Sidney Eaton Profile

 

Sidney Lovett Eaton

Please click here for a photo gallery collection of Sid’s career at Nobles.

1971

1971

Sid Eaton was a remarkable teacher, even-tempered and in complete control of his classroom while he inspired us to be better writers and to appreciate better writing.

Here are a few reminiscences of Sid from friends, family and former students. We’ll start off with a few things you probably never knew about Sid:

Born in 1906 in Syracuse, NY, Sidney Lovett Eaton was the son of Prof. Horace Ainsworth Eaton, for many years Chairman of the Syracuse University English Dept., and Emily Lovett Eaton, active worker for civil liberties and international peace.

After nine years of Syracuse public schooling, Sidney attended the Loomis School (now Loomis Chaffee) as a boarder for three years, graduating in 1923, first scholar and recipient of the John Mason Tilney prize for scholarship and athletics.

He entered Harvard in fall of 1923, receiving an AB degree in 1927. At Harvard, he played JV football, lettered in basketball and played tennis; he also sang for four years in the Harvard Glee Club under Archibald Davidson. After summering for many years in Sargentville, Maine, sailing out of Billings Cove and catching on the Sargentville-Brooklin baseball team, he counseled at the Pine Island Camp in Belgrade, Maine and later at Camp Mashpee on Buzzards Bay in Massachusetts.

After a 1927 summer of education courses at Harvard, he returned to Loomis as a teacher of English and Latin, and (during his fifteen years there) coach of football, basketball, baseball, and tennis.

He received a fellowship grant from Syracuse University for graduate study in English, and taking a leave of absence from Loomis, earned an AM degree and was elected to Phi Beta Kappa for achieving top ranking of the year in the University Graduate Schools.

Mr. Eaton’s first marriage, to Jessie Adkins of Washington DC in 1930, ended in divorce.  Their son, Sidney L. Eaton, Jr. is a member of Nobles Class of 1950.

He returned to Loomis in the fall of 1931, and became Chairman of the English Department in 1936. In 1932 he was appointed Reader of English Comprehensive Examinations for the CEEB and except for three war years and a year of illness, read English and Advanced Placement English exams consecutively through 1974. He served as Assistant Chief Reader during several post-war years.

In 1942, he moved from Loomis to become Chairman of English at Noble and Greenough, a post he held for the rest of his career at Nobles.

He served in the USNR 1943-1946 as Air Combat Intelligence officer, two years on the Norfolk staff of Admiral Bellinger’s anti-submarine command, and did a final eight months’ tour of duty in China as Naval Liaison with General Chennault’s 14th Air Force. Immediately after the August 15 Japanese capitulation, he was chosen as one of an inter-service rescue-for-internees mission to Shanghai, arriving August 19, the duty lasting until December 23, 1945. For his Norfolk service he received the Admiral’s Letter of Commendation; for his rescue mission service, he received the Soldier’s Medal, the highest military peacetime award. He was discharged as Lieutenant in March, 1946.

During his China tour of duty, he began informal pencil sketching, and on return took up water coloring, self-taught. One of his early paintings won honorable mention in an Eastern Maine open exhibition and this encouraged him to continue.  A year of hospitalization with tuberculosis in 1949-50 provided him opportunity to concentrate on painting from memory and imagination, a sort of personal studio training. Following his release, he had pictures accepted in regional and national competitive exhibitions and was given a number of one-man shows. Over the years he created an extensive series of illustrations of clichés, unpublished but circulated among friends. From one Boston exhibition, the Boston Museum and the Fogg Museum each purchased an Eaton for their permanent collections.

Mr. Eaton’s second marriage was in 1964 to Eleanor Gibbs Cooke, who predeceased him.

Following his mandatory retirement from Nobles in 1971, Sidney served a year as pro-tem English Department Chairman at Beaver Country Day School of Chestnut Hill, MA, and the following year as English Department Chairman pro-tem at Groton School.

Mr. Eaton served for some years as Graduate Trustee of the Loomis School, was active in executive direction of the School and College Conference on English. He was a member of the English Lunch Club, and served as its President in 1971-73. He held memberships in Phi Beta Kappa, Alpha Sigma Phi fraternity, the Copley Society, Boston Visual Artists Union, The New English Association of Teachers of English, and the National Council of Teachers of English. For many years he sang in the choir of St Paul’s Episcopal Church. He was active in the Harvard Fund Campaign and edited the Harvard Class of 1927 newsletter, Now and Then, for many years.

Over the years he wrote verse –some occasional and light, some more solid. For presentation to the English Lunch Club he compiled two mimeographed volumes of his verse in the 1960s (“His Heart on Sleeve” and “Elbow Patches”). He also composed a considerable body of salty limericks, unpublished but shared among unprudish friends.

After retiring from Nobles, he spent his later years living at Fox Hill Village, an assisted living community in Westwood. It is reported that he was attended by two young Irish women, who would sometimes drive him to and from various activities. By all reports he was quite comfortable at Fox Hill; many of the residents were connected with Nobles and Dedham, and he would socialize with them over his customary Martini before dinner.

Mr. Eaton was a member of the Friday Evening Club, a group founded in the late eighteen hundreds, which met eight times a year for cocktails and dinner. Among the members were Peter Meek (N61) and Charlie Long (N58). After dinner at each meeting one member of the group would speak on a subject of his own choosing; Mr. Eaton occasionally played the piano at these meetings.

 

From Ned Bigelow ’64

If you had asked me to write a piece on Mr. Eaton before our first class year at Nobles, I would have respectfully turned you down. There are two primary reasons: first, I really didn’t know him all that well, as I’d come to Nobles in the fifth class and missed Oral English and secondly, not being a talented student, I’d had never been one considered for an “A” section, especially in English. To my surprise and initial terror, I was assigned to his English class our senior year, along with others, who I’m sure were puzzled by this. To my great relief and surprise, what followed was about the best academic experience I ever had in all my years as a student. As far as I’m concerned, this was all due to a man of incredible brilliance and the understanding and compassion he had for a group of students who were never going to be a threat to challenging his “top” students. My guess is that some of us were a pretty significant challenge for him!

What I remember most was how understanding he was and how all he expected was our attention and hard work. We had to turn in our Little Essays to him a couple of weeks before they were due and I remember him going over it with me and pointing out how it could be could tweaked or amended. He even went so far as to give a ball park idea of how the department would grade the paper.

Once submitted, defending the paper in front of the entire English Department was about the most terrifying experience of my life, but how it played out is something I will never forget. I’d written my paper on Jack London, an author I really enjoyed and still do, and with that going for me and Mr. Eaton sitting beside me, I somehow felt I just might get through this ordeal. The questions came, at first just general and ones that were very manageable. However, the questioning soon drifted into the philosophical and those regions that were always beyond me. To my surprise, Sid stepped in and skillfully redirected the question with the deftness of a magician and brought it right back to my wheelhouse. For the next few minutes this continued and then mercifully, the bell rung announcing morning assembly. I sat there in a completely sweated out shirt and found myself thanking Mr. Eaton. He said, “for what” – I said “for helping me out.” He would never acknowledge that he’d done this.

I saw Mr. Eaton many times in the years that followed, including visiting him a number of times in his final years at Fox Hill, in Westwood. We laughed about that time back in 1964, he was in his 90’s and he still wouldn’t admit that he’d helped me out.

When I was in college, I swore I’d never have anything to do with education, because the classroom had been such struggle. Ironically, the fact is, I’ve just retired from a life long career in teaching/education. Would I change anything – – – – no!

I’ve thought a lot about how this came to be and I think there are a couple of reasons but one at the top of the list is Sidney L. Eaton – a man of such brilliance who took time to care about young student for whom his passion and expertise was difficult and challenging.

I’ll leave you with one of my favorite remembrances following graduation. When I started my career working at Nobles in the 70’s, I spent part of my time working in the graduate office. This included helping run Graduate Receptions. One particular year, the Boston Reception was held at the Museum of Science in a room on the top floor. About midway through the evening, the fire alarm went off and very shortly after that, someone came into the room and said that it was for real and we had to clear the room via the stairs immediately. Grads, faculty and other guests filed out and down the stairs. On the other hand, Mr. Eaton took advantage of the opportunity to get two more martinis from the bar, one for Mrs. Eaton and one for himself. As Mrs. Eaton was rather unsteady (not due to alcohol), we asked her to sit in a chair and two of us lifted her up and carried her down the stairs. When we walked into the lobby on the first floor, we turned to see what was the best sight of the evening: Mr. Eaton strolled into the lobby, arm in arm with my wife, Sandy, and carefully holding his martini in the other hand. Those gathered in the lobby broke into hysterics – a sight I will never forget – the man had class.

Mr. Eaton was a remarkable man, one who could have taught at the college undergraduate or graduate level, but he chose to teach young middle and high school aged students. I always thought that was very telling about the man – he chose a tougher, more challenging route. I believe his mission was to inspire those at beginning of their academic careers to pursue things academic and those things that he was so passionate about.

 

1970

1970

From Sidney L. Eaton, Jr. ’50

Our first two years in Dedham had Dad busy at Nobles while I was busy attending Grades 5 and 6 and Dedham’s Dexter Public School. Even then, though, I spent many Sunday evenings at Nobles as Dad played the piano in the main room of the Castle for post dinner (Welsh rarebit) sing along: “I’ve Got Sixpence, Jolly Jolly Sixpence to last me all my days” and “My Darling Clementine” were favorites along with many others I can’t recall.

Then, just before I entered Class VI, he entered the Navy. He returned during my Class V year and resumed teaching. The next fall I believe he began his Oral English course for Class VI. I was too old to take the course, but a later taker, George K. Bird, Jr or III, wrote us after Dad’s death of how he used to recite “Horatio at the Bridge” before he led his men into battle in Viet Nam. The course, I gather, affected a number of lives.

On Monday evenings he devoted each evening to reading, scoring, and commenting upon the weekly papers his students had turned in each Monday school day, folded in half, and ready for Pa’s many red ink corrections. I didn’t have to write such until my Class II year, but I recall one evening hearing his comment on one paper:

Dad: “Golly I wish I could write the way this student writes.”
Mom: “Well, Sid, what are you going to give him?”
Dad: “A well-earned 88.”

He had his standards. 

His nickname among his early Nobles students was Moth Eaton, I hope a term used affectionately, but I’m not sure. His first students were faced by a far tougher, Loomis trained teacher than his predecessors had been.

To my knowledge he never coached any varsity sports at Nobles, though one of his students played basketball at Loomis, Tony Lupien, starred in three sports, I believe, at Harvard, played Wartime first base for the Red Sox, and later coached baseball at Dartmouth. Pa did take on a group of basketball scrubs in the Baseball Cage behind the Gym. We termed ourselves in Class III as “the Caged Animals.”

I think it was about 1947 (he returned from WW II in January, 1946) he began writing his annual Christmas Poems. This was also when Pa began his water colorist career. Many a winter Sunday did he spend turning out paintings of the forest nearby our then home on upper Highland Street.

Winters were spent directing various plays. I recall in particular his production of “The Green Pastures” with Charlie Reynolds ’47 playing the Lord and “A Christmas Carol” with Jonathan Kozol playing Tiny Tim. Then came tuberculosis and several years in a Veterans Hospital out in Framingham, during which many of his then students used to visit him in his ward at the Hospital, the walls of which were covered with Eaton water colors. Danny Kaye, the dancer/actor of the movies, once visited the ward, noticed the paintings, asked to speak with their painter, and spoke with Dad for a half hour or so. Wish I could have been there to hear their shared performance.

I had Pa as a teacher during the fall of my Class II year, just before his tuberculosis was diagnosed. What I recall is how he’d put his raised knee and foot upon a seat in the front row and read lines from a play, or he’d lean on his desk and listen as we in the class read lines from plays such as “The Admirable Crichton,” “Pygmalion,” “The Green Pastures,” and “Antigone.” The last play in the book was “Cyrano de Bergerac,” but no matter how we tried to lure him into letting us read aloud from Cyrano with anonymous cries of “Cyrano” could we persuade him to let us do so. More serious stuff I can’t recall did we do instead.

Pa was a gentle but firm disciplinarian. One day during the first lunch period (lunch in the Castle was split into two periods in those days), a senior was suddenly shoved by his buddies from the hall into his classroom. Pa rushed the sudden entrant, grabbed him by the collar, and tried to push him out the door, which the victim was leaning against. Unfortunately the door opened into the classroom, so both the intruder’s effort to escape and Pa’s pressure to remove him were to no avail. It was their energy vs. a closed door. We in the room that day loved it.

Unfortunately the TB kept him from being our teacher Senior Year. Had this not been the case, I bet we could have tempted him into letting us read “Cyrano” aloud. 

Thanks for letting me ramble on about my Dad. Of course I’m prejudiced, but I think he was the best English teacher I ever had.

 

With thanks to Chris Morss, Nobles ‘58

After retiring from Nobles, Sid spent his later years living at Fox Hill Village, an assisted living community in Westwood. It is reported that he was attended by two young Irish women, who would sometimes drive him to and from various activities. By all reports he was quite comfortable at Fox Hill; many of the residents were connected with Nobles and Dedham, and Sid would socialize with them over his customary Martini before dinner.

Sid was a member of the Friday Evening Club, a group founded in the late eighteen hundreds, which met eight times a year for cocktails and dinner. Among the members were Peter Meek (N61) and Charlie Long (N58). After dinner at each meeting one member of the group would speak on a subject of his own choosing; Sid occasionally played the piano at these meetings.

 

Obituary, publication unknown

Born May 1, 1906 in Syracuse NY, son of Horace Ainsworth Eaton and Emily Russell Lovett Eaton.  (HAE:  Harvard 1893, PhD ;’98, Chairman of Syracuse University English Department 1916-1938; ELE: Radcliffe 1897, active in good works – child labor, fair working conditions for women, peace movements, fair treatment for Blacks. Both parents Phi Beta Kappa. Both active Quakers after the start of WWI.)

Sidney, after nine years of Syracuse public schooling, attended as boarder for three years the Loomis School (now Loomis Chaffee), Windsor, CT, graduating in 1923, first scholar and recipient of the John Mason Tilnety prize for scholarship and athletics.

He entered Harvard in fall of 1923, receiving an AB degree in 1927. At Harvard, he played basketball, scrub foorball, and tennis; he sang for four years in the Harvard Glee Club under Archibald Davidson. During summers, he served as counselor at Pine Island Camp, Belgrade, Maine.

After a 1927 summer of education courses at Harvard, he returned to Loomis as a teacher of English and Latin, and (during his fifteen years there) coach of football, basketball, baseball, and tennis.

He received a fellowship grant from Syracuse University for graduate study in English, and taking a leave of absence from Loomis, earned an AM degree was was elected to Phi Beta Kappa for achieving top ranking of the year in the University Graduate Schools.

He returned to Loomis in the fall of 1931, and became Chairman of the English Department in 1936. In 1932 he was appointed Reader of English Comprehensive Examinations for the CEEB and except for three war years and a year of illness, read English and Advanced Placement English exams consecutively through 1974. He served as Assistant Chief Reader during several post-war years.

In 1942, he moved from Loomis to become Chairman of English at the Noble and Greenough School, Dedham, MA, where he served until mandatory retirement at 65 in 1971.

He then served a year as pro-tem English Department Chairman at Beaver Country Day School of Chestnut Hill, MA, and the following year as English Department Chairman pro-tem at Groton School.

He served in the USNR 1943-1946 as Air Combat Intelligence officer, two years on the Norfolk staff of Admiral Bellinger’s anti-submarine command, and did a final eight months’ tour of duty in China as Naval Liaison with General Chennault’s 14th Air Force. Immediately after the August 15 Japanese capitulation, he was chosen as one of an inter-service rescue-for-internees mission to Shanghai, arriving August 19, the duty lasting until December 23, 1945. For his Norfolk service he received the Admiral’s Letter of Commendation; for his rescue mission service, he received the Soldier’s Medal, the highest military peacetime award. He was discharged as Lieutenant in March, 1946.

During his China tour of duty, he began informal pencil sketching, and on return took up watercoloring, self-taught. One of his early paintings won honorable mention in an Eastern Maine open exhibition and this encouraged him to continue, A year of hospitalization with tuberculosis in 1949-50 provided him opportunity to concentrate on painting from memory and imagination, a sort of personal studio training. Following his release, he had pictures accepted in regional and national competitive exhibitions and was given a number of one-man shows. From one Boston exhibition, the Boston Museum and the Fogg Museum each purchased an Eaton for their permanent collections. He was a member of the Copley Society and the Boston Visual Artists’ Union.

He was a member of the English Lunch Club, and served as its President in 1971-73. He sang with the Dedham St. Paul’s Episcopal Church Choir. He was active in the Harvard Fund Campaign and edited the Harvard Class of 1927 newsletter, Now and Then, for many years.

Over the years he has written verse – some occasional and light, some more solid. For presentation to the English Lunch Club he compiled two mimeographed volumes of his verse in the 1960s (“His Heart on Sleeve” and “Elbow Patches”). He has composed a considerable body of salty limericks, unpublished but shared among unprudish friends. He has also created an extensive series of illustrations of clichés, unpublished but circulated among friends.

He has been twice married. His first marriage in June 1930 ended in divorce. The one child of that union, Sidney L. Eaton Jr., survives in Portland Oregon. There are two grandsons and one great grandson. His second marriage, to Eleanor Gibbs Cooke in 1964, brought a granddaughter, Carolyn Cooke, and two more great grandchildren into the family.

 

Obituary, Ellsworth (Maine) American

Sidney Lovett Eaton, of Westwood, Mass., died at age 98, on June 24, 2004. Born in Syracuse, N.Y., on May 1, 1906, Mr. Eaton spent many summers in Sargentville and Brooklin.

As a young man, Mr. Eaton learned to swim in a pond at Edgehill, sailed out of Billings Cove, caught for the Sargentville-Brooklin baseball team, and counseled at the Pine Island Camp. His last visit to Maine came shortly after his 95th birthday. Mr. Eaton was a graduate of the Loomis School (1923) and of Harvard College (1927), and earned a master’s degree and was elected to Phi Beta Kappa at Syracuse University (1931). A teacher and chairman of the English Department at Loomis School and Noble and Greenough School, he also taught at Beaver Country Day School and Groton. He read the English Composition Test for the College Entrance Examination Board for more than 40 years. A World War II naval veteran, Mr. Eaton received the Soldier’s Medal for service in the liberation of Shanghai in 1945. Mr. Eaton was a pianist, a painter, and a poet, and active in his schools. He was a member of the English Lunch Club, the Friday Night Club, the Copley Society, and the Boston Visual Artists’ Union. His watercolor paintings are in the permanent collections of the Museum of Fine Arts (Boston) and the Fogg Museum (Harvard). He was Graduate Trustee for the Loomis School and the founding editor of its alumni magazine, a longtime co-editor of the Noble and Greenough alumni bulletin, and editor of his Harvard class newsletter. Mr. Eaton also sang in the choir at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, Dedham, Mass.

Mr. Eaton was predeceased by his parents and his siblings, Rebecca Eaton Wedgwood, Robert Eaton, and Elizabeth Eaton Boys. He is survived by Sidney L. Eaton Jr. of Portland, Ore., the child of his 1930 marriage to Jessie Adkins; by two grandsons and one great-grandchild; and by many nieces and nephews in Hancock County, elsewhere in New England, and California. His marriage to Eleanor Gibbs Cooke in 1964 brought him a granddaughter, Carolyn Cooke, and two more great-grandchildren.

A memorial service will occur Thursday, Aug. 19, 2004, at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, Dedham, Mass., at 2 p.m. In lieu of flowers, the family suggests contributions to the Loomis Chaffee School, Noble and Greenough School, or Harvard University.

 – 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.