in Endicott, NY, with his wife Angela and two adorable daughters. He is making a name for himself at IBM and even has VPs asking his advice.

Can’t wait to see how my HGHS classmates have fared on their journeys through life.

1997 recap. BS Chem Eng U of Rochester (63), MS Materials Science U of Conn ('66). Married Brenda Fleet ('60), 3 children Davis, Daniel, & Timothy. Worked for a number of companies including the Connecticut Advanced Nuclear Engineering Labs, Ohio Rubber, Anaconda Metals, and most recently Handy & Harman Refining Group as Chief Engineer. Is active in Boy Scouts and has traveled to Vienna, Belgium, Italy, Barbados and Russia.


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