Christ in Winter: Reflections on Faith & Life for the Years of Winter…
I hold it true, what ere befall. I feel it when I sorrow most. Tis better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all.
I actually copied those famous lines of Alfred Lord Tennyson, with a fountain pen, in blue ink, on a 3x5 slip of white paper, along with 3 other “inspirational sayings,” and propped it on my desk in Room 219 of Linden Hall, where I would see it each time I sat down to study. I put it there because of Susie. It was she I had loved and lost.
Yes, the lines are famous, but at the time, I was sure I was the first and only swain who had ever really understood the depths of their meaning. I was a university freshman.
I was sure I would be a life-long bachelor. How could I ever love anyone else like I loved Susie? Especially since she had dumped me for being too conservative. I vowed that never again would I let my heart rule my head, let myself be hurt as I was hurting when I copied those lines. No, I would love “pure and chaste from afar,” as Don Quixote sings in “Man of LaMancha.”  I would live my life as an eligible but solitary bachelor, pitied by all who knew how I had been wounded by love.
I was a pitiable bachelor for a very long year [not counting a romance with a girl named Uree in there somewhere, but that’s a different story]. But I was not a lovelorn and lost bachelor for very long. Helen found me and rescued me from my life of solitary confinement… and pathetic romanticism.
Unlike my short tenure in bachelorhood, Wally Mead was an extremely eligible bachelor for a very long time. Really eligible—tall, masculine, outdoorsy, handsome, kind, sensitive, smart, generous, fun-loving. And single…for 80 years.
He didn’t lack for female companionship during his long career as a political science professor at Illinois State U. His dog, Kleid, not only lived with him at home but accompanied him to his classes, sleeping under the desk while Wally lectured.
Then, when he was 80, he met Norma. He introduced her to us at the funeral for a mutual friend. He was just so pleased. The marriage didn’t last long… because he died at 83.
Wally loved, and lost… ? No. I hold it true what ere betide, I feel it when I sorrow most, tis better to have loved just for a little while, than never to have loved at all.
RIL [Rest In Love], Wally. And thank you, Norma.
John Robert McFarland
Wally was originally Waldo, but had his name changed legally to Walter when he was in middle age, probably when his parents died and would not know he had changed the name they gave him. Or when “Where’s Waldo?” hit publicly.
He was one of triplet boys, his brothers being Wayne and Warne. They were a surprise to their parents, and especially their older sister.
Wally was a life-long civil rights advocate. He was arrested at a restaurant sit-in while a PhD student at Duke U and was sentenced to a chain gang, where he keeled over, working under the Carolina sun without water, and almost died. He suffered the effects of that commitment to justice his whole life.
1] [Lyrics to “The Quest,” aka “The Impossible Dream,” by Joe Darion, music by Mitch Leigh.]