Chicagoans master the art of growing older
Wallace Rusterholtz, AM'56, has stacked on his coffee
table more than a dozen books, including Donald L. Miller's City
of the Century: The Epic of Chicago and the Making of America
and Six Centuries of Great Poetry, edited by Robert Penn
Warren and Albert Erskine. The City Colleges of Chicago history
professor emeritus boasts a library of a "couple of thousand"
texts that share shelf space in his Hyde Park retirement--home
apartment with rows of hand--blown glass and crystal sculptures.
I was stationed in Iran during World War II, I spent all of my
Army pay on original Persian miniature paintings and other artifacts.
With all of the glassware and other art objects around, I would
know immediately that a gay man lives in my apartment. I'm gay,
and I've known since I was 12. I didn't have a steady companion
until I was 70, and I didn't come out of the closet until I was
did propose to a woman on New Year's Eve, 1945. Seven months into
our marriage, I realized I had fallen in love with my wife. After
suffering terribly from diabetes, she committed suicide about
12 and three--quarters years later. My male companion is now in
an Alzheimer's care unit in this building. I visit him every day.
a former history professor, I consider that I was teaching a subject
that was vital, not peripheral. How people lived is the most important
thing to understand about history, and that includes politics
and economics. History should rate with the three R's as one of
the basics necessary for a good education because, as the late
Harvard University professor George Santayana put it, 'Those who
cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.'
education has been my great interest. I taught evening sessions
because the students were older and more serious. They worked
all day and were willing to go to school in the evening. Before
one of my classes started, a woman passed around a box of chocolates
because she had just become a great--grandmother. I thought that
greatest historical events of this century were the Great Depression
and World War II. We haven't had a great president since FDR.
Today we're in a rapidly changing and chaotic period. I'm more
favorable though to President Clinton than many people are. Kennedy
and Harding both misbehaved in the White House, and they were
am a devout Unitarian. Unitarians are not thought of as being
devout but as terrible free thinkers. I glory in being a terrible
free thinker. I'm an agnostic. I don't believe in God, and I don't
care. I wouldn't dream of being that dependent."