WellesleyWeston Magazine

WINTER 2016-2017

Launched in 2005, WellesleyWeston Magazine is a quarterly publication tailored to Wellesley and Weston residents and edited to enrich the experience of living in two of Massachusetts' most desirable communities.

Issue link: https://wellesleywestonmagazine.epubxp.com/i/745407

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Page 93 of 211

ambulance, The Wellesley Townsman put the reassuring follow-up story on the front page. For all of his intellect and mildness, he was not an ivory-towered academic. Despair and illnesses of his own and of loved ones could darken those glittering eyes with a deep, wondering sadness. He volun- teered on a suicide hotline; in his retirement he counseled troubled teens, recorded books for the blind, and helped out the Hospice of the Good Shepherd, which had nursed his "Vera dear." He confronted social injustices with indignation and snapping anger that tightened his gentle voice; even, famously, at the risk of his own job taking on the school committee and superintend- ent over their "folly" of bureaucratic policy change and intimidation. And he didn't seek comfort behind a safe desk. His classroom was, quite literally, the world. He imparted to us his urgency to experi- ence, question, and try to understand it in all its contradictions, messiness, heartache, and joy. He took his "people" into Boston to plays, con- certs, museums, lectures, art exhibits, and movies (he attended the opening night of Boyz n the Hood). Among his greatest delights were trips to England, which he and his wife led for his students. Once they even met the actor Sir John Gielgud. One of his favorite adventures came from the '60s, when he attended a concert that was part of a summer fine arts institute. He didn't know the singer but arrived early to get a good seat, bringing with him a book of Dylan Thomas to pass the time. A young woman joined him, a "very thoughtful hippie," and they talked for almost an hour, he doing his best listening while, like his students at home, she deluged him with her fears and despair. Then she disappeared, only to emerge onstage as the headliner. He later received a note from her at home: "Bill, Baby—I'd love to have a try at your 5 mile walks…they sound positively electronic. You are outta sight." Signed Janis Joplin. And then there was Sylvia Plath. When she entered Room 206 in September 1947, she was a 14-year-old sophomore who shyly and secretly wrote poems; when she left three years later she was a pub- lished author on her way to winning the Pulitzer Prize. She called theirs one of the handful of most important relationships of her life. During that terrible Bell Jar summer in McLean Hospital after her suicide attempt, she refused all visitors except for two: the woman who was paying her bills, and the man she called "my own Mr. Crockett." Two-three times a week he came to be with her in her mute emptiness, trying to help her find her beloved words again by bringing her anagrams. Years later, she told her mother, "I would not be here if it weren't for Mr. Crockett." When her first volume of poetry, The Colossus, was pub- lished, she sent an advance copy to him, inscribed "For Mr. Crockett— in whose classroom and wisdom these poems have root." He was crowned with many local and national awards he neither sought nor celebrated. What he cherished were the tributes from those who cherished him. Perhaps most extraordinarily, one day in the 1950s he walked out of his front door to find a two-tone brown and pea green car covered with an enormous bow, a gift from the students who knew he couldn't afford one and who hid behind it to watch his reaction. When the high school built a new library in 1983, three years after his retirement, of course it was dedicated to him. As speaker after speaker praised him with gushing and Shakespearean eloquence, 92 Wilbury Crockett W e l l e s l e y W e s t o n M a g a z i n e | w i n t e r 2 0 1 6 / 2 0 1 7 Wilbury Crockett teaching in the 1950s C O U R T E S Y O F D E B O R A H C R O C K E T T - R I C E

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