"The title is, of course, a calculated effrontery, the relic of an impromptu answer I gave once to a tenacious young interviewer who, toward the end of a very long session, asked me what opinion did I have of myself. I replied that I thought of myself as a perfectly average middle-aged American, with, however, a jeweler's eye for political truths. I suppressed a smile -- and watched him carefully record my words in his notebook. Having done so, he looked up and asked, 'Who gave you your jeweler's eye?' 'God,' I said, tilting my head skyward just a little. He wrote that down -- the journalism schools warn you not to risk committing anything to memory. 'Well,' -- he rose to go, smiling at last -- 'that settles that!' We have become friends."
Pat, Bill's beloved wife of 56 years, died last April. During the memorial service for her at New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art, a friend read lines from "Vitae Summa Brevis" by a poet she admired, Ernest Dowson:
They are not long, the days of wine and roses:
Out of a misty dream
Our path emerges for a while, then closes
Within a dream.
Bill's final dream was to see her again, a consummation of which his faith assured him. He had an aptitude for love -- of his son, his church, his harpsichord, language, wine, skiing, sailing.
He began his 60-year voyage on the turbulent waters of American controversy by tacking into the wind with a polemical book, "God and Man at Yale" (1951), that was a lovers' quarrel with his alma mater. And so at Pat's service the achingly beautiful voices of Yale's Whiffenpoofs were raised in their signature song about the tables down at Mory's, "the place where Louis dwells":
We will serenade our Louis
While life and voice shall last
Then we'll pass and be forgotten with the rest
Bill's distinctive voice permeated, and improved, his era. It will be forgotten by no one who had the delight of hearing it.