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Play On!

Louis Roney

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Tom Harmon, legendary Michigan All-American halfback, told me at lunch in Los Angeles that Endicott Peabody II — Chub — was the toughest lineman he ever faced. (In the fall of 1941, the scholar-athletes of Harvard had inexplicably been booked to play mighty Michigan!)

Everyone called him “Chub,” but he wasn’t chubby, not when he entered Harvard.

Chub was named after his grandfather, Endicott Peabody, who, in 1884, founded Groton School and presided there for 56 years, until 1940!

At Groton, the Reverend Peabody (Grandpa) educated Franklin Delano Roosevelt among other illustrious alums. Guys I knew at Harvard said that the Roosevelt boys just barely got into Groton.

Groton school, all male in my day, was excellent academically and ranked socially at the top of the “St. Grottlesex” crowd, which schools included Groton, St. Paul’s, St. Mark’s and Middlesex.

Any guy who graduated from one of these four Episcopal “snob” schools was set up for membership in private clubs resembling fraternities at Harvard.

Chub and I lived in the same entry in Eliot House, thus we saw each other daily. His first cousin, Bill Parsons, was his roommate and a good friend of mine. Parsons became an Episcopal minister.

When the door to their Eliot House digs opened, on the wall was the large All-American football banner that Chub won unanimously in 1941.

One day during World War II, returning from a sub-hunting tour in the North Atlantic, my ship was standing into the harbor of Hamilton, Bermuda. I was on the flying bridge when a U.S. submarine surfaced alongside us. A port opened topside, and out stepped Chub Peabody. “Long way from Eliot House, Lou, isn’t it?” he called to me through a megaphone.

At war’s end, Bill Parsons kindly lent me his family’s apartment in New York’s East 70’s.

“Democrat” Chub was elected governor of Massachusetts in 1963, and later in the ’60s worked alongside President Lyndon B. Johnson in the White House. Chub wrote me friendly notes on White House stationary. The envelopes stirred interest among the mail handlers in my apartment house in New York!

At my class’ 25th reunion, in 1967, I sang as soloist with Arthur Fiedler and the Boston Pops in Symphony Hall. After an encore, I saw Chub at the footlights. He shouted, “Come join Toni and me at our table.”

One day in the fall of ’79, my beloved wife-to-be, Joy, and I were walking on Central Park South in a downpour. Suddenly, a voice called, “Louie!” An open cabriolet stopped beside us. A sign on the car read, “Peabody for vice president.” Chub believed that U.S. vice presidents should be elected, not appointed. And he rode soaking wet through New York to make his point.

When beloved wife and I sang at the class of ’42’s 45th reunion, in Andover, Mass., we visited again with Toni and Chub.

By the time the next big reunion was to occur, Chub had sadly succumbed to cancer. Our little Harvard world was shrinking.

Later that same year, 1997, lovely Toni greeted us alone in Boston’s Symphony Hall.