Alumni Necrology

John McLoughlin Birch ’30

A retired physician whose remarkably long and active life ended only two days short of his 103rd birthday, was born on July 11, 1907, in Utica, NY. A son of Alfred C. and Mabel McLoughlin Birch, and a graduate of New Hartford High School, “Johnnie” Birch came up to College Hill from Utica in 1926 and joined Theta Delta Chi. Besides intramural athletics, he played varsity hockey for three years, lettering in the sport.

After leaving the Hill short of credit hours for a degree in 1930, John Birch went to work for his grandfather at the McLoughlin textile mill in Utica. When that knit goods manufacturing company fell victim to the Great Depression in 1934, he sold insurance for a few years while taking courses in summer school at Syracuse University. Fifty years later, the credits earned in those courses were accepted by Hamilton’s faculty as fulfilling his requirements for graduation, and he was belatedly awarded his A.B. degree in 1990.

In 1939, following the recommendation of a physician he admired, John Birch decided to pursue a career in medicine, and at the age of 32 he enrolled at the College of Osteopathy in Philadelphia, PA. He received his O.D. degree in 1943 and established his osteopathic practice in Hanover, PA, the following year. He remained in Hanover for 20 years, finding great satisfaction in practicing family medicine, which often included house calls. He thereafter decided to switch to internal medicine, and, while approaching age 60, completed his residency in that specialty at York Memorial Hospital in York, PA.

Having a desire to live near the ocean, where he could enjoy sailing, Dr. Birch moved in 1966 to Maine and began practicing internal medicine in Waterville. While there he chaired the department of osteopathic medicine at Waterville Osteopathic Hospital. He soon moved again, to Cape Elizabeth, near Portland, ME, where he would not only practice but continue to see elderly patients at their homes or in nursing homes until he finally gave up his medical license at the age of 88.

Ever genial and imbued with kindness and consideration, always eager to help others, John Birch had a positive attitude toward life that was inspiring to those privileged to have known him. Beneath his geniality, however, was a steely determination never to be dissuaded from the goals he had set. He never forgot the advice dispensed by his old Hamilton hockey coach, Albert Ira Prettyman, to “maintain your forward lean.” Whether striving for goals on the ice or in life, John Birch always leaned forward, with his goals firmly fixed in sight and mind.

Evidences of John Birch’s determination were many. Well in advanced age he never failed to take a daily early morning swim, even on his 100th birthday. In his 90s he took for the first time to such domestic chores as doing the laundry and ironing, and quickly mastered both. At age 99, he could not be deterred from raking his yard, and did so with rake in one hand and cane in the other. And, always an inveterate reader, he decided at age 100 to tackle James Joyce’s Ulysses for the first time.

Besides swimming (and in his younger days sailing on Casco Bay), John Birch was intensely committed to keeping in touch with friends and to travel. Well into his 90s he would drive considerable distances to visit old friends, including college classmates. Passionately devoted to Hamilton, he eagerly volunteered to assist the College in any way he could, and for the last 18 years of his life he was the faithful class correspondent for this magazine. He continued to keep in touch with classmates and report on their activities until he had outlived them all. In addition, he was a frequent visitor to College Hill and never missed a class reunion, including the 75th in 2005.

The great affection in which Dr. Birch was held became evident at his 100th birthday celebration in 2007, which was attended by many of his former patients. They traveled many miles to return to Cape Elizabeth for the occasion, and included among them was a woman whose 12 children were all delivered by Dr. Birch. Mentally alert until the end, John M. Birch died on July 9, 2010, at a hospice in nearby Scarborough. The last known survivor of the Class of 1930, he was predeceased in 1998 by his wife of 67 years, the former Dorothy I. Dixon, whom he had married on June 27, 1931, in Hall, NY. She was the sister of his Hamilton classmate Edward S. Dixon. Surviving are his son Jeremy D. Birch ’59, and his daughter, Deirdre Larson, who had for years assisted her father in transmitting his class notes to the Hill. Also surviving are five grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren, as well as his devoted friend and companion in recent years, Ruth McLean, who had often accompanied him on his travels. In addition, among Dr. Birch’s other relatives is his nephew, Charles E. Dixon ’59.
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William Louis Reinig ’33

A retired State of Idaho research director, grew up in New York City, where he was born on June 7, 1911. His parents were Louis Reinig, a custom tailor, and the former Annie Weber. “Bill” Reinig was graduated in 1928 from Morris High School in the Bronx and came to College Hill the following year. He joined the local fraternity, Beta Kappa (later Chi Beta Sigma), and played intramural sports. After leaving the Hill with his B.S. degree in 1933, he returned to New York City and eventually found employment in the copper industry during that era of the Great Depression. In 1940, he acquired an M.A. in history from Columbia University.

Bill Reinig studied law for a year at St John’s University before entering military service in 1942. Commissioned as an officer in the U.S Army, he saw action in the European theater as a platoon leader during the Battle of the Bulge, and earned a Combat Infantry Badge with three battle stars. Although released from active duty as a first lieutenant in 1946, he remained in the Army Reserve, eventually retiring in 1971 as a lieutenant colonel.

After the war, Bill Reinig went out West to visit his sister in Idaho and there decided to stay. While employed as an adjudicator for the Veterans Administration in Boise, he met Ida (Pat) Murphy, and they were married in January 1947. Bill was subsequently employed in Idaho State’s Department of Public Assistance and became its director of research. Following his retirement in the early 1970s, the Reinigs moved from Boise north to rural Garden Valley, ID. There, Bill gathered wood from the nearby hills to fuel his three wood-burning stoves. He and Pat also traveled extensively, including several trips to Europe, and attended some 25 Elderhostel programs in various parts of the country. While at home, they participated in community activities such as fund-raising and improvement projects, and Bill also served on the board of his church.

In 2005, advanced age prompted the Reinigs to move to Emmett, near Boise, closer to their children. William L. Reinig, a faithful and constantly supportive alumnus, was still residing in Boise when he died on October 12, 2010, in his 100th year. Predeceased by his wife of 62 years, he is survived by two sons, Darrell R. (Ron) Reinig and William L. Reinig, Jr., as well as five grandchildren, four great-grandchildren, and two great-great-grandchildren.
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Theodore Cronyn II ’35

A longtime reporter for the Associated Press, was born on December 3, 1912, in Brooklyn, NY. The son of Thoreau and Chita Kraft Cronyn, he grew up in Plandome on Long Island, where his family had moved when he was seven years old. “Ted” Cronyn entered Hamilton in 1931, following his graduation from Manhasset High School. He joined Alpha Delta Phi and remained on the Hill for three semesters.

Ted Cronyn began his career in journalism on the rewrite desk of the New York City News. He subsequently joined the editorial staff of the New York Herald Tribune. Drafted into the U.S. Army during World War II in 1942, he soon joined the staff of the newly founded Yank, the Army’s weekly newspaper for those serving overseas. He was a reporter and photographer for Yank, and later, while assigned to the 11th Armored Division, covered the Battle of the Bulge.

Discharged as a technical sergeant after the war, Ted Cronyn joined the Associated Press in New York City. For 30 years until his retirement in 1977, he covered with great integrity headline news and newsmakers in the City, and particularly federal court cases from the Alger Hiss trial to Watergate.

Theodore Cronyn died at his home in Darien, CT, on July 9, 2010, at the age of 97. He is survived by a sister and nieces and nephews.
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Richard Joseph Govern ’36

Who took up golf as a boy and never stopped playing the game, and carved out a career as a professional golfer, grew up in Stanford, NY, east of Oneonta, where he was born on October 25, 1913. A son of Joseph L., a surveyor, and Katherine More Govern, he entered Hamilton from Stanford Seminary and High School in 1932. He became captain of the varsity golf team, on which his younger brother Fred also played, as well as the College’s golf champion. Concentrating in chemistry, he earned his B.S. degree in 1936.

Dick Govern, who years later cheerfully admitted that, although he valued it highly, he had done nothing with his Hamilton education but play golf, turned professional in 1938. He won the first event he entered, the Central New York Open in Syracuse. After three years as the golf pro at Skaneateles Country Club, he joined the U.S. Army in 1942, following U.S. entry into World War II. He served with the Air Corps for 39 months through the end of the war, 11 of them in the Pacific theater.

Discharged as a staff sergeant in 1946, Dick Govern returned to golf as assistant pro for a season at Cooperstown Country Club and then two more years back at Skaneateles. In 1948, he was appointed the golf pro at Vestal Hills Country Club in Binghamton. By that time he had not only won the Central New York Professional Golf Association Tournament and set course records, but also achieved recognition for his long driving while playing on the PGA winter tour. During the off-season he worked for General Electric Co. in Syracuse.

Dick Govern remained at Vestal Hills for 27 years until his retirement in 1975. That year, he and his wife, the former Anne O’Hara, whom he had wed in Skaneateles on November 27, 1948, moved to Sun City, AZ. There, Dick continued “with undiminished enthusiasm” to play golf four or five times a week and serve as membership and handicap chairman of the Sun City Men’s Golf Association. A proud member for 67 years of the PGA, he had been named Professional of the Year by its Central New York section in 1970 and was inducted into its Hall of Fame in 2001.

Richard J. Govern, a devoted alumnus and former president of the Southern New York Alumni Association, was still residing in Sun City when he died on January 9, 2011, at the age of 97. In addition to his wife of 62 years, he is survived by four sons, John M. ’71, Daniel J., Michael J., and Joseph A. Govern, as well as seven grandchildren. His brother, Frederic B. Govern ’36, predeceased him in 2008.
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Samuel Lyon Lake ’39

Samuel Lyon Lake ’39, a retired insurance claims super­visor, ardent alumnus, and ­musician, was born on October 17, 1916, in New York City. A son of Howard C., an attorney-at-law, and Elizabeth Lyon Lake, he grew up in Pleasantville, north of the City, and was graduated in 1934 from Pleasantville High School. In recommending Sam for admission to Hamilton, the school’s principal noted that he was “outstanding in music,” but added that he was “somewhat of an introvert.” If that was indeed so, he soon came out of his shell to take a prominent part in campus life and play the central role in its musical activities.

Sam Lake came to College Hill in 1935 and joined Delta Kappa Epsilon. He went out for soccer, played tennis, and lettered in hockey, but his primary extracurricular focus was firmly fixed on music. A trombone player, he served for three years as director of the College’s 30-member Band and also organized and led its popular Octet. In addition, he sang in the Choir, was interclass sing leader, and took over leadership of the students’ own Glen Lane Orchestra, a dance band that not only traveled throughout much of the East but also played its way across the Atlantic to Europe under Sam’s baton. Tapped for Pentagon, he left the Hill with his diploma in 1939.

Sam Lake gravitated back to New York City, where he went to work for NBC in Rockefeller Center as a tour guide and usher for network radio shows. He was just getting into NBC’s sales department when he drew a low number in the newly introduced military “draft” and decided to volunteer for the National Guard. Naturally, he joined his unit’s band. When the Guard was federalized in early 1941, he went on active duty and was soon transferred to the Army Air Corps. He served for just a year before receiving a medical discharge.
By that time, the United States was engaged in World War II and Sam Lake became part of the civilian war effort. He went out to Seattle, WA, in 1942 and joined the Boeing Company’s flight test unit, testing B-17s and B-29s. He would continue to reside in the Seattle area for the rest of his life. With the war’s end in 1945, he enrolled in the University of Washington Law School at the behest of his father. At the same time Sam was playing with the Seattle Symphony Orchestra. After a year of law school, “the music won out,” and he left the law to pursue his musical interests while making a living as a claims manager for the Great American Insurance Co. (1947-54). In Seattle, he met Shirley A. Lewis, and they were married on October 22, 1949, in Raymond, WA.

In the meantime, while he retained ties to Boeing as a contract engineer and administrator, Sam Lake’s fondness for sailing prompted him to become owner and operator of Bay Marine Sales and Service Co., a boat and outboard motor business (1954-62). Thereafter, he returned to the insurance field and was employed until his retirement as claims supervisor for Great American. Through the years, he remained actively engaged as a musician, and even organized his own dance band, “Men of Note,” which played at weddings and other special events in the Seattle area.

In retirement, Sam Lake indulged his fondness for golf and tennis when not cultivating his berry patch adjacent to his Mercer Island home and making lots of homemade jam, which he generously shared with all his friends. He also engaged in ­community volunteer work, selling Christmas trees to benefit local charities and raising money for the Lions Club eye bank. In 1998, in recognition of his vol­unteer services, Sam was presented with Lions International’s highest award, the Melvin Jones Fellowship.

Sam Lake, an intensely devoted alumnus, never ceased to be closely connected with the College as well as his fellow alumni. Not long after his arrival in Seattle, he took the lead in organizing the Northwest Pacific Alumni Association, served as its president, and was for many years its secretary. He was for the past 28 years the Class of l939’s faithful correspondent for this magazine and flew countless times and thousands of miles across the country to attend events on College Hill, and not only reunions. He was an ever genial, low-keyed, and virtually ubiquitous presence at alumni gatherings on the Hill. He will be greatly missed.

Samuel L. Lake, a longtime resident of Mercer Island, near Seattle, died on August 16, 2010, in his 94th year. Into his 10th decade he remained remarkably agile mentally and physically, negotiating the steep hills of Seattle with ease. He is survived by his wife of 60 years as well as three sons, Randolph L., Samuel L., Jr., and David M. Lake, and 11 grandchildren and two ­great-grandchildren. He was predeceased by a daughter, Adele Tobin.
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Contact Information

Stacey Himmelberger

Editor, Hamilton Alumni Review
198 College Hill Road
Clinton, NY 13323
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