Dear fellow classmates from from the class of 1966,
This is an absurdly quick attempt to try and encapsulate the past 50 years of my life in order that any of you who may be interested might find out where I have been and what I have done since our graduation almost 50 years ago. My general approach, not surprisingly, will be chronological.
Since leaving Hamilton during the frenzy of Vietnam, my first concern was military service. In October, 1966, my draft board gave me an unexpected gift of three years of freedom. I was considered 4F by the board, a great relief to me. Despite my father being a very high ranking U.S. Navy legal officer, I was philosophically opposed to our involvement in Vietnam. The entire draft board experience was quite surreal. At the end, an Army chaplain attempted to council me that my life was not ruined, because I could not serve in the military. It was something right out of Arlo Guthrie’s film Alice’s Restaurant which some of you may remember.
With my new found freedom, I headed west and met up with two Psi U. fraternity brothers, Dave Gould and Pete Turner, who were also 4F due to asthma. We lived a few blocks away from Haight-Ashbury, where we often went on the weekends and saw the likes of such artists as Big Mama May Thornton, Jefferson Airplane and the Grateful Dead at Fillmore West. After that I spent almost two years with McGraw-Hill Publishers, moving to Columbia, Missouri, a great college town.
However, my real urge was to travel, and I did do that for the next 5 years. Some highlights were working my way down to Australia as a Koksmaat (2nd cook) on a Danish steamer (that took two months), living and teaching high school in Australia for a year and the backpacking my way from Sydney in early 1970 overland to Darwin, across the ocean to then Portuguese Timor, through the islands of Indonesia, on to Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand (with a small trip into NW Cambodia trying to get to Angkor Wat… which was unsuccessful), on to Burma, East Pakistan, India, Nepal, West Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iran, Turkey and into Europe. There were countless adventures, a few trials, and I travelled and lived as the locals did in most of these places. The entire trip from Sydney to London took about 7 months. I then returned home to reconnect with my family in upstate New York, before reversing the trip. I spent a few months in Europe in 1971-2 before flying back to SE Asia, spending more time in Bali and returning to Sydney, Australia, in May of 1972.
I settled there permanently as a high school teacher. I taught at the same all girls school for 38 years and could not have imagined loving a career more. The job was not highly paid financially, but it gave me riches beyond belief spiritually. I fell in love with the job, the country and its casual lifestyle and one of its inhabitants in 1972. I am still here today… and grateful to have made such an important decision to live here.
My partner of eight years since 1972 became my wife in 1980. We had two children – Josh (35) and Kara (32). Josh and his wife are having their fourth child in a few weeks – all four younger than five years old. The first three are girls, as is my daughter’s only child, Saskia, who was born on New Year’s Eve 2014.
Since late 2010, I have been fighting a rare form of leukemia that has certainly altered my life. I have had other major illnesses to accompany the unusual blood disease that have challenged me since I had two strokes in 1991. I also am a type 2 diabetic and have sleep apnea. That combination of challenges had derailed me physically, but not mentally. I have great support from a wonderful medical team, and my family supports me in any way they can, despite my physical challenges.
Obviously I will not be at the reunion in a few months. I wish you all the best for a great get together. I have seen very few of you since 1966, but have fond memories of many Hamilton people and places. The Psi U. House and its brethren, the basketball team and its closeness, especially amongst the four seniors – “Wilt” Hilfinger, Bobby Adams, “Doc” Lundberg and myself. Speaking of the Hilfingers, Wilt’s family provided Bobby and I a “home away from home” during our four years there. The times spent with them are some of my truly special Hamilton memories. I will always be grateful to them for their kindness.
My word limit is about up. This precis does not really capture my innermost thoughts: how much my friends at Hamilton meant to me; how I grew emotionally during my 5 years of travel; how much I loved teaching and how much I enjoyed the “job”; how I call the 1990s my “coaching decade”, as I coached my son’s baseball and basketball teams (for more than the 10 years of the ’90s) and I coached my daughter and her friends in basketball; how being volunteers for the 2000 Olympics was a magical time for all involved; how I continued to play sports – mainly golf and tennis and basketball – at a high level into my late 50s; and finally, the great life challenges that the last 5 plus years of my cancer has thrown up – not only to me, but also to those close to me.
I have few regrets. I have had a very good and full life, despite my recent challenges.
If any of you want to establish e-mail or Skype with me, I would be delighted. Marty Keller (ELS and my classmate at Taft before Hamilton) has all my details. He is in regular contact with me since Taft’s 50th reunion in 2012. I wish you all well. I would love to be there to share the 50th with you.
Thank you for the individual and collective experiences that we shared on The Hill from 1962-1966.
Cheers, Jay Owen