A Celebration of Life
William G. Atkinson III
" What you leave behind is not what is engraved in stone monuments, but what is woven into the lives of others."
Full text and photos of each classmate are coming soon. Please check back.
If you have a memory you would like included in one of your classmates memorials please submit to: firstname.lastname@example.org
MEMORIALS FROM THE 50TH CLASS REUNION
A very special thank you to Debra Dotts-Christian for her unceasing search for classmates and in so doing provided verification of the passing of 27 classmates. Debra's research provided many of the obituaries found on this page.
A very special note of thanks to Susan Boucher Parker who not only sought the information below from family and friends, but also gathered it together, designed, and made a meaningful, beautiful and heartwarming Celebration of Life for our 50th Class Reunion.
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William Garretson Atkinson, III
August 18, 1955 - December 21, 1988
Gary was a:
Son to William, Jr. and Martha
Brother to John and David
Husband to Judy.
After graduating from Ledyard High, Gary went to Washington University where he was honored with a four-year Engineering fellowship. Graduating with honors in civil engineering, he did his graduate work in construction management at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, his father’s alma mater.
He worked in Boston for the Beacon Companies on such notable projects as the Meridien hotel, One Post Office Square, and the Boston Harbor Hotel. He married Judy in May of 88 and they lived and worked in London. Gary was a Project Executive at Olympia & York for the Canary Wharf Complex there. They were returning to the states to visit relatives in Connecticut when they were killed in the bombing of PanAm flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland.
Described by his family as a “born leader”, as a youth Gary was involved in scouting, student council, and school stage productions. He was voted by his classmates as Most Likely to Succeed, Most Intellectual, and Contributed Most to Ledyard High School. He gave the valedictory address at his graduation. As an adult, he participated avidly in sailing, skiing, and cycling. Gary was interested in everything, and in his zest for life belonged to the Fine Arts Museum, attended Boston Symphony concerts, and traveled to Europe, Japan, and throughout the United States.
Gary's favorite quote is:
“The only thing that keeps a man going is energy, and what is energy but liking life?” Louis Auchincloss
"The Notorious WGA"
Contributed by Edward Neely
Thinking back, I consider Gary as the self-assured, erudite river boat captain, the guy who piloted his present life course with all deliberate care, but always planning that reach-for-the-stars excursion down the Nile River. Yet, he could take on passengers and treat them all with due respect and kindness, and with a willingness to help them with their own dreams.
I remember the “Me and My Shadow” routine he and I practiced for the Senior Troop 3192 & Explorer Post 45 variety show. Clearly, neither of us were sure footed hoofers, but as we worked on the routine, he was precise with his steps. He always seemed to plan everything well ahead.
An example I remember regarding his detail oriented nature was his miniature wargame model of a Civil War battle. I don’t recall which battles he was working, but he seemed to be trying to follow the actual historical steps using a scale model. An even better example was the plan he devised, with the aid of Mr. Sanford, to make it to the 13th World Jamboree in Japan in 1971.
Jim Neil described this in his discussion with John Dunham in the video on the LHS blog. It was relatively masterful in that it involved reviving Explorer Post 45 as a means for our merry band of older Boy Scouts to get approval by the BSA to join the jamboree.
I’m sure a number of my fellow classmates can expound upon stories of how Gary helped them in their respective Ledyard journeys. I know Gary provided some important aids in my steps to achieve Eagle Scout, which in turn provided a box checked in my application to medical school. I was hardly physically adept, but he helped me improve my side stroke swimming technique. This allowed me to complete a one-mile swim (performed in his pool) and provided the remaining requirement for my swimming merit badge.
Gary was most definitely one of a kind, a fellow with a clear vision for his life and one who was perfectly willing to help others along the way.
Fulfilling Gary Atkinson's Dream of Hiking Up Mount Fitzroy
Jan. 19, 2023
Note from Jim Neil
So this is Mt Fitzroy. And I have a story. It might be especially interesting to all the LHS peeps out there. We head back into time, the summer I was 14. That summer I went on 3-4 backpacking trips with my good friend Gary Atkinson. Many of you reading this know that Gary tragically died aboard Pan Am flight 103 over Lockerbie Scotland.
Gary was a fellow Eagle Scout and loved to backpack. We talked of many things that summer and I learned a lot. But what we talked about most was backpacking (and girls), mostly where we wanted to hike and camp. Gary’s biggest fantasy was to backpack in Patagonia and to Mt Fitzroy in particular. I don’t recall how he knew about Fitzroy, but I know I learned of it through him. And I too always wanted to visit it. It seems very prescient of him, doesn’t it? I mean he heard of and wanted to visit it long before the rest of us. And now it is probably the most recognizable peak in the world. In fact, many of you have the likeness of this peak in your home. Maybe several times over.
Anyway, I made it today. A relatively grueling 11 hour hike. I think Gary would get a chuckle out of the fact that I hiked it with a fellow Valedictorian, one more geeky than he. Hard to believe, I know.
Anyway, this post is for Gary. I hope he saw me wave to him today.
John David Ayers
September 2, 1955 - September 12, 2011
John was born in St. Mary’s, PA.
He was a:
Son to John and Mary.
Brother to Philip, Andrew, and Debra.
Uncle to Valerie, Carrie, and Beth.
Partner to Nancy.
John grew up in Gales Ferry and attended UConn and Conn College where he earned a BA degree in English and Psychology. John worked for Bank of America Mortgage Loans in Tampa, FL. He was an avid reader spending countless hours at the library. He enjoyed spending time with his cat.
Largo, FL – John David Ayers, of Seminole, FL died unexpectedly on Monday, Sept. 12, 2011.
John was born in St. Mary’s, PA on Sept. 2, 1955 and was the son of John Benjamin Ayers and the late Mary (Clymer) Ayers. He grew up in Gales Ferry, CT and was a 1973 graduate of Ledyard High School. He attended the University of Connecticut and Connecticut College where he earned a BA degree in English and Psychology. Most recently, John had worked for Bank of America Mortgage Loans in Tampa, FL. He was an avid reader spending countless hours at the library and he enjoyed spending time with his cats.
His longtime companion, Nancy Stagnone, predeceased him.
In addition to his father, John is survived by his brothers Philip J. Ayers and his wife Julie of Golden, CO; Andrew J. Ayers and his wife Sandra of Largo, FL; and his sister Debra (Ayers) Eddy and her husband Fred of Odessa, FL. He is also survived by his nieces Valerie (Bliven) Lugo of Trinity, FL; Carrie Bliven of Ledyard, CT and Beth Lovoy-Ayers of Golden, CO as well as his great nieces and nephew.
A celebration of John’s life will be held on Saturday, Oct. 8th at 11:00 am at the Chapel at Bishop Seabury Church, 256 North Road, Groton, CT. Interment will be in Jermyn, PA with his paternal grandparents.
In lieu of flowers, memorial donations in John's name may be made to Donate Life America (a non-profit organization which supports organ donation) at http://donatelife.net.
"I'm trying to remember when or where I first met John Ayers, in high school sometime. I will always remember him as a very nice guy who treated me well and whom I got along with. Never a cross word about anything. I had developed an interest in Taxidermy prior to moving to Ledyard and continued with that pursuit. Somewhere along the line I told him about it and he was immediately interested. We shared that interest for some while until we parted ways after graduation. I'll always remember him as a really nice kid, always pleasant and easy to get along with. I'm sorry that he's gone and that I can't resume any conversations, or start new ones with him." Joel LaRose
Thomas M. Bakke
May 14, 1955 - June 10, 2012
Tom was born in Portland, Maine.
He was a:
Son to Elmer and Florence.
Brother to Stephen.
Husband to Pamela.
Father to Danielle.
Grandfather to Gage and Adamina
Uncle to Christopher.
Tom enjoyed traveling and sharing his experiences with others. He also enjoyed skiing with friends over the years. His most treasured moments were with his grandchildren, Gage and “Minabean”.
He resided in Old Saybrook.
Bruce Galloway Bearden
September 10, 1954 - May 20, 2018
Bruce was born in Groton, Connecticut and grew up in Gales Ferry.
He was a:
Son to Luther and Jean Bearden.
Husband to Cindy.
Father to Ryan.
Brother to David, Cindy, Pam and Patrick.
Uncle to numerous nieces and nephews.
Bruce enjoyed the simple things in life - being outdoors, caring for his seasonal garden, sitting by a warm fire, or just curling up in an electric blanket. He was a devoted employee of Electric Boat for 45 years, where he served his trade as a Pipe Welder.
Bruce Galloway Bearden, 63, of Preston, Connecticut, passed away peacefully Sunday, May 20, 2018 surrounded by his family. Bruce was born to the late Luther and Jean (Zaleski) Bearden on September 10th, 1954 in Groton. He grew up in Gales Ferry, CT and graduated from Ledyard High School, class of 1973. Bruce enjoyed the simple things in life such as being outdoors, caring for his seasonal garden, sitting by a warm fire, or just curling up in an electric blanket. He was a devoted employee of Electric Boat for 45 years, where he served his trade as a Pipe Welder. Bruce is survived by his loving wife Cindy, his beloved son Ryan and fiancé, Caitlin; along with his three siblings, David Bearden and wife, Patricia, Cindy Griffiths-Callaghan and husband, Joe, and Pam Flanagan and husband, Tom; sister-in-law Carmen Bearden; and numerous nieces and nephews whom he enjoyed spending time with. Bruce was predeceased by his brother, Patrick Bearden. Services for Bruce will be privately held at a later date. https://www.legacy.com/us/obituaries/norwichbulletin/name/bruce-bearden-obituary?id=11932963
“Bruce and I started at EB the summer of ’73 shortly after graduation. We played Babe Ruth baseball together, his dad was our coach. He was a good friend of mine. He was a very good wrestler for LHS and Rod Leyland. Bruce was one of the most competitive people I ever knew and yet the most humble person anyone could know. He was a Masterful Pipe Welder. I will miss him and fondly remember our time as friends.”
- Don Jackson
Kim Beth Chadwell Thornton
April 11, 1955 - November 30, 1973
She was wife to Mark Thornton.
Pamela Cleary Plummer
July 3, 1955 - October 19, 2015
Pam was born in Lancaster, PA.
She was a:
Daughter to Donald and Charlene.
Wife to Robert.
Mother to Lenny, Jason, Christine and Robert, Jr.
Sister to Thomas, Michael, Donald, Kathleen and Patty.
Grandmother to Kyle, Michael, Isabella, Michael and Charlotte.
Pam lived in Garwood, NJ. She was the office manager for the Triarsi, Betancourt, Wukovits & Dugan Law Firm.
David Michael Cochrane
February 1, 1955 - June 22, 1999
David was a:
Husband to Kathy.
to Ian, Micah, Ethan and Tyler.
Brother to Mary, Jerry, Cathy, Maureen and “Chip”.
Following graduation from Ledyard High, David joined the U.S. Army, married and settled in Lincoln, Nebraska. In 1987, he was diagnosed with brain cancer. He continued to live his life, on his terms, with his devoted wife and four young sons. The boys were David’s heart and biggest joys. David passed in 1999 with his wife, children and priest at his side.
A Biography of my Brother David Michael Cochrane 2/1/1955 - 6/22/1999
Lovingly submitted by:
Mary B. Miller (Cochrane) “Sis”
Introduction David was my brother, 2 years older than I. We were a family of 7, our Mother and her six chickets. She raised us alone after my father left us, with David, the oldest at 14, and me at 12, we had to bear a great deal of responsibility for our four younger siblings. David was always a happy youngster and even as he got older, he was usually pretty funny and could make people laugh even with some of his lame jokes.Others thought of him as respectful, but too grown for his age but, that probably came from being in a military family. My dad, was in the Navy, and would tell David “now son, when I’m gone you are the man of the house.” Well, my dad left and never came back, I was 12 and David was 14. I think David thought ‘since I'm the man of the house now, you can make my bed, fix my meals and wash my clothes!’ AHA moment for him, because none of us were going to adhere to his demands. It is funny to look back on now because he would tell us all the time “Dad said I was the man of the house when he wasn’t here.” AHA moments to laugh about. He knew that wasn’t the case in this situation, but he really tried to use it to his advantage.
David was really was a good friend to have and would do anything for anyone, if he could. He spent a great deal of time at the Perry residence. Rusty was one of his best friends. He spent so much time at their house my mother once asked him “why don’t you move in with them?” He responded with “I don’t think they have room for me.” Another AHA moment for us.
David left Ledyard after high school to join the U.S. Army and dedicated many years to our country, not only stationed in Germany but also tours to Iraq. He’d tell me about some of the things he experienced over there (but not all). They were heartbreaking. I gained a whole new perspective and respect about the duties of our military men and women. David enlisted at the young age of 18, a child in my eyes, but he certainly came out a changed man.
While in the Army, David met the love of his life, Kathy, who he married and they settled down in Lincoln, Nebraska. In April 1986 they welcomed their first son, Ian. I had my son, Jerry, just two months later and, our youngest sister, Maureen, had her son, Ryan, in February, just 2 months before Ian was born. In 1986, our already big family was getting bigger.
Sometime in 1987, we got the devastating news that David was diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor. I don’t recall having to bear such bad news since 1975, when we lost our brother Jerry in an auto accident. David went through six weeks of radiation treatment and it worked! We learned the tumor had shrunk from the size of a golf ball to the size of a marble. We were all marveled by his and Kathy’s strength and courage they faced so early in their young vibrant marriage, but so very thankful to God. His wife was an RN and she took great care of him and also kept us informed throughout his treatment. I remember one of my calls to him. He said he was thinking about going back out on another Army tour, and I begged him not to. I asked him if they would let him stay behind due to his condition ...His response was “Mary Margaret, I am no different than the guy next door. If he can mow his lawn, so can I.” I never realized how those words would resonate with me later.
David continued to live his life, on his terms, with his devoted wife Kathy, for years after those radiation treatments. They extended their family and gave Ian three brothers; Micah, Ethan and Tyler. Those boys were David’s heart and biggest joys! He was so very proud to be called Dad. At some point, he and Kathy made the decision after the Army, that he would stay home with the boys and she would work full time as an RN. Kathy was so amazed one time, she called my mother in CT, and said “Where did he learn this stuff?” She had come home from work and wanted to know why all the curtains were off their windows. David just laughed and responded “because it was time for me to wash and iron them.” Another AHA moment my Mom shared with me.
In April 1997, my mother called to say that David was coming home (back to Ledyard) and that we should all come home if we were able. We lived all over - from Seattle to Baltimore. He came home as did we and we visited with David for about 2 weeks. His wife and boys were still in Nebraska, so we knew he was home to say his goodbyes. By now he was becoming paralyzed on one side but could still, amazingly, walk with a cane though his speech was almost unrecognizable. All that came out when he tried to speak was “GABEAR”. I joked with him that I was going to get us all T-shirts that had that written on it “GABEAR” know it was just a sound he could make, and again, we laughed together. He had such a great sense of humor, even given what he knew was ahead for him, but we made the best of a horrible situation. Rusty Perry came and got him at Moms, and they spent the day together. One of their stops was at UCONN so he could get his 4 boys sweatshirts. It was amazing to me that of all the things he could have been doing, his thoughts were still on those 4 boys and his wife. They all attended Catholic school and attended church regularly and I knew and could feel in his solemn times, he was already missing the life he was going to miss out on.
Nearing the end of his stay, he wanted to go for a ride and so we did; just he and I. We went around Ledyard, the lake, the schools, Indiantown Rd, up Rt 12, all the way into Poquonnock Bridge in Groton. About the time we approached Dairy Queen, he was pointing and GABEAR-ing for me to stop. I went in and got two of the biggest cones they had and came back to the car. He had the biggest smile on his face and I handed his to him and then proceeded to get into the car. By the time I sat down and looked over at him, David had ice cream all up his nose and his face! For an instant I forgot about the disabilities he faced but, the two of us just sat there and laughed and laughed until we cried, as the cones were just melting away and I was wiping off his face. It was just so incredibly funny to remember these two grown adults acting just like we were kids again.
Sadly, David returned to Nebraska and we thought this was the last time we would see our big brother, or was it? During this time, my mother had been diagnosed with colon cancer and was not well herself, but refused treatment until after David went back home. For the next year and a half, keeping in close contact with Kathy and David about his condition, Mom went through three surgeries and a series of chemo treatments. Sadly, on November 24, 1998, she lost her battle and the matriarch of our family was now gone.
Once again, Kathy brought David home, this time in a wheel chair, with all four of their young boys in tow, to attend the funeral of our Mother. Through our sadness, we appreciated being able to spend yet another week with our brother and his family until they had to returned to Nebraska, his one final trip.
Seven short months later, with so much sadness still in our hearts, David passed away at home with his beloved wife, children and their Priest at his side. He was finally at peace. He lived so much longer than any of us thought he would, even his doctors; 12 years he kept going; living and laughing. He and Kathy continued their lives with their beautiful 4 boys. David passed on June 22, 1999. His funeral was held on June 28th, which was also my 42nd birthday. Once again, we all gathered, this time in Lincoln, NE, to remember the brother, father, husband and friend that we all loved so much.
David had a heart of gold and it was apparent that his boys had inherited the same gift. While attending his funeral, his then 10 yr old son Micah, wanted to give me rosary beads made from rose petals, their Priest had given each of the boys that day. They were blessed by the Pope when Father visited the Vatican, but I just couldn’t accept them from Micah, especially on that day. So, on his own accord, Micah went to the Priest and told him that his Aunt, and explained in detail who I was (not knowing Father and I had already had a long conversation prior to David’s funeral), and he told him that it was my birthday. Father gave Micah another set of those blessed rosary beads so Micah could give them to me. If I ever felt loved, if I ever felt blessed, that was certainly the day. A gesture so pure, my young nephew, through his own grief and loss, felt so compelled at 10 years old, just melted my heart. I actually felt my brother’s presence in that very moment. After the service, we gathered back at their house and yet, another surprise. A birthday cake - for ME! In all the sadness and joys my heart was holding, I just knew it had to have been David saying “She’d better at least get a cake today!”
I will forever remember, love and cherish David and our memories. Keep on smiling Big Brother, till we meet again, keep smiling!
~ IN OUR HEARTS YOU WILL REMAIN ~