Remembering Herb Knapp

Herb was my friend. Herb was my teacher. Herb is gone. I miss Herb.

My wife, Wendy, and I met Herb and Faith at a party in Little Silver, NJ, hosted by Pat and Stan Rice, the parents of a friend of my son, Scotty. My ears perked up when I learned that he was a physician. I was curious about things medical and here was someone who could answer my questions. Herb’s ears perked up when he learned that I was a Bell Labs engineer and especially when he learned that I developed software for an AT&T computer he owned, the UNIX PC. He was curious about things computer and I was someone who could answer his questions.

And so began a friendship that lasted at least twenty-five years, maybe as much as thirty as I don’t remember the exact year of the party. We had an unspoken agreement that he would teach me medicine and I would teach him computers. He gave me stacks of the New England Journal of Medicine and I probably gave him computer books or, at least, online references.

In some ways we were a bit of an odd couple. He was twenty years my senior, a physician, a Jewish atheist. That alone was a point of much fascination to me as he taught me about the distinction between religious faith and religious culture. I was twenty years his junior, an Irish Catholic (practicing, not necessarily believing) and an engineer – hard science, not the soft science of biology. But I have long suspected that it was the age difference that was a strong part my attraction to him. I lost my dad when I was thirteen and sometimes find myself seeking friendship of men a generation older, not as a replacement for my dad but as an exemplar of what my dad may have been like as he aged. While Herb was younger than my dad he was definitely a generation older than I.

Over those years we were together a little in person. Herb and Faith came to our New Year’s Eve parties. Wendy and I visited them in Long Branch and later in Vermont and New Hampshire, he would sometimes stop by for a dinner on his trips back to NJ, and I visited his office in Asbury a few times. A doctor’s office cabinet from there now holds machine tools in my shop and I weigh myself on his office scale every morning. I remember a very expensive, infra-red camera in that office that he was using in an exploration of new diagnostic techniques.

Our real friendship, however, developed telephonically. We would spend hours on the phone talking about computers, medicine, politics, who knows what. Some of those calls were more of a monologue with Herb going off on one his long rants about Republicans, the sorry state of computer documentation, or the way young doctors practice medicine. On those calls I tried patiently (sometimes) or not so patiently (other times) to explain details about programming or the Linux operating system. Despite clear frustrations at times Herb accomplished a great deal with computers, writing his own accounting software long before I met him and later with his UNIX PC and even later with Linux software. While most doctors of his generation wanted nothing to do with computers (even current ones only grudgingly accept them), he embraced them and recognized their value to his work.

Herb was brilliant in medicine and well beyond. I’ve had a fascination not so much with WWII itself but with the immediate aftermath of the war. Herb was in Europe during that period and would often talk about it, answering my many questions. The lesson I remember best, though, concerns marriage. Herb astutely observed two components to marriage – civil and religious – a point obvious in hindsight but one I never thought about until Herb pointed it out. By separating the two the state can deal with the legal, contractual aspects of marriage consistent across all faiths – taxes, property ownership, visitation rights – and the religious can deal with faith-specific ceremony. A brilliant approach to gay marriage issues. We had many other such conversations. The specifics of most are long buried in my mind but what remains forefront is the impression of a clear thinking, if sometimes a bit angry, brilliant take on world events.

And then there was the chair. I remember the chair. I sat in the chair. We had long, long conversations as Herb talked about the the development of the chair, the difficulty finding and working with manufacturers for the chair, of finding people to market it. I had no involvement with the chair but I remember Herb’s almost quixotic passion as he pursued it. Sadly, it never came to pass.

Herb was very proud of his diagnostic skills. One story he told of how he started his diagnosis the moment the patient walked in the door – how the patient stood, walked, looked. And then he listened to the patient. “Doc, something is not quite right.” While some doctors might dismiss that line Herb pursued it and with some prodding, some questioning, he was able to pull out of the patient what was really going on. All of this before he got to the clinical stuff: blood pressure, heart rate, temperature, etc. Herb also had a bimodal persona, his usual-self and his doctor-self. Most of my medical questions were answered by his usual-self. But when I had a specific question about myself or a family member he put on his doctors hat, his voice changed, became more serious, and he became his doctor-self. That’s when I started to worry.

While I would never ask Herb for medical care – our relationship was that of friends, not patient / doctor, I respected that distinction and wanted to keep it that way – I never hesitated to ask Herb for a medical explanation or understanding.

One such conversation took place a few years ago. My daughter, Becky, was in the hospital with abdominal distress. Her doctors were pointing fingers at each other, “it’s your problem, no, it’s your problem” as test results mounted but no one wanted to operate. Herb was in New Hampshire yelling at me “it’s a surgical belly, it’s a surgical belly, have them open her up”. With his encouragement (actually a lot stronger than encouragement) I was about to start yelling at her doctors myself when one finally recognized the urgency and a satisfactory resolution followed. I am grateful to have had a doctor-friend with whom I could discuss things like this.

Another such conversation could have, should have, occurred just the other day. Wendy fell off her bike and landed on her arm, a minor mishap on the scale of accident trauma but painful nonetheless. Her fall was exactly the kind of thing we would discuss. “What is a contusion? Why no bruising” How long to heal?” Unfortunately, Herb was gone. No such conversations any longer. It’s only been a couple of weeks but I’m already missing him.

While our friendship grew on the phone it was also the phone, or really the absence thereof, that gave indication of Herb’s decline. Until a few years ago he would call every few weeks to every few days, sometimes even several times a day if he was in the middle of a project. When the calls became less frequent I thought his interests had changed or because he bought an Apple computer. (I don’t talk Apple and Apple owners rarely need help.) In hindsight it was more. I might drop him a line – “haven’t heard from you in a while, how are things going” – and he might phone back but he wasn’t the same feisty Herb that I remembered from before. The decline had started but I didn’t recognize it. I didn’t realize it until the email from Faith a few weeks ago. Less than two weeks later he was gone.

I have lost a friend. I have lost a teacher. I miss Herb.

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In Memory of Marie Wetzel


Marie Antoinette Wetzel, 101, of Little Silver, NJ, died on March 3, 2014, at her home in Little Silver. Marie grew up in New Brunswick, NJ, and lived for over sixty years in Milltown, NJ before moving to Little Silver about six years ago.

Marie was born on June 30, 1912, in New Brunswick to John and Rose Boyle, graduated from Saint Peter’s elementary and high schools, was married to William John Wetzel, and the mother of William Robert Wetzel. She was known as Nana to her grand- and great-grandchildren and many of their friends. Marie was raised from about age six by Lillian and Jacob McMurtry and grew up with their adopted daughter Doris McMurtry Reed, all of whom predeceased her.

Before the birth of her son, she was employed for many years as a telephone operator by New Jersey Bell Telephone Company and later at a number of other locations before returning to Jersey Bell until her retirement as a supervisor in 1978.

Marie was active in the Milltown PTA, the Milltown Mobile Hospital Unit, the AT&T Pioneers, and the Milltown Senior Center. She attended Saint Peter’s Church in New Brunswick, in her childhood, was a regular parishioner at Our Lady of Lourdes Church in Milltown, and later attended Church of the Nativity in Fair Haven, NJ, after she moved to Little Silver.

She is survived by her son, William Robert Wetzel and his wife, Wendy, of Little Silver; grandchildren Rebecca Wendy Sodon and her husband, Robert, of Atlantic Highlands, NJ; Scott William Wetzel and his wife, Caroline, of Milford, CT; and William John-Richard Wetzel of New York, NY; great-grandchildren Malcolm Lembert Seemann and Evelyn Marie Seemann and their father Hank Seemann, of Bayside, CA; and Belle Marie Sodon of Atlantic Highlands. She is also survived by Jacquelynn Reed Mecca Purcell, daughter Doris and Herbert Reed, and grand daughter of her surrogate parents, Lillian and Jacob McMurtry. Among Marie’s many beloved nieces and nephews, Jamie Cost was frequent companion.

She was predeceased by her granddaughter Suzanne Wetzel Seemann; husband William John Wetzel; siblings John Boyle, Mae Boyle Camp, Ann Boyle Marshall; parents Rose Barrett Boyle and John Boyle; half-siblings Bertram Lynch and Lillian Lynch Mogor; stepfather Michael Lynch.

In addition to her family Marie enjoyed the companionship of several close friends including Clair Casey, Grace Riha, Louise Apicella, all of whom predeceased her by many years, and Helen Chaki, her last-surviving friend of her own generation, who died just hours before Marie.

Marie cherished the love of her grandchildren and great-grandchildren and was active in their upbringing. She was immediately welcomed by all of the people she met and was especially close to Bill and Wendy’s friend, Steve Schoggen, one their many friends who loved her greatly. She served as an extra grandmother to the children of several friends and relatives.

Marie enjoyed extended visits with her great-grandchildren, Malcolm and Evelyn, in Wisconsin and later in California, visits at the Harbor House and hoisting a pint at birthday celebrations in Falmouth, MA, with Wendy’s brother, Andy Hocker and his wife Nina; and the Chalkeys in Chatham, MA. In earlier years she traveled by ship to Europe visiting Holland, Germany, Switzerland, France, and later visited Spain, Morroco, Greece, and Hawaii.

Marie loved to cook, especially desserts. She was famous for her lemon-meringue pie. She made sure that anyone she fed, and there were many, enjoyed a hot, delicious, hearty meal. She enjoyed talking on the phone, going out with friends and family, dancing, the beach, crocheting and sewing. She was social and gracious with a great love of life and an Irish feistiness that stayed with her into her last days.

She will be missed by the many people whose lives she affected so positively.


The viewing will be on the evening of Friday, March 7, from 7:00 to 9:00 PM at Thompson Memorial Home, 310 Broad Street, Red Bank, NJ.

A funeral Mass will be celebrated on the morning of Saturday, March 8, at 10:00 AM at the Church of the Nativity, 180 Ridge Road, Fair Haven, NJ.

Interment will be at Saint Peter’s Cemetery, 500 Somerset St, New Brunswick, NJ, at approximately 12:00 PM.

In lieu of flowers, the family suggests a memorial gift to the Suzanne Wetzel Seemann Geography Endowment in honor of Marie’s late granddaughter, Suzie. Contributions can be made payable to “HSU Advancement Foundation,” with a notation for the endowment, and sent to Humboldt State University Advancement Foundation, 1 Harpst Street, Arcata, CA 95521-8299.

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Remembering the Coopeys – George Sr., Melba, George Jr., Charlie


The Coopey family – parents George and Melba, sons George and Charlie, and Melba’s father, Mr. Ahrend – lived next door to my childhood home in Milltown, NJ. I lost touch with them many years ago and sadly learned only a couple of years ago that all are gone. Last year I came across a few photos of the Coopeys – the boys at school, at a couple of my birthday parties and one of the whole family and other friends at a bon voyage party – scanned and posted them to file-sharing site Flickr.

Charlie and George at Milltown Public School
Coopey family at bon voyage party with others
At my birthday party
At my birthday party
At my birthday party

I normally use only first names in labeling photos of people that I’m in contact with. But for people that I’ve lost touch with I’ll usually include the last name with the thought that a web search will be more fruitful. That was the case with the Coopeys.

It was a thrill to receive a note from Charlie’s daughter, Addie, who found my photos at Flickr with a search for her dad’s name. She immediately contacted me and I promised to send her some memories about her dad. Since those memories are inextricably intertwined with her dad’s brother, parents, home, other family members, and the surrounding area, I decided to write a remembrance about the whole family instead of limiting it to just her dad. Perhaps other surviving family members will enjoy and appreciate it.

Unfortunately, I don’t have too many recollections about the boys. In large part I suspect that this is because we lost touch many years ago and didn’t have the benefit of recurring contact as adults to refresh those memories. That is the case with several childhood friends with whom I’m still in touch and where their memories tend to complement mine. As next-door-neighbors of similar age it is certain that we did a lot more than I can remember but then again, childhood friendships are closely tied to school grade levels. The Coopey boys were not in my grade so it is possible that we were not especially close. Whatever the case I’ll try my best to recall what I can.

As I got into writing this I realized that: 1) I’m rambling, and 2) I really don’t have a lot of specific memories about the boys. I hope that this will at least give family members an insight into the milieu in which the boys grew up even if it is long-winded and light on specifics.

The Setting

The Coopeys lived next door to my house at 15 Cortlandt Street in Milltown on the side of my house toward Elkins Lane. There was one more house past the Coopeys before Elkins Lane. Some of the neighbors at the time included Steve Bittay and wife, the Kohlers, Dan and Estelle Mills and father Jim Mills (Jim was the former husband of Eleanor Mills, the victim in the Halls-Mills murder case), George and Peg Mackaronis and children George, Chris, Meg, Otto and Ada Ziegler and daughter Caroline, Hugo and Betty Stockburger and son Jimmy (Hugo was a NJ State Trooper and had a role in the trial of Bruno Hauptmann in the Lindbergh kidnapping case), and one more that may have been Liebnitzky.

Behind the Coopey house was a small patch of woods that was my favorite haunt a focal point of much of my play. While I have few recollections of playing with the boys in the woods I’m sure that we certainly did. I remember cutting trees in the woods to make a path, building a fort under one tree with a large piece of found wood, riding my bike in the woods, digging a large hole there, and I’m sure a lot more. From Elkins lane northwest toward US 1, from the back of the woods woods northeast toward US 1, and from the side of the woods southeast was a large field which, like the woods, provided endless hours of play. The field northwest from Elkins Lane was mowed grass and the location of many baseball and football games. As with the woods the boys were almost certainly involved in much of this but also like the woods I have few memories of them there. I do have a specific recollection of being in the field with the boys and their father, Mr. Coopey, who was hitting balls for us to catch.

The field on the southeast side of the woods extended behind my house to a large factory which was Personal Products division of Johnson & Johnson at the time. That field was owned by J&J but cultivated and harvested by the Rutgers ag school. I remember horse corn growing there for a while. That provided a source of corn for throwing at windows on Mischief Night, the evening before Halloween in NJ. Way out in the field was a small brick building only a few feet high that my friends and I referred to as the hot house. I learned later, during an eighth-grade field trip to Personal Products, that the building provided access to a tunnel that ran between Personal Products and other J&J buildings on the other side of US 1, probably Ethicon Sutures and Permacel Tape. The tunnel had pipes that delivered steam from the power plant at Personal Products. Thus the building was quite warm and provided an ideal place to dry the corn quickly. While I have no specific recollections of the boys involvement there is a good chance that they were involved as it was part of the local culture. I also remember using the building as a blast shield. With friends, possibly the Coopeys, I would ignite a very small pile of material with a 22 shell inside. The heat would set off the 22 but the building contained head of the bullet and the shrapnel from the casing. In hindsight, this, and many other activities during my explosives phase were quite foolish but I luckily survived with no injuries.

An explosives phase is something akin to fart jokes. People either get it and nod their head in knowing approval or they don’t and look at you with a blank stare of bewilderment. I worked in a technical environment with engineers and scientists, many of whom went through their own explosives phase and got it. But not all did, and certainly few of my non-technical friends got it. As part of that explosives phase I built a small proving ground in my back yard, an area secured with a log fence in which I would set off my home made explosives and rockets. Sadly, I never did quite get it right – my explosives took off like rockets and my rockets exploded. While I don’t remember the Coopey boys participating in my experiments they almost certainly did as they were so close and would have been curious if not directly involved.

I also remember wheat growing in the field for several years as well as barley. The barley wasn’t interesting but the wheat, being quite tall, relative to the height of a small boy, and with brittle stalks, was ideal for making paths and mazes. I remember developing a technique with a stick for such. One or two of us would hold the stick horizontally in front of us, push it against the vertical wheat stalks, lean forward pushing the wheat to the ground, stand up, move forward and repeat the process. In hindsight, this probably wasn’t appreciated very much by the Rutgers ag school staff. But then again, if the wheat was near harvest and the harvesting machine could pick it up from the ground then likely very little was wasted. The harvesting operation for some of the crops, I’m not sure if it was the wheat, barley, or something else, included making bales of the harvested material or maybe waste products of the harvest. Whatever the case the bales were quite large and made great building blocks for the construction of huts, forts, and more. The machine would drop the bale as soon as it accumulated enough material to make one. As a result, the bales were scattered individually all over the field. We would gather the bales together for our projects from where they were dropped. While our mazes may not have been appreciated, by collecting the bales together we actually saved the ag schools staff time as many were now in one place, making it easier for pick up.

My close friend and former neighbor in Milltown, George Mackaronis, reminded me of one more event in the field. When the ag school came to pick up the hay bales, they drove a tractor pulling a large trailer to load and store the bales. The trailer sides were made of some type of corrugated sheet metal and formed a perfect target for a BB gun. George claims I shot my BB gun at the trailer, hitting the side with a loud noise. He said that the tractor stopped, the workers jumped off looking for the origin of the sound, and he and I ran into my house. I don’t specifically remember it but it certainly sounds plausible.

As before, while I have no specific memories of the boys with me on these ventures, almost certainly they either were or had their own in the fields. I mention it to offer a glimpse into the environment of the boys childhood.

According to anecdotal legend the site of the Coopey home, the woods, and likely a lot more nearby land were the site of the Elkins farm, the namesake for Elkins Lane. The only artifact of this that I was aware of was a brick-lined well at the northeast corner of the woods, not far from a large tree. From an image of mine I believe that the well was only a few feet deep at the time. At some point someone realized that there was a snake in the well, probably a harmless Garter Snake, which I remember seeing in the well. Whether it was the bogus threat of the snake or the real hazard of an open well, even if shallow, one of the neighbors, Mr. Stockberger I believe, filled it with rocks.

The Coopey Home

From my own recollections I don’t know exactly when the house was built, only that I was quite young but old enough to remember some details, which I’ll get to shortly. From Middlesex County records I learned just now that the Coopeys bought the property from the Borough of Milltown in 1949 and recorded a mortgage on it in 1952. This would suggest that the house was built in 1952 or 1953. I have a very distant memory of looking at their lot from my yard with my dad before the house was built and possibly walking around the vacant property. These images are very vague but suggest a wooded lot and an even vaguer image of a metal-frame structure on the lot. This is possible as I know that there was a water tower on the property for the Borough water system, and I believe that the system was fed from an artesian well near the center of town, and that the water was pumped to tower for storage. This makes engineering sense as the property is one of the highest points of land in Milltown. While my memory of seeing the tower is uncertain, its existence is not. There was a large concrete platform in the back yard of the Coopey’s house, much too large to remove without heavy equipment, and which may even exist to this day. My understanding is that the platform was part of the base of the tower, possibly for just a foot of the tower or possibly at the center of the tower for the water pipe.

I have a few memories about the construction of the house. Mr. Coopey asked my dad if the builders could get water from our house for construction needs, likely for mixing mortar for the foundation and plaster for the walls. Later, after the house was finished, I remember Mr. Coopey giving my dad a large box of Band-Aids (large as in probably a foot long) as a thank-you for the use of the water. During construction I remember visiting the house quite often and playing inside, climbing ladders to the attic, running round among the open walls, and salvaging scraps of lumber from the waste piles. I still have a crude box that I made from scrap lumber when I was young that I may very well have gotten there. I got to know the workers and remember conversations with them. I have a vivid recollection of a large (perhaps a 55 gallon drum) of plaster that the workers had mixed. I was surprised that they let it sit around for a day or more before applying it to the wall. I hindsight they were slaking it, making sure that it was thoroughly wet and it may have sat like that for days. At this point I’m not sure if it was the sub-layer or the finish layer – I believe it was gray so it might have been the sub-layer – but I definitely remember a large tub of plaster of some sort. I was born in 1945 so I would have been seven or eight then.

From County records I learned that the Coopeys sold the house to John and Sylvia Adochio in 1977, that the Adochios live there until 1992 when they sold to Graham and Mary Beth Maby.

A Summer Home

Someone in the Coopey/Ahrend family had a summer home on the Metedeconk River in or near what is now Brick, NJ. With all that I have forgotten I have no idea how I remember that but somehow I do. I remember being there but only one or two images from the visit – that of a boat belonging to the family tied up at a bulkhead behind the house and possibly Mr. Coopey going swimming there. We may have gone out for a ride on the boat but I have no images of that. My mom (now 101) remembers catching soft-shell crabs in the water right behind the house.

The Parents

I remember the family fondly. I remember staying over in their house one night in 1958 when my dad was gravely ill and my mom was spending every night in the hospital. I remember the night that Mrs. Coopey’s mother died. My mother went over to be with Melba, to try to console her, to offer some company, as I believe that George was working at the time and Melba was alone.

I don’t remember the exact chronology but I suspect that Mrs. Coopey’s father, who I knew as Mr. Ahrend, probably moved in with the family sometime after that. I have a vague recollection that her parents lived elsewhere in Milltown, possibly near the center of town, and later of Mr. Ahrend living with them so I’m guessing that happened after Mrs. Ahrend died.

I was building a bobsled in the fall of 1958 and had to make several cuts in wood for the foot rests that would have been very difficult to do by hand. I remember Mr. Ahrend helping me with that with a band saw in the basement of the Coopey house. I remember quite a shop there that I believe was Mr. Ahrend’s but it could also have been Mr. Coopey’s.

Mr. Coopey was quite a bit younger than my dad – a point I wasn’t aware of at the time but only when looking back on the period as an adult. I remember him being more active with the boys than my dad was with me as illustrated by my memory of him playing ball with us that I mentioned earlier. I remember a time when the family had rabbits in a cage in the back yard. One night a predator, not sure what, attacked the rabbits and left them badly wounded. I remember the unpleasant sight of rabbits with fur missing and Mr. Coopey having to deal with them the next morning.

The Boys

I knew the boys were younger than I but I needed the help of George Mackaronis with the details. George M. is five years younger than I, remembered that the boys were both older than he, and estimated their birth years at 1946 for George and 1948 for Charlie. On-line records I found later indicate he was close: George was born in 1947 and Charlie in 1948. That made George two years younger than I and Charlie three years younger.

George Mackaronis has at least a different set of recollections than I, and probably a better memory of them. He recalled several stories to me when I contacted him after hearing from Charlie’s daughter. He remembers car pooling to grammar school, Milltown Public School, with the Coopey boys and me. George M.’s mom didn’t have a driver’s license when he first started school so he would come up to my house and ride with either my mom or Mrs. Coopey, whoever was driving that day. I’m glad the he remembered that as I have no recollection of traveling to school with either the boys or George M.

George M. saw a maroon Mustang at a car show in Wildwood some time ago. He remembered Charlie having one many years before and asked a woman tending the car about the owner. It turns out that the woman was Charlie’s wife. She found Charlie and George M. and Charlie reconnected for the first time in years. George M. also recounted how Charlie taught him to ride a two-wheeled bicycle and that Charlie even remembered that at the show. He also had a few other stories about Charlie but I’ll leave that for him to relate outside of this note.

In writing this it has become clear that I have few memories the day-to-day activities with the boys – playing in the woods, baseball games, and so on that were most certainly a part of our lives. Rather, what I remember are the one-off, non-routine things that we did. Among these I remember trying to help one of the boys with math while they were still in grammar school. There were only one to a few years difference between us and I was pretty good at math but the math they were learning was the so called new math and I was totally at a loss to help.

Another time we had a dirt bomb battle. That took a little planning as we had to fill up small bags (I’m pretty sure were made of squares fabric tied at the top, not paper) with dirt, which I remember as being pretty dry and dusty. At the appointed time we took up our positions in our respective yards and started lobbing the dirt bombs at each other. I have an extremely vague recollections that the Coopey cousins, Ellen and Elsie, who I’ll say more about later, may have been involved, too. That was all in good fun.

A similar battle took place another day that was not good natured and had the potential to cause serious harm. I have no memory of the circumstances but the boys and I were angry about something. This time, instead of dirt bombs, we were lobbing stones between our yards. I have no idea of the outcome, it may have involved parental intervention, but I don’t think any of us got hurt.

George wasn’t so lucky doing nothing more than coming out his back door. He broke his arm when he fell off the porch, no more than a few steps high. I remember him in a cast, and sometime after the cast was removed. He had a white line down his arm where the cast was cut. I suspect it was the remnants of a scratch from the tool that cut the cast.

One of my last recollections of being with the boys when when I was it college at Rutgers. By my sophomore year (1963-1964) I had gotten hooked on computers and was learning to program a Royal RPC-4000, a small computer in the mechanical engineering department that was a hybrid of vacuum tubes and transistor circuits and programmed with paper tape via a Frieden Flexowriter. One evening I brought at least George and maybe Charlie as well to the lab to show them the computer. That’s the last I remember of them.

I lived in Massachusetts the summer after graduation in 1966 but I was back home from the fall of 1966 until I got married in December of 1970. I have no idea if the boys were still living there then and have no recollection of seeing them during that period even though I was around the house a lot, especially for most of 1970 when I was doing a lot of outside projects.


The boys had two female cousins that visited once in a while. They were younger than I, probably around the age of the boys. I remembered the name of one of them, Elsie, probably because of an unfortunate association with large livestock that was no doubt a burden for her through childhood. In an idle moment almost three years ago I searched on-line for information about the Coopey family and came across an obituary for George Ahrend, Melba’s brother and Elsie’s father. That mentioned surviving daughters Elsie E. Ahrend and Ellen E. Meeham. I found them on Facebook, had a brief conversation with Ellen but never connected with Elsie. From that conversation I heard for the first time about the death of the boys but no further details.

Apart from playing with the cousins Elsie and Ellen when they were young girls I have one other memory of Elsie. Sometime around 1966 or 1967 I was having lunch at the Douglass College student center when a young woman at my table recognized me, either by appearance or context of the conversation, asked if I lived next to the Coopeys, and recalled playing together many years earlier. It turns out that she was Elsie, then a student at Douglass, and had somehow remembered me.


Sadly, this story doesn’t have a happy ending. From information I heard from Ellen Meeham and found on-line the whole Coopey family is gone.

George H Coopey: – 1921 – 1990
Melba Ahrend Coopey: 1920 – 2005
George H Coopey Jr. 1947 – 2010
Charles Coopey – 1948 – 2009

Mr. and Mrs. Coopey moved to Florida in 1977.

George served in the Air Force and lived in Florida, survived by his wife Mary, sons George H. III and Dana R., grandchildren Devon R., Seth A., Carson B., and Madison J.

Charlie served in the Air Force, lived in Michigan and New Jersey, survived by wife Alice, daughter Addie, son Charlie, grandchild Charlie.

The woods behind the Coopey house was cut down in the early 1970’s with only one or two large trees left standing.

A county park opened in 2011 in the field between Elkin’s Lane and US 1, wrapping around behind where the the woods had been and the first several houses on Cortlandt Street including the Coopeys and mine.

My mom still owns the house next door to the one where the Coopeys lived. She is the last of the original property owners in the immediate neighborhood but she moved out of the house in 2007.

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Hurricane Sandy – Summary as of Thursday, 1 Nov 2012

Dear friends and family,

Please excuse this slightly impersonal note that I’m writing to all who have sent us a note of concern about Hurricane Sandy. It would be an understatement that we have been busy. The past week has been a physical and emotional roller coaster – haste, anxiety, fear, fatigue – and we have only scratched the surface on recovery.

Most importantly, we are fine. We survived. The house survived. And the boat survived. Beyond that, though, we are in for a lot of work to get to where we were a week ago.

The present state of affairs. Little Silver, Rumson, Sea Bright, everywhere I can see is dark, totally dark. It is eerie to drive through the center of town, past the train station, through the neighborhoods, and see everything dark. Only today (Thursday) have we seen any cell phone coverage here though we did have a little yesterday when we visited Becky in Atlantic Highlands. Our street is like a gated community with a police officer at the entrance to the point last night to keep out all but residents. I Just discovered that my FIOS Internet connection works even though my FIOS phone does not so this is coming to you via my laptop, not my smart phone, which I can’t type on anyway.

The storm. We did not evacuate though by 7:30 pm Monday we wish we had. It was the worst that we have ever experienced, far worse than 11 Dec 1992. The scariest moments were when was we heard loud, deep thuds from something hitting the foundation, either a wave, timber, piling, etc., causing the whole house to shake. At that point there was nothing more we could so we took the ostrich approach, went up to bed and I put my head under the pillow. Thankfully, whatever was hitting it did no significant damage. My mom went kicking and screaming on Sunday to Becky’s for a few days but is now home again with us.

Damage. We were lucky, very lucky. A few cellar windows and one cellar door and frame were damaged. Front and back steps were beat up and displaced.The cellar flooded to about four inches below the floor joists, that is, about one foot below the first floor. It is a terrible mess with wood, workbenches, debris, mud, silt, reeds everywhere. I got the water out yesterday but it is still wet and mucky all over and will be for days.

Conditions. We have no electricity, no heat, and until recently, no communications with the outside world. A very isolated feeling. We are eating by candle light and oil lamps. I have a generator but I can’t connected it to the main panel yet because the panel and all of the electrical boxes in the basement were submerged. It is running the fridge, sump pump, and now the network, all via extension cords. It’s on its last last tank of gas right now. Hopefully we’ll have more tomorrow as my neighbor’s son is planning to get up very early to try to avoid two to three hour lines at the few stations that are open and agreed to fill several jugs for me. We have plenty of food and I just stocked up on wine shortly before the storm. A neighbor reported that our local A&P was open but stocks were limited to mostly non-perishables.

Devastation right here on the point is unbelievable. My next door neighbor had water two feet deep on his first floor. Same story for probably half the houses on the point. Further east from us all the houses on the south side had their back walls badly damaged or completely destroyed by wave action, pilings, docks, etc. In a couple of cases you can see right through the houses. Whenever I’m feeling glum about all of the work we have to do I think about those people. That’s why I say we were lucky.

Dock is a mess, mostly the same kind of mess as has happened many times before. However, my neighbor’s piling is skewered through the float, which floated up and over my pilings. I’ll either have to have a crane hoist it up or cut it out. Neither is terribly attractive but I’ll probably cut it out and make the repairs later. I’ve accounted for most of the pieces of the pier and finding wood for the rest will be no problem.

Yard is also a mess with a huge mat of reeds and lots and lots of wood, some of it are large pieces. We’ve been through messes like that, too, though not with the amount that we now have.

Preparation. The good news is that we had many days of advance notice. Wendy and I stripped the boat and dropped the mast on Friday and my neighbor towed it home for us on Saturday. Wendy and I, with the help of two of my friends from AT&T plus Becky, moved just about my entire wood and machine shop, power tools, hand tools, even most of the big, heavy stationary tools, the clothes dryer, and much more. It is all spread out between the music room, foyer, dining room and kitchen, but the tools are accessible, an important point now that recovery has begun. I also removed all of the electrical, electronic, and gas controls from the boiler so that I can get heat back without waiting for a service company. It was a huge amount of work and I’m grateful for the help I had. In hindsight, it was the wise thing to do. Any one event of filling a box with tools and carrying it upstairs took only a minute or two but saved hours to days of recovery work later.

Recovery. As of Thursday evening we have the kitchen-porch steps repaired, the basement pumped out, a small amount of yard work started, some materials recovered from neighbor’s yards including my wind surfers, the boiler hosed out, the main electrical panel and some of the electrical boxes in the basement cleaned. It’s small but it’s a start.

That’s where we are. We are all alive. The house is still standing. We have a little repair work to do and a huge amount of cleanup. Maybe we’ll be done by spring.

Bill & Wendy

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Slat Door

Our kitchen includes three sources of heat – radiators, a wood stove, and the cook stove – and a staircase that provides a convective pathway to the second floor of our house. I wanted to stop warm air from the kitchen from flowing up those stairs. We didn’t want to reinstall a door that once been there and a blanket we had used one year was problematic for an older resident of the house. The solution was a slat door made two layers of 60 mil polyethylene film cut in strips about 5″ wide, overlapped with the cuts staggered such that the cut in one layer is covered by a strip of the other.

I sandwiched the slats between two halves of a dowel that I slit in half and mounted the dowel on curtain-rod cups.

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Analysis of stepping a Tanzer T22 mast with shrouds attached

Every spring and fall the Tanzer T22 mail group that I subscribe to has a conversation about stepping the mast when inevitably someone brings up doing it with the shrouds attached. At first glance this appears desirable to stabilize the mast against side-to-side movement. And inevitably someone else says “don’t do it, you’ll bend the chainplates” with the usual explanation that “the chainplates are not in line with the mast pivot”. I decided to finally have an analytical look at the situation, to attempt a definitive statement on why it is a bad idea, and explore a couple of options for stabilization with the shrouds.

On a T22 the chainplates are offset from the mast pivot (the bolt in the step) by 4″ in the forward direction and 3 1/8″ in the downward direction. That is, the chainplates are forward and below the mast pivot. If a 90° toggle is used between the chainplate and the turnbuckle then the downward offset is reduced to 2″ (if your toggle has a center-to-center spacing of 1 1/8″ like mine).

The critical metric to consider is the change in the distance between the chainplate and the shroud-attachment point on the mast as the mast rotates from vertical to horizontal. If the distance decreases then the shroud will go slack and no damage will be done. If the distance increases then the shroud will be stressed, applying a force to the chainplate, likely bending it or worse.

If the chainplate offset was only vertical, that is, it was in line horizontally with the mast pivot but below it, then the chainplate to shroud-attachment distance would decrease monotonically and the mast could be safely lowered without stressing the chainplates.

If the chainplate offset was only horizontal, that is, it was in line vertically with the mast pivot but forward of it, then the chainplate to shroud-attachment distance would increase monotonically. The chainplate would be stressed more and more as the mast was lowered.

But the chainplate offset is both horizontal and vertical – the vertical offset is helping, the horizontal one is hurting – and the net effect depends on the relative displacements of the chainplate and angular position of the mast. As the mast rotates from vertical the chainplate to shroud-attachment distance increases up to a maximum and then decreases, though not all the way to zero.

The link below points to a .pdf image of the Mathematica notebook that I used for the analysis. The graph in image shows this point. (Note that the X axis of the graph is angle above horizontal . The mast is horizontal at the left of the graph, vertical on the right.)

Tanzer shroud stretch

The maximum increase in the chainplate to shroud-attachment distance is 1.9″ and it occurs at 38° from horizontal. If there is a toggle at the chainplate then the maximum increase is 2.42″ and it occurs at 26.5° from horizontal.

This means that if you add an extension to the shroud of the above lengths you should be able to lower the mast without any stress on the chainplates. Of course, the extension must be free to rotate about the hole in the chainplate or toggle.

But not so fast. If you do add an extension of 1.9″ to the shroud (upper or lower), with the mast vertical the top of the mast will be free to move 20″ in either direction from center (25″ with the 2.42″ extension), a movement of about 3.5° either side of center. That’s exactly what we wanted to avoid by keeping the shrouds on. If your boat is not subject to rocking (no wind, waves, or weight shifts) then this issue is moot. The notebook for this computation follows.

Tanzer mast movement with shroud extension

Is 3.5° movement too much? I don’t know and the answer likely is: “it depends”. If you have play between the mast and the casting at the base of the mast (as I did until I replaced the pop rivets) then it is probably fine – the 3.5° rotation will be absorbed by the play. However, if your mast to mast base to mast step is all tight then the 3.5° movement will be transmitted to the step-to-deck connection deforming the deck and beam.

Also of concern with this 3.5° movement is the force of impact of the mast on the shroud as the mast reaches its limits of travel. That could be a lot of pounding if a boat happens to leave a good-size wake just as you’re about to get started.

For these reason I prefer the approach recommended by a member sometime ago: to use a hobby-horse spring instead of a rigid shroud extension. The spring is stiff enough to hold the mast from violent side-to-side movement, but flexible enough to accommodate the change in distance between the chainplate and shroud attachment point as the mast rotates down.

Disclaimer – I have checked my numbers thoroughly and reviewed it with my mechanical-engineer son. But it has been many years since I last used trig so take all of the above with a grain of salt. I welcome independent confirmation of the results.

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Speedotron to Profoto Adapter

I wanted to use an Elinchrom Octabank that had a Profoto mount with my Speedotron 102 strobe heads.

There was probably a commercial solution but it was far more fun and less expensive to make my own adapter.

It consists of ring made from a piece of steel electrical conduit with a 4.25″ inside diameter, just about perfect for the Profoto mount with the rubber ring and clamp removed. I welded the ring to a piece of sheet metal cut to fit the mounting bosses on the Speedotron 102 head. Three screws through the ring retain it on the Profoto mount.

The heat from welding disturbed the surface of the metal so the adapter doesn’t look like much – a coat of paint would resolve that – but it works great.

More photos are at my Flickr site:

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