Remembrances of Tom Wendel
These are emails, letters and obituary announcements eulogizing Thomas Wendel after his passing.
William Rhea Meredith, director, the Ira F. Brilliant Center for Beethoven Studies
The email below is the one that the Director of the Beethoven Center, Bill Meredith, sent to Tom's family and friends the world over the night that Tom died.
Dear family and friends of Tom:
Verle called me about an hour ago to share the news that Tom passed away from a second stroke around 1:00 a.m. at Kaiser Hospital, where he had been moved on Saturday night.
His last week was filled with visits from his sons Hal and Dave and many friends. Hal, his wife Gretchen, and son Clayton arrived last Wednesday and were here for an extended visit; Tom seemed to especially enjoy seeing Clayton again. Exuberant sixteen-month-old toddlers have a way of livening up skilled nursing facilities. Gretchen showed all of her love and tender concern for Tom, and Hal was an essential help when problems arose on Friday. Saturday I took Tom a wonderful email from Bill Buckley and Tom held it and seemed to read it. Dave flew back from Boston on Monday and came to the hospital that same afternoon soon after he arrived. He and Tom listened to some music and they both were conducting that afternoon for a while. When I had visited with Tom Monday morning, he and I listened to three of Beethoven's late string quartets, Opuses 95, 127, and 130. That night I visited for a bit while Verle was there to read Tom an email from Christopher Buckley that contains a long quote of Melville that Tom and Christopher loved.
Tom's last day, Tuesday, was similarly filled with visits from loved ones and music. When I arrived yesterday morning around 9:00, Tom did not respond to my usual greeting, and so I called Verle to ask her if she thought I would be disturbing him if I were to play some music. While Verle and I were talking, Tom turned his head and looked at me, and I told him Verle was on the cell phone. I asked Verle to say hello to him and I put the phone to Tom's ear and he actually took it from me, held it tightly, and listened to her, his eyes open wide, and then he spoke to her in that language of two months that only he understood. After the conversation, he fell back into his sleepy state and I played Susan Kagan's beautiful CD of Mozart concertos for him till Dave came by. In the afternoon Verle visited in person for several hours; Tom was in one of his restless states and in a characteristic application of her nursing knowledge, she asked the nurses to give him something to calm him down, which worked fine.
As much as we shall all miss our dear friend, we must all take some small comfort in knowing he is now freed of a physical body not in the command of one of the most lively, articulate, loving, passionate, and compassionate spirits of this round earth. I count Tom's friendship to be one of the great gifts given to me in my life, a sentiment many of you have shared with me since the stroke happened on December 4th. One of Tom's San Jose friends, Pat Bowman, is fond of saying that wherever Tom is, there is a party. There was also much more on non-social occasions (in the classroom, at Beethoven Center board meetings, at concerts, etc.), but Pat perfectly describes the joyous quality and warmth and lively wit of Tom's presence.
In an instruction book Beethoven made for his royal pupil Archduke Rudolph, Beethoven once wrote, "Then let every man do that which is right, strive with all his might toward that goal which can never be attained, develop to the last breath the gifts with which a gracious Creator has endowed him, and never cease to learn; for 'Life is short, art eternal!'" Tom, taking Beethoven's admonition to heart, never ceased to learn, he developed every gift with which he had been endowed, and he was passionate about increasing everyone's knowledge and love of the eternal arts. Dave reminded me yesterday morning that Tom carried the scores of the Beethoven sonatas with him when he was in the service in order to study them far from a piano. That's our Thomas in a nutshell: never ceasing to learn.
Rod Diridon, Executive Director, Mineta Transportation Institute
Have just returned from another red-eye to D. C. and woke to the sad but inevitable news in this morning's paper. Gloria and I shared a hug in Tom's memory and a sense that it was so wonderful to share a few minutes with him with Hal, Gretchen, their cherub child and Bill last week. And the very nice testimony to Tom in the Symphony Silicon Valley-San José program on Saturday was also fortuitous. I had saved a copy and intended to read it to him this weekend but will be deprived of watching his expressive eyes sparkle blue and light-up and that hint of a smile to give us all a glimmer of hope. Hope we indeed all had as this wonderful part of all of our lives starts his next adventure; a combination of the life's he affected and left better for his being who will live on, and what I viscerally know will be his entry into another learning and sharing experience in another space and time. Our best testament to him will be to carry on his many good works and to hold his memory dear.
My name is William Dougall and I am a long time teacher at the Lakeside School in Seattle, the school where Tom went as a high school student, and a school where he made a difference when he taught there. In the late 1950's I arrived as a new teacher at Lakeside, and shortly after, Tom arrived, hired to teach History, which he did very well. He was young and newly married to Charlotte. He was from Seattle, and they later purchased a vacation home on one of the San Juan Islands north of Seattle, and returned there every summer for a vacation. He and I became good friends almost immediately, and later, in the years when he was teaching in California, we both were spending part of our summers working for the Advanced Placement program in New Jersey and would renew our friendship, he in history, I in physics, still in the same track as when we met at Lakeside.
Tom made a difference at Lakeside, the school where he had been a student. When he and I arrived at Lakeside as young starting teachers in the late 1950's, the only part of the program for students, and his education when a student, outside of academics, was athletics of some variation. He and I as young teachers decided Lakeside students needed more than that for them to be educated, needed something in the arts, a part of their education that simply was non-existent, and we decided that music was the most glaring lack in their education. He could play the piano, he was a natural in music and could play all sorts of musical instruments, and I was an enthusiastic organizer, and we got the sympathetic administration to require a once a week singing session, which he and I led. These were vigorous young men, were suspicious of arty things, but it worked. Slowly over the next ten years arts became a part of the student's education, for five years with only volunteer faculty participation, and then the start of the success was the hiring of an arts teacher dedicated to music. From there it took off wonderfully, and the school program without arts is now unimaginable. There is now a major building devoted entirely to the arts. Tom up there in heaven is smiling at my typing this, knowing that he made a difference, a wonderful difference in the lives of all those young people.
He went off to teach in California soon after we initiated the singing, and in the 1970's we both became involved in the growing advanced placement program testing, and we would meet in Princeton and reminisce about having made a difference in the lives of young people, an actual difference demonstrated by students who went off to a life in the arts, and we were pleased.
I send my greetings to you Tom up there in Heaven if you are reading this over my shoulder, and say hello to Charlotte from Lucy and me when you see her, and tell her we will check on their place in the San Juan Islands the next time we go there to visit.
Bob Bannister, Senior Research Scholar and Professor Emeritus, Swarthmore College
I was deeply saddened by the news of the death of my longtime friend, Tom Wendel. I feared the worst when I did not receive a Christmas greeting from Tom as in past years (those wonderful photos). But I thank you for your moving account of his final days. Everything you say about Tom is true and more, and everyone who knew him will have their own memories.
I first met Tom and Charlotte when they spent a year in Swarthmore in the 1970s. During or even before the 1980s, we met regularly for a week at the annual readings of the Advanced Placement History exams. During those years, one of my fondest memories is a drive we took together to Chapel Hill on a research trip, staying at the old Carolina Inn which was a lot longer on charm than comfort, as I recall. Our lives again intersected after Tom served as Bicentennial Professor in Finland (I was an earlier holder of that chair) as we met regularly at many wonderful conferences in Helsinki and Tampere, most recently during the 25th anniversary celebration two years ago. I especially remember our having a good laugh at that time as we helped one another straighten those impossible hoods on our academic gowns. This past spring, we were in contact by email as Tom guided me through the intricacies of a Finnish doctoral examination (I was examining a student there in May, as he had done earlier). As with all his many friends, I feel as though an important piece of my life is gone.
Markku Henriksson, Professor, McDonnell Douglas Chair for American Studies (Helsinki)
On behalf of the Finnish community of Tomppa's friends let me express our condolences for the great loss of our beloved friend and former Bicentennial Professor. Tomppa was so many things for us: a teacher, a colleague, a friend. His love, great sense of humor, and kind nature enlightened many of us. Even the student organization of the North American Studies students at the University of Helsinki chose him to be an honorary member of their organization. We often referred to Tom as some one like whom we wanted to be when we become older. There is less sunshine in the world after he is gone. I only pray that he is in peace and will cherish all of us from where ever he now is. We miss him truly, but at the same time feel of being very privileged to have shared parts of our life with such a wonderful person like Tomppa
Leigh Savage, Los Angeles
I'm so sorry to hear of the passing of Hal's dad. It's a loss of epic proportions. He was a great man and also the rarest of men firmly in possession of great character and intellect in equal measure but also a man with an unyielding capacity for graciousness. There are men you respect and men you love. He was both. I only met him once. But his essential nature was in full bloom that evening and I'm lucky to have been there to see it.
Dave and Dorsa Walworth
Dorsa met Charlotte as fellow docents at the San José Museum of Art; probably both were Chairman at one time or another. We became friends, but I was a little in awe of Tom. He had such a great reputation in art and music. Nonetheless as Editor of the Newsletter for the Chamber Music Society I approached him and asked him to join us. None of you would be surprised at how warmly he accepted my invitation and how whole-heartedly he joined in our efforts. Though we all were fired after about one year, it was not for lack of effort but change of direction. It is always a loss when one of our friends dies, and we will miss Tom forever.
At the last meeting of the Executive Board of the American Beethoven Society on January 27, I was honored to be elected the new Chair of the board to succeed Tom Wendel, but we all know that Tom was and is unique and irreplaceable. I probably did not know Tom as well as many who may read this message knew him, as we only met four years ago. From our first contact, however, I felt like his lifelong friend. I have treasured our occasional lunches to talk about Society business as well as everything else under the sun. It was immediately apparent to me that Tom was a renaissance man the likes of which we rarely see. His was a life fully, energetically, vigorously, lovingly, and well lived, and we should celebrate it without regret. I surely will miss him. I do, however, have one little regret-that I never took the opportunity to ask Tom what in the world he ever saw in Sibelius. I actually enjoy Sibelius, but I would have enjoyed the twinkle in Tom's eye and the spirited debate that would have ensued. If I know Tom, he is arguing with Mr. Sibelius as I write this.
The Society is fortunate to have a very dedicated board of directors and membership. The Society and the Beethoven Center will, of course, carry on in Tom's absence and in his memory. Rather than mourn Tom's absence, my hope is that we celebrate his life and re-dedicate ourselves and our energies to the goals and values that we all share, and that Tom held so dear.
Ed Laurie, San Jose
The Gentle Gentleman
I'm referring to friend Tom Wendel who departed this planet just a few days ago, to the serious loss to his family and a legion of friends.
While of late I only ran into Tom in person at the Vintage Club luncheons, we carried on an almost daily email exchange wherein, from time to time, Tom gently chided me about some slip I'd made when, in my essays, I ventured in to the history of the country.
For instance when I modernized "Gouverneur" Morris to "Governer" Morris in one of my essays, he gently noted for me that Governeur was the man's first name and not an elected position, and that he had a hand in polishing the Constitution, and also proposed our decimal system with its dollars and cents.
When I mentioned how much I enjoyed his concert notes for the San José Symphony, and admitted to "low fit" ears, he would have none of it and began, via email, a series of pointers and listening advisories which made things ever so much better.
We were in agreement about loving Beethoven, thought my suggestion that I preferred him to Bach because the latter was for musical intellectuals and the former managed to know at just what point I would be nodding off and would waken me with appropriate thunder from the percussion section or the blast of a trumpet or two from the brass, he would chide me a little more and recommend something Bachian that I might be able to identify with. In that he was never truly successful.
But we also, for some reason or other, shared a love of Sibelius and he was particularly delighted that Pat and I managed to get to Helsinki and see the memorials.
Of course we were both Ben Franklin fans, and I did have his biography of the fellow on hand, along with others. In fact, at his request, I was able to round up a used copy of his work for him just a little while ago. The one thing I didn't know-it never came up-was that he was also a Melville fan. I'm now thinking of the pointers he might have given in that respect. Alas it is too late.
The only time (and God knows I tried often enough) I managed to stymie him in a trivial matter historical was when I sent; him a list of George Washington's dogs (Greek names) and asked him what those fellows had to do with the General. All my other attempts met with charming little email essays which added to my knowledge, thought probably none to his.
Finally, it was downright fun to get an email from him when he was here or there around the nation or the world attending to some musical affair and had his laptop computer handy. The truth is it was unlikely he could ever cure my low fi ears, but he certainly sharpened their perceptions.
I'm really, truly, going to miss him. A thousand small courtesies make a mighty monument of remembrance! He was, as I said, a gentle gentleman.
Paul Hertelendy, Piedmont, CA
Tom's good humor bubbled forth constantly. One on-going line of humor came from his e-mail handle, Sibelius, after the Finnish composer Jean Sibelius-one of his favorite composers. In his binges of unfettered Sibelianism, Tom physically entered the orbit of Finland, visiting and lecturing there several times, though having no matching heritage. He would then fill me in, from start to Finnish, regarding Jarvenpaa or Helsinki or the Kalevala at the drop of a hat, and inform me how to pronounce them all perfectly.
His e-mail handle broadened out to missives he signed whimsically using names of other increasingly difficult names of Finnish composers. There was Kaija Saariaho, Esa-Pekka Salonen, Aulis Sallinen, and eventually the biggest tongue-twister of all, Einojuhani Rautavaara.
And if you couldn't discern Salonen from Sallinen, you were decidedly up the Baltic without a paddle.
But none of them fascinated as much as Rautavaara (a couple of whose pieces have actually been played by Bay Area orchestras), simply because it was the most complex name, and he delighted in signing e-mails with this pseudonym. This game and name fascinated Tom, as did almost anything musical, cultural, or historical. He could also hold forth on the most diverse subjects: Ancient Greek philosophy, the Rasoumovsky Quartets, the legitimacy of attribution of the illegitimate slave children to Thomas Jefferson, the hundreds of terse Scarlatt harpsichord sonatas, university institutions, Beethoven's nephew, 94th Aerial Squadron Restaurant (looking like a sandbagged World War One air
base) that went belly up, the American Revolution, Lord Nelson, Haydn's "Lord Nelson" Mass, the "Diabelli" Variations, or that five-hour Wagner opera he traveled all the way to San Francisco till late one night to hear.
He wrote several music reviews for our arts web site at artssf.com, doing it, as with all the nonprofits he knew and served, as a labor of love not money. He threw himself into such volunteer projects with gusto, some successful (like his countless program notes for concerts) and some not (like attempting to get San José recognition for American composer Howard Hanson, the city's first nationally known resident composer of serious music, whose music reminded him of Sibelius-who else?).
I treasure every luncheon, every e-mail, every quip I got from Tom over the span of a generation I spent working in San José, and beyond-every one of them, in some measure or other, an Ode to Joy and joie de vivre.
Lord, how I now miss that great Southbay amigo Rautavaara! But the memories, the memories-nonpareil, irreplaceable, indelible.
Nils Peterson, San Jose
One wants the old words that aren't used so much anymore to talk about Tom, words like "elegant," "panache," "gentleman." I loved his sensuality, the gusto with which he'd devour a pizza and drink a beer at Spuntino's before an opera, and the wounded half hour lament he gave on the phone when he called to tell me the restaurant had closed. As a critic he longed to love things. He was not one who looked for what not to like, but when it was there, he found it. I think music for him was where the sensual and the spiritual met and he was more intensely alive in its presence. What wonderful friends he had. No better tribute to a life well led.
Dr. Charlene Archibeque
My husband Bob Melnikoff and I were fortunate to know Tom and Charlotte for many years as friends. We took them out to dinner and a movie before Charlotte couldn't go out any more. They were here by the pool when Charlotte first sensed the cancer and had been getting tests. Tom and I served together on the Program Committee of the San José Symphony for years-the committee that helped decide which pieces should be programmed together and when. But the most intimate times I had with Tom were the many times we played piano duets together. Often after dinners when everyone else sat around the table talking, Tom and I would look at each other and know that we would have more fun playing Mozart or Schubert together, so we would retire to the piano and play for our own amusement (sometimes the other guests would actually stop talking and listen too). I loved to play with Tom because of the excitement and energy he put into every note and phrase and because he would often stop to admire a section with an excited: "Isn't that MAR-velous?"
Summer before last when we hosted the Beethoven Bash at our house, Tom and I not only played a Mozart sonata, four hands, but he played part of a Beethoven sonata, the "Pastoral," Opus 28. He wanted to get used to the action of my piano, so he came almost every day for several weeks to practice the Beethoven while I usually worked at my computer, then when he was ready, I would join him to practice the Mozart and our encores. That is what I will miss the most-playing the piano WITH Tom-his sheer amazement, joy, exuberance, child-like glee, laughter at the subtleties, internalization of the beauty of the slow movements. Has anyone gotten so much pleasure from an avocation as Tom did? Who will we ever find with that unending sparkle, that unabashed pleasure at life's gifts, that charming naivetè, that life-force?
Published in The Oregonian on February 14, 2004
WENDEL, THOMAS Thomas Wendel, a native of Portland whose family was prominent in the department store and dry goods businesses since the 1800s, passed away at age 79 in San Jose, Calif., on Feb. 4, 2004. Mr. Wendel attended Lincoln High School and was graduated from Yale University where he became a close and lifelong friend of William F. Buckley Jr. He was a leading historian, serving on the faculties of Putney School in Vermont and Lakeside Preparatory School in Seattle. In 1956 he married Charlotte Alexander of Salem. He specialized in Colonial history and was the author of successful books on Benjamin Franklin and Colonial legislators. He taught at San Jose State University for 27 years and was a Fulbright lecturer at the University of Helsinki. He later served as a special advisor to leading educators in Finland and was recognized for distinguished work in that capacity. He was an accomplished musician; founded and was president of the national Beethoven society; wrote the symphony notes for the San Jose Symphony, and served on their board. He and his wife, Charlotte, were among the founders of the San Jose Museum of Art and have been recognized as guiding lights in the building of that institution. His wife predeceased him in 1994. He is survived by two sons, Harold Wendel of Encitas, Calif., and David Wendel of Lexington, Mass.; four grandchildren; a brother James Wendel of Portland; and a sister, Susan Black of Lake Oswego. A memorial service will be held March 4 in the concert hall at San Jose State University
I have been computerless for about two weeks, but was able to read the wonderful obituary notices for Tom and see the marvelous photo of him: so alive, it's hard to believe he's not going to come bounding over to Massachusetts for a visit any day now.
Tom, like beautiful, music, soared in spirit and made my spirits soar. I'm so glad he was able to be at the Melville Society Conference in Maui, as those Melvilleans who had not met him before all tell me how happy they are that they had a chance to get to know him as a person, not just a name as benefactor with the gift of his collection.
I want to write a little piece on Tom for the Melville Society Extracts, as I was privileged to be his friend, all on account of a "fan letter" he wrote me when my Melville biography first appeared. He picked up a few typos, too, for which I was very grateful. I think they were corrected for the UMass paperback, thanks to Tom and others.
He was full of life, full of humor, with a sparkle in his eyes and a twinkle in his globe-trotting toes. I will miss his visits East and our sporadic meeting at Melville gatherings.
With deepest sympathies to Tom's family, to Verle and others who knew Tom, or Tompa as he told me he was called in Finland, much longer and more intimately than I.
Patricia Senn Breivik
My Friend Tom
Tom Wendel was a man of many friends. Indeed, one might have thought that years ago he would have acquired far more than needed or practical to sustain. Yet when I came to San Jose State University to be Dean of the University Library in 1999, Tom still had room in his life for someone else.
Tom welcomed me to the American Beethoven Society Board. He shared my enthusiasm for the new library-not only by donating to it but also by helping me meet people whose papers should be solicited for SJSU Special Collections. Tom was also a wonderful escort who relished in the companionship and the fancy foods of the many SJSU related events to which I was invited.
Most of Tom's friends have known him much longer than I, but I shall always be glad that he had room for one more friend in his life!
Celia Mendez, San Jose
The quotation of Beethoven's writing on the instruction book for Archduke Rudolf ("never cease to learn") has been associated with Tom's life-long quest for learning. I was fortunate to be a witness of this side of his personality when I coached Tom while he was learning Beethoven's Sonata, Opus 28, the "Pastoral." The moment he sat down at the piano he was transformed. The usual smiling face changed into a serious, forcefully focused, intense countenance. He looked at me inquisitively, his piercing eyes going from the score to his hands, to me. The hours flew by, each minute carrying the encounter of two minds in love with Beethoven's music. We explored technical possibilities, musical intentions, the open field of interpretation, the unwritten meanings. At any discovery, at any new insight he would erupt into an "Ah!" or "Aha!" sometimes lifting his hand abruptly from the keyboard as in an attitude of surprise or awe. When we stopped he rose from the piano bench, all smiles again, the glimmer in his eyes bright as ever, an expression of delight in his face. Then we left Beethoven's world and we entered Melville's sanctuary where he was the master and I became the learner. Every time I visited Tom after his stroke, I played for him that sonata; he moved his foot keeping time and I want to believe that he heard me telling him how much we loved him.
I was deeply moved when I read in one of Bill's messages that "The image of the open music of Beethoven's Opus 28 on Tom's beloved Steinway reminds me of those moments frozen in time because of disaster, like a clock whose hands are permanently stopped at a fixed point by an earthquake." That open score became for me a symbol of his love for music and of his commitment to the things he loved. It has also become a symbol of the tie that united us during the moments we were in search of beauty and truth. Those moments are not "frozen in time" but they are memories that I will carry lovingly in my heart for the rest of my life.
Brent Raymond Schomer, Bloomfield Hills, Michigan
Renaissance Charm. That describes Tom Wendel as I knew him. Imagine first meeting your new Uncle-in-Law at your sister's rehearsal dinner party - just after he has commanded the unwavering attention of the entire room by cranking out a stellar piano/vocal performance which left the crowd in rollicking applause and hooting cheers. It was out of a movie. Tom Wendel was and is the epitome of character; a character of intellectual elegance, warm humor, academic prowess, and boldness of countenance. He had the kind of confidence which made it unnecessary to be overbearing.
We became friends right away. My guess is that he was like that with everyone. We both loved music and were lifelong students thereof, so we had a connection that way. But more than that, it was Tom's humble nature and ability to carry a pleasant conversation about anything that attracted me to him. I remember getting up early during a family get-together in California, so he and I could adventure off to town on our own to get the paper and some coffee. It didn't matter what we talked about, because we'd always end up with a good joke and laughter.
When I was leaving from that family gathering and saying goodbye to my Uncle Tom, we embraced, and Tom had tears in his eyes. I'll never forget this, because it made me have tears as well we loved each other as family, even though our contact on this earth was brief. I thought the tears might be unwarranted, because I felt I would see him again. I was wrong. I feel blessed to have embraced him and to have said a proper goodbye, and I owe it in full to his spiritual sensibility. Tom Wendel gave us all the greatest gift anyone can give. He showed us what it means to embrace life, and he shined the best parts of it back to us. May we endeavor to do the same in honor to him.
A letter to TOM WENDEL.
My wife and I have known you, Tom, for many years, during our tenure at SJSU. You came faithfully to many of my (and our) concerts through the years, as you supported many, many concerts and artists. You always listened to music with you whole being--- loving music (as you did literature, poetry, art) because, at its best, great art strives for the most enlightened, profound human values. You were a virtuoso listener, Tom! What did Borges say? "Perhaps a great reader is more rare than a great writer."
Several times, Tom, you wrote me (or us) a wonderful letter of appreciation concerning my (or our) performances. Your remarks were always acute, cogent, deep, and celebratory (as Emerson yearned for criticism to be). Your letters provided a world of solace, for, after a lifetime, one knows it is so very rare to be understood (especially where one wishes to be understood the most). There was always that definitive generosity in you, Tom. "Greatness is generosity of soul," as Plato said.
Also, we exchanged poetry. I treasure your remarks and assessment, Tom. You extended my knowledge of Melville by sharing his poems with us. (See Melville below.) These, too, were generous acts.
Of course, your generosity extended to so many, Tom. You, and your dear wife Charlotte, helped our beloved friend, the great harpsichordist/scholar Fernando Valenti, through the years. You were especially supportive during Fernando's deadly bout with throat cancer, at the very time he was recording the Goldberg Variations (a radiant, beatific recording, despite all). This support extended not only to appreciation, empathy, but even to delivering food and laundry!
Again, through generosity, Tom, the Beethoven Center has been the recipient of great continuous efforts on your part. This in part reflects your professional and personal fascination with history-and living history. This mirrors, too, your conviction that a person is defined by what one gather's about one's self-and enters. But, then, Tom, you also gave wholly of yourself on Beethoven's behalf---not only with funds, but with the substance of your life. In your later years, I think this multifarious association with the Beethoven Center was the association of which you were most gratified, in which you took the most justifiable pride.
I recall a particularly vivid set of conversations with you concerning our beloved Jean Sibelius. You recounted how you had held a lectureship in Helsinki, and had sat in the very hall where Sibelius conducted, and heard symphonies, with Sibelius' daughter in attendance. This was one of the pinnacles for you, Tom (as it would have been for us). Again, this reveals your arrow spirit, which could enter so completely into the timeless essence of things infinite.
Tom, many other indissoluble bonds with other historical and artistic phenomena were illuminated through intense conversation: these included the supernal Goldberg Variations, the last visionary Beethoven sonatas, the architectural marvel of the Diabelli, the transcendent last string quartets, I won't go on.
With you intensity, Tom, went endless enthusiasm, wry humor, good spirits, an irony, a worldly sympathy, a restlessness, a perennial curiosity, warmth---and the necessary anger at cruelty, injustice, betrayal, evil. You were such a compelling friend, Tom. We will not forget you. You left the world better than you found it. Lincoln and Melville would be proud.
Lastly, Tom, I was about to send you a poem of Melville, and ask for your comments.
With banners furled, the clarions mute,
An army passes in the night;
And beaming spears and helms salute
The dark with bright.
In silence deep the legions stream
With open ranks, in order true:
O'er boundless plains they stream and gleam---
No chief in view.
Afar, in twinkling distance lost,
(So legends tell) he lonely wends
And back through all that shining host
His mandate sends.
Obviously, this poem has mythic qualities, Tom. Does it stand for the mystery of life? Do we all walk thus to the last frontier? Is it a metaphor for Greatness? Grant? Hawthorne? A savior? God? It is a metaphor for Greatness? Now, Tom, perhaps it can also stand for you---sending back fateful wishes for the preservation of all that is meaningful, beneficent, true, beautiful, to all those with the courage to share in the best of these, our quintessential human values
G.L. Vasquez, Chair and Professor of History, San Jose State University
Tom taught twenty-six years in the History Department, from 1964 to 1990. He was an extremely popular instructor and very innovative in the courses he taught. His field was early American history; this included the colonial era, the American Revolution, and the national period. Besides the standard courses in this area, Tom introduced very popular courses such as Melville's America and Franklin's America, using the American studies approach in his history courses of linking art, music and literature to history. He was a highly respected scholar in his field writing two important works on Benjamin Franklin and Tom Paine. The Journal of American History wrote in 1975 that Wendel's Benjamin Franklin and the Politics of Liberty was "the best short biography of Franklin presently available." His contributions to the History Department are too numerous to list. I would, however, like to highlight the fact that for many years after his initial appointment, Wendel supervised on a half-time basis the Social Science Credential Program, thus playing an important role in preparing future history school teachers. Additionally, he served as a reader for the Advanced Placement Program in history for the Princeton-based College Board and Educational Testing Service. Tom came out of retirement two years before his death to teach our course in Tudor and Stuart England with the vivacity and intensity of an historian half his age.
I would like to end quoting from an essay Tom wrote for the American Bicentennial issue of the National Review (July 23, 1976) entitled "The American Revolution -- Genesis and Meaning" which is a testimony to the relevancy of Tom's historical thought/writing:
"Colonialism carries the seeds of its own destruction. The more mature a society becomes, the more it tends to value self-government. That federalism has been frequently misused as a screen for the protection of discriminatory state practices must not cause us to lose faith in the great principle of local responsibility which is at the heart of the Revolutionary heritage."
Ira and Irma Brilliant
Our son Robert mailed us a copy of the memorial service for Tom Wendel. In reading this to-be-saved publication I was deeply regretting my absence at the service. I am still having tests at the hospital in order to prescribe new medications to help me regain some of my current waling difficulties. Travel to San Jose was not an option for me. In reading the comments form tom's family and the large numbers of his friends I was struck by the ethic of his family ties. This was our first impression of Tom and Charlotte when we made our very first visit to San Jose in 1983. We met with Arlene Okerlund, then dean of the Humanities and the Arts, and president Gail Fullerton to agree to accept a donation of 75 Beethoven first editions, using them as a sparkplug to create the first Beethoven study center in America. But then we were shepherded by the Wendels accepting us into their family. They attended to all our needs, introducing us to many of their friends, fed and briefed us on university politics. As our increasing visits took place we recognized Tom's intense love of music, his Wendel Wit, his devotions the new project and his intense charm. Someone has commented that any time Tom was present at a gathering it became a party. It was always that way when we were there. Now we have only our memories and his achievements after 22 years of service to the Center and the American Beethoven Society. We will always treasure both.
Tom Wendel was a walking Ode to Joy, a big Beethoven of a man who loved Melville and music. A lifelong opera buff, Tom played the piano and the harpsichord as much to discover music's inner harmonies and voices as to perform every note and phrase with such energy and excitement that how he would often stop and repeat a passage for his audience, exclaiming, "Isn't that MAR-velous?"
Born into a family of prominent dry-goods merchants in Portland, Oregon in 1924, Tom attended Lincoln High School and the Lakeside Preparatory School in Seattle, then majored in English and History at Yale, where he fell in love with the writings of Herman Melville and began collecting first editions of his works. During World War II, Tom served in the U. S. Army Air Force, carrying the scores of all 32 Beethoven piano sonatas in his foot locker, and after the war, he taught at the Putney School in Vermont, then at Lakeside, where he started the school's music program.
In 1956, he married Charlotte Alexander of Salem, and in 1964, he earned his doctorate in History at the University of Washington. As a Professor of History at San José State University until he retired in 1990, Tom was a very popular instructor. He taught early American History and introduced innovative interdisciplinary courses such as "Melville's America" and "Franklin's America," which incorporated art, music and literature with history. He was a highly respected scholar in his field, publishing an annotated edition of Tom Paine's Common Sense, and in 1975, Benjamin Franklin and the Politics of Liberty. Additionally, he was a Fulbright Lecturer in Helsinki, Finland, part-time supervisor of SJSU's the Social Science Credential Program for future history teachers, and a reader for Princeton's AP History Program. When SJSU asked him to teach a course in Tudor and Stuart History after his retirement in 1990, he embraced the opportunity to teach a period that was not his speciality with gusto.
In 1983, Tom helped found The Beethoven Center, which has the largest collection of published first editions in North America including the Library of Congress." For many years, Tom wrote program notes for the San José Symphony, and he and his wife Charlotte helped found the San José Museum of Art before her death in 1994. He is survived by a brother and sister, two sons and four grandchildren.
A Renaissance man, Tom attended several Melville Society conferences in recent years, including the Moby-Dick sesquicentennial conference at Hofstra University and Melville Maui, where I last saw this marvelous MOBY-MAN alive. What attracted the ebullient Tom to Melville was not Melville's dark, melancholic nature, but his sense of adventure, his muscular languages, his intellectual curiosity and his irreverent wit.
One day a few years ago, Tom asked my advice about how to preserve his Melville collection for posterity. "I'll be seventy-nine on my next birthday, and I suppose I ought to decide what to do with my Melville collection before my eightieth." I suggested the Kendall Institute, which had recently moved to New Bedford, and he was preparing his books and prints for shipment when he had a massive stroke.
I find it hard to believe he won't make it to New Bedford in June, 2005. I will miss his broad smile and his long, loping west-coast stride. "Ye gods!" I can hear him exclaim as it dawns on him in harpsichord heaven that he won't be able to visit his Melville collection once it's safely housed and displayed at the Kendall Library.
Ye gods indeed!