James Lincoln Heald '41
Anchored by a sense of duty and decorum
Jim Heald's most prized possession was a thick file of thank-you notes that he accumulated during his 40-year career as a funeral director. He was soft-spoken and kind and rarely lost his temper. "The only things that made him mad were if you chewed gum or read the newspaper over his shoulder," his daughter, Deborah, says. He lived a quiet life that was anchored in a profound sense of duty—to the families he served, his community and his country—and decorum; he never visited anyone in the hospital for fear people would think he was looking for business. He died in January of congestive heart failure.
He was born and raised in Littleton, N.H., the second of two sons; his late brother, Frank '39, was the editor of the New Hampshire Alumnus, and the campus carillonneur for 50 years. His father was the town clerk and doled out Hershey bars to kids and a 50-cent bounty to citizens who brought in the snout of a woodchuck. His mother was a homemaker who had attended the Fannie Farmer Cooking School. She taught her boys how to bake bread, and in his 80s, Heald began baking again, donating the loaves to charitable organizations and grateful neighbors.
At UNH, Heald majored in hotel administration. In 1941, he graduated from the New England Institute of Embalming, Anatomy and Funeral Directing and enlisted in the Navy, where he was a "90-day-wonder": he went to Officer Candidate School and emerged 90 days later as a second lieutenant. He was a navigator on an air-sea rescue boat assigned to patrol off the coast of Africa and later was an executive officer on the cargo ship U.S.S. Matthews. After the war, Heald apprenticed at the Tasker Funeral Home in Dover. He married Phyllis Hennessey in 1943. They bought a Victorian house in Littleton and turned the basement and first floor into a funeral home; they raised two children on the second and third floors. When Heald began, he had no business at all, and 16 years later, he had 100 percent of the business in town. He was also the only ambulance driver, which meant that he spent most of his life on call 24/7.
His children had two different reactions to their father's occupation. At age 7, his son, David, began watching his father embalm, and followed him into the business; his daughter wouldn't touch a door handle on the first floor. There were unique constraints, too. They weren't allowed to touch the vehicles their dad used, which he kept immaculate. They also had to be careful with their pets. Rabbits that got into the house might eat the funeral flowers; they had to get rid of an Irish setter that chased funeral processions.
In the 1960s, the family moved to Springvale, Maine, where Heald expanded his business by purchasing and combining two funeral homes. He retired in 1982; in the years that followed he was always willing to help David out. "My dad had a natural talent for funeral service that encompassed both technical skills and emotional intelligence," David says. "He was really good at embalming and had a talent for it. But it was all out of compassion. He knew that it was cathartic for people to see their loved one's spirit at rest."
Richard D. Linnell '42
He was both reticent and generous
Dick Linnell '42 was a diligent, generous and introverted person who had an agile, scientific mind. Uncomfortable with human interaction, he was happiest when he was working—as an aeronautics researcher or on his hobbies: photography, genealogy and gardening. His shirt pocket was always full of 3"x5" cards on which he wrote facts, like plant measurements and rain and snowfall amounts. After he died in February of complications from a fall, his son found a card among his papers that read, "There are no answers. There is no evidence. There is only data and interpretation of data."
He was born in northern Michigan, the eldest of four children; his was a premature birth, and he remained slight all his life. "It was a miracle that Dick survived, but he was a fighter from the beginning," says his brother Eric. His father was a bookkeeper for a handle company and his mother ran the family farm. The family relocated to a farm in Northwood, N.H., where his father set up shop coating the wooden handles for kitchen utensils.
Linnell built model airplanes throughout his childhood; his siblings still remember the smell of the glue he used. In high school, he had a small film-processing business and he always carried a camera. His brother Bob '44 was two years younger but twice as big and strong—his siblings say it was the competition between them that inspired Linnell's work ethic.
An electrical engineering major, he commuted to UNH and joined ROTC, enlisting in the Army Air Corps in 1941. He was just under the mandatory weight of 115 pounds, so the officer in charge sent him off to eat three banana splits—he made weight when he returned. He trained as a fighter pilot on P-40s, which required considerable leg strength. After ground-looping a few—spinning the plane on the tarmac—he switched to P-39s and did two tours in New Guinea and China. He was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross, the Air Medal and the Asiatic-Pacific Ribbon. Within a week of returning home, he was back in class at UNH.
After graduating, Linnell earned a master's and a doctorate in aeronautics at MIT; he published widely on hypersonic airflow. He met his wife, Charlene Talbot, at his brother Bob's wedding—she was the bride's sister. After a year, their marriage was annulled. They married again in 1958 and had a son; they divorced four years later.
Linnell spent most of his career in Washington, D.C., at the Center for Naval Analyses, a research organization. He worked on mainframe computers to simulate how hydrofoils and dirigibles function. In retirement, Linnell's projects stemmed from his natural generosity and desire to be helpful. He moved back to Northwood to care for his mother and renovated the farmhouse and property. He created a narrated slide show of his family's history, using his father's 8mm movies from the 1930s and his own substantial photo collection, and made copies for his whole extended family. With some difficulty, he taught himself how to use a personal computer— he considered Bill Gates his personal nemesis. When his mother died, he moved to Concord and helped his Chinese neighbors learn English and computer graphics.
"My dad was never comfortable talking about personal things, but he shared his passion for photography and aeronautics with me, and they have become my passion, too," his son, Bruce, says. "When I was a kid, there was never a question about how the physical world works that my dad couldn't answer. I'm just realizing how unusual a gift that is."
Julie Klimas Swan '46
A human computer for Nobel Prize winners
Julie Swan '46 was a problem solver who lived in the present and rarely talked about her past. Two years ago, her daughter was going through her mother's papers and found a 1947 report from the Cruft Lab at Harvard. Her mother was listed as a "computer" on several projects and her daughter recognized the names of the men she had worked with: Julian Schwinger and Edward Purcell, both Nobel Prize-winners in physics, and Howard Akin, a pioneer in computer science.
Swan was afflicted with Parkinson's disease in her last years and was bedridden; the disease affected her vocal cords, so communication was sporadic. But when her daughter could ask her questions, she learned that her mother did doctoral-level work for people who only employed the most gifted statisticians. "I thought it was especially poignant that she had worked with Purcell," Laurel Swan says. "He did much of the fundamental work on nuclear magnetic resonance imaging and mom spent the last 10 years of her life having MRIs."
Swan was born in Lawrence, Mass., to a close-knit Lithuanian family. She was the youngest by 10 years of four children, and she was raised as an indulged only child. Her parents were lathe operators in the textile mills and invested their money in real estate; Swan had a horse, and later, a Studebaker.
She was unusually bright. She finished high school in three years and was the first girl in Lawrence High School's history to win the math prize. She majored in mathematics and psychology at UNH and was offered a tenure-track teaching job in the math department when she graduated. Recruited by United Aircraft, Swan and the other "computers" solved math problems on ballistic trajectories and flutter velocities. She moved to Harvard in 1947 and was Schwinger's main statistician. She also did the statistics work when people visited from Los Alamos—she loved doing physics problems but thought nonhuman computers were boring.
Swan moved to the Natick Labs in the early 1950s, where she was head of a statistics division. She had been proposed to seven times, but she was not that interested in marriage. On her first date with Dean Swan, she made him meet her mother, thinking it would scare him away. When that didn't work, she told him if they got married he would have to convert to Catholicism. He passed both tests, and they were married in 1953 and raised four children.
Swan continued working until her eldest child, who was asthmatic, needed constant care. While raising her children, she did contract work for the IRS and the ETS. She was passionate about house plants, horticulture and landscape design, and became a national flower show judge. She retrofitted several candy display cases with lights in the basement and raised prize-winning gloxinias.
Her children knew how bright their mother was. "We were nerdy kids, and very competitive with each other," Laurel explains. "One day we found out our mother's IQ score—it was so high that it ruined our game. It didn't matter if we competed with each other because none of us could compete with Mom." They made the mistake of telling the neighbors—that made their mother so mad that they've never divulged her score since.
But since her death in September, other things they never knew about her keep presenting themselves. For instance, why did their mother own a military-issue, Russian phrase book, given to soldiers who were dropped behind enemy lines? And why did she hide someone's discharge papers behind a framed photograph?
Jeannette Saigh '48G
She was a natural leader
Jeannette Saigh '48G was barely five feet tall, but she had a hearty laugh, a quick wit and didn't suffer fools gladly—people called her a "dynamo." From an early age, she knew that teaching was her destiny, and her 50-year career was based on an Arabic proverb: "He who knows, and knows he knows, is wise. Follow him. He who knows not, and knows not he knows not, is a fool. Shun him. He who knows not, and knows he knows not is a child. Teach him." She died in December at age 93 from congestive heart failure.
Saigh was born in Aleppo, Syria, in 1916, the third of four children. Her father was a successful merchant, her mother a homemaker, and the children attended the city's American school, where they learned both Arabic and English. Saigh's father helped many Armenian refugees escape the Turkish government by smuggling them out of the country on the mail train. But as political upheaval and religious persecution worsened in Syria, the family emigrated to America and joined relatives in Manchester, N.H.
Saigh's father worked at the Navy Yard and in a shoe factory, and ran a grocery store on the first floor of their home. The family was happy to be in America and proud to be American. They quickly assimilated, spoke English and kept U.S. holidays, although they still ate tabbouleh and stuffed grape leaves. Education was an important family value, and two siblings attended UNH in addition to Jeannette: Ernest '34 and Bertha '50, '71G.
Saigh's early teaching jobs were in one-room schoolhouses in Deering, Kingston and Rochester, N.H., where her first task in the morning was to stoke the stove. She enjoyed the challenge of varying the curriculum for a diverse population; honoring the individual progress of each student was an ideal that she maintained throughout her career as a teacher and a principal.
She was a freethinker and loved innovation. She trained in the openconcept classroom in California and brought the idea east. She had her work cut out for her in convincing parents that the then-radical idea was right for their district. "Jeannette was a Middle- Eastern, Protestant woman in an Irish Catholic mill town, when women weren't in many positions of authority," her friend and mentee, Alexis Parker Wallace '74, '78G, says. "But she was wise, strong, an effective communicator and a natural leader. And she was passionate about the concept." Her innovation succeeded, and she felt rewarded by the fact that several of the school's students became valedictorians. She retired in 1985.
Saigh had a rich social life and travelled extensively, although she never returned to Syria. Material things were not important to her, and she was frugal except for generous checks for the charities she supported, like the Boys and Girls Clubs. To them, she was known as "the good fairy."
Gretchen Remington Rich '79
Her dogs loved to excel just like she did
Gretchen Rich '79 was a strong, self-sufficient woman who was a doer and not a talker. She gave 100 percent in everything she did, whether it was interpreting groundwater data, putting up a post-and-beam barn or training her four Labrador retrievers. When she was diagnosed in October with endometrial cancer, she downplayed it to family and friends, and they in turn thought that if anyone could beat it, it was Gretchen.
She was born and raised in rural upstate New York, the younger of two daughters. Her mother was a graphic artist and her father worked for the telephone company. Rich's interest in earth science began when she watched her father bring a truckload of bluestone home from a local quarry and hand cut pieces to create the facade of their home.
Rich was a serious, competitive student and ran and canoed in her spare time. She majored in geology at UNH, studied in England for a semester and did a semester at sea aboard the RV Westward. She got a master's degree in hydrogeology from Wright State and worked first as an independent environmental scientist and then for the N.H. Department of Environmental Services. She consulted on water supply development, determining where to put a well or conducting ground water contamination studies. Her colleagues say she was very good at identifying contaminants and coming up with clean-up plans; she was calm and focused when everyone else saw disaster and dollar signs.
She met her husband, Daniel Fenno, in 1980. "It was like they were two bodies and one mind," her mother, Virginia Remington Rich, says. They attended graduate school together and then renovated their 1812 colonial, jacking up the house and building a new stone foundation. They kept bees, grew and canned vegetables and made their own wine. "We read books on the right way to do things," Fenno says. "It was trial and error, but neither of us minded living in a project. We never understood people who went to the gym and hired others to mow their lawn."
They got their first lab puppy in graduate school and enrolled in obedience classes. Over the last 12 years, they acquired three more dogs and entered AKC agility and hunt competitions; one wall in their home is full of ribbons. "Gretchen loved seeing them do what they were bred to do," Fenno explains. "She loved the fact that they wanted to excel just like she did."
A stoic, Rich attributed her painful cramps to menopause. Her doctors deemed her disease a "wild cancer," moving too fast for chemotherapy to be effective. Her dogs knew what she needed—they took turns lying next to her in bed. She died on March 7. ~