Farewell, Hart!

Sometimes when an extraordinary occasion occurs, it feels like time stood still. This is rare, but it actually happened today at a service of celebration and thanksgiving for the life of William Hartwell Perry, Jr. in the Calvary Church in Stonington, Connecticut. Hart Perry, who was born on 23 August 1933, passed away on 3 February this year after an exceptionally rich life that spanned more than 50 years in the service of the sport of rowing.

There were many friends and close associates of Hart and his wife, Gill, who wanted to honour him, in fact so many that not all would fit inside the small church. However, a large tv screen was showing the service in an annex to the church, which was a good arrangement.

Very appropriately, the Prelude was Händel’s “Water Music”, which was followed by a prayer for Hart, and then the hymn “My country, ‘tis of thee”. Hart’s two sons, Bill and Tod, read psalm 139, and his daughter, Lissa, read the famous lines from Kenneth Grahame’s The Wind in the Willows when Mole and Ratty first met and they go out on the river to mess about in a boat. This was appreciated, as was Hart’s old friend, Stewart MacDonald’s remembrances. MacDonald talked amusingly about Hart, the gentleman, but also the ‘plunderer’ and collector of stuff (and not all related to rowing). Hymn 717 “My country, ‘tis of thee” was appropriate to sing as it is the same tune as “God Save the Queen”, something the anglophile Hart would have loved, said MacDonald.

The service ended with “Eton Boating Song.” After the service, a reception was held at The River Room in the Latitude 41 Restaurant, next to the Rowing Hall of Fame at Mystic Seaport. For those who wanted, they could walk over to visit ‘The Hall’, one of Hart’s many accomplishments within the rowing community.

Ever since I drove from the service I have had the ‘boating song’ ringing in my head:

Jolly boating weather,
And a hay harvest breeze,
Blade on the feather,
Shade off the trees,
Swing, swing together,
With your bodies between your knees,
Swing, swing together,
With your bodies between your knees.

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