When friends remember the late Patricia Russell Secrest ’64, they speak of her laugh, her propensity for good times and her kindness. Friends remember how much she enjoyed Oswego — the campus, professors and classmates. Friends remember, above all, how much she loved the lake, walking along the shoreline, catching a sunset or gazing over the water.
That’s why, with the Dec. 21, 2012, passing of Secrest, her friends initiated a memorial fund to install a bench overlooking Lake Ontario.
“She wanted a bench for a long, long time,” Gileen Widmer French ’65 says. “She would be pleased with the idea of people finding moments of calm and beauty there.”
French transferred into Oswego mid-year as a freshman. “A mutual friend, who had worked with Patty at Lake Placid the summer before, told me to find her at Hart Hall. I taped a note to Patty’s door on move-in day, and within two hours she was welcoming me to campus.”
When French did her student teaching at Liverpool Elementary School, Secrest was already teaching there. They shared an apartment in Syracuse and commuted to the suburban school together. “I can still hear her laugh,” French says. “We had such good times.”
The Patty Russell Secrest memorial bench will be dedicated during the Class of 1964 Golden Reunion June 5 through 8. On hand will be a circle of women who lived, studied, socialized and graduated together, a group who dubbed themselves “Friends Forever ’64” and who have sustained their relationship by being present for one another’s graduations, weddings, births of children and grandchildren, vacations, celebrations and sorrows.
Explaining the decision to donate a bench, Betsy Gehrig Reeder ’64 says, “Patty loved Oswego more than any of us did. And that’s saying something!”
“It’s going to be hard for us,” Judy Hamilton Powell ’64 says. “Patty would have had this gathering organized. She was the one who planned everything.”
“When my daughter graduated from Oswego,” Vivian Dallek Sayer ’64 recalls, “Friends Forever ‘64 arrived with food and decorations and made her party. Who would have known that I would come to college to get a degree and wind up with a family.”
Friendship as dear as family, kindness beyond measure and memories to cherish a lifetime — those are the qualities of Patty Secrest’s life that will be celebrated on the campus she loved. To make a gift in her memory, contact the Office of University Development at 315-312-3003 or make your gift online.
—Linda Loomis ’90 M ’97