Pat with Fletcher Dogs, Thia, Jo JO and Radar Jan's dog, Thilde and Lady Di in Maine
Haskell Dogs & My Dog-Park Pals
Pat and I have owned lots of different dogs over the years. She loves dogs and most of our dogs have been Pat’s idea. I remember one day Pat said, “We’re going to get a dog.” I objected and the matter rested for a few weeks. Later, one Saturday morning, Pat said, “We’re going to pick our new dog up today.” Our friend, Bess, in Pickens, SC had made a dog to Pat’s specifications—yes, when Pat told Bess she loved her dog, Bess said, “I can make one for you as I know where this dog came from.” Sure enough, we headed to Bess’s house.
Pat picked up this truly adorable tiny little black cutie and handed her to me. I looked down at her and said, “I love her and think we should call her Baba—she looks like a little baba-black sheep and I love my twin-sister Mercy’s dog, also named Baba.
Our Baba turned out being a super dog. We bred her to my aunt’s Margaret’s pure-bred schnauzer and Baba had four pups—two of which we kept, Winnie and Sessie. Mother and daughters lived long lives (average 18 years) and we adored them.
We now have a Jack Russell dog, Lady Di, who we adopted from the Brunswick, Maine Humane Society. Lady joined our other Jack Russell, Lily, who died at the young age of six.
Lady Di has always been very friendly with people but used to growl and snap at other dogs. I’ve walked her for years and about a year ago I decided to take her to the dog-park we have on Hilton Head Island. I was fearful how Lady might act and was pleasantly surprised to find out she seemed to love being there—and immediately got along with the other dogs.
This park is clean and well taken care of. There are comfortable benches and poop-bag stations there .Some days Lady Di and are the only ones there and other days I’ve counted 30 or more dogs and their care-takers. Lady Di runs with other dogs and really enjoys chewing tennis-balls—the grubbier the better. I keep a leather glove in my car to take these balls away from her before she gets in my car.
I have met some fascinating dog-lovers at this park, who qualify as “regulars.” There’s something about one’s having a dog that brings people together.
Art and Sammie and their dog, Twoie, are a couple that are particularly interesting. Art was a foster-child who was a self-described ‘juvenile delinquent’ when he arrived in the USA from Germany. He gradually found himself as he moved from one family to another and eventually earned his college degree in Art. He has shown me lots of his work and what talent he has. After a varied career that included being a ski instructor in West Virginia, Art met his wife, Sammie, who enticed him to move to Hilton Head Island. Art told me, “When I first saw this beautiful woman [Sammie] I knew she was the one for me.’ I’ve gotten to know both Art and Sammie—both bringing lots of laughter and interesting conversation as our dogs, Twoie and Lady Di romp in the park.
Another couple that I’ve enjoyed meeting are Rob and Cathy and their two dogs, Carlie and Lucas. Cathy is a personal-assistant for a well-known woman and Rob is a psycho-therapist. Rob is a real dog-lover and goes out of his way to get to know everyone and their dogs. He also walks on the beach with Cathy and their dogs—that Pat and I used to do when we, too, lived in a house near the beautiful beach on our island.
Joyce and her dog, Pebbles, come often to the dog-park. Pebbles is also a Jack Russell and has become one of Lady Di’s favorites. Joyce lost her husband and lives alone. Her daughter has visited the park and is a peach of a woman. Joyce grew up on a farm in Michigan and has told me lots about her interesting life and things that she’s seen happen in the dog-park—such as the woman who was knocked over by a large dog—and died!
James and his wife, Betty (?) visit the dog-park once in a while with their large black dog (can’t remember their dog’s name). Jim plays guitar and sings at various restaurants on the island and Betty has been the bar-tender at the Hilton/Omni hotel for more than 20 years. Jim is a story-teller who plans to take off in their RV with his wife and dog in the spring.
Dr. Larry, his wife Betty, and their dog, Blossom were the first people I met when I visited the park spring of 2018. Larry is a Dartmouth graduate and practiced urology in Indiana before moving here. We’ve had lots of discussions about medical-matters and Dr. Larry is a big Trump fan but I avoid political discussions with them.
Being on an island with lots of tourists, I meet people that I see one time and never again. Their love of dogs brings them to our park and I’ve found most are usually pleasant to talk with.
In Maine we just let Lady Di out the front door as we have a fence around our yard. In this gated community on Hilton Head fences are rare and our dog-park is a blessing—for both our dogs and for those of us who enjoy it.
This is another chapter from my Bats' book—to be published Spring 2020
“We watched the best [tennis] player in Harwich Port”
Bats’ father was a great tennis player. When he was nine or ten years old his dad asked an excellent tennis pro on the Cape, Roy Barker, to come over and give Bats lessons on the Rockwood court.
From that time on, Bats played lots of tennis, and became a ranked New England tennis player. At Harvard, he played on the tennis team before getting more involved with squash—which he continued to play for a long time. He competed in tournaments all over New England, serving on the board of New England Senior Tennis Foundation for many years. He was a member of the Longwood Cricket Club—one of the world’s oldest tennis clubs, founded in 1877 and moving to Chestnut Hill, MA in 1922. He belonged to tennis clubs in Harwich Port, MA
I was fortunate to play a number of times with Bats and Mercy at Longwood. With 25 superbly maintained grass courts plus 20 clay courts, this club still has an all-white tennis dress code. I once brought a banker friend from Pickens, SC to Longwood. This guy featured himself an outstanding tennis player and had bought ‘whites’ specifically for our Longwood match with Mercy and Bats. I’ll never forget the look on his face when Mercy aced him with her first serve on that grass court. It was downhill for John and me from that point on.
Stocky Clark, Brooks’ brother and distant cousin of Bats and Mercy took us sailing on his catamaran the summer of 2015 off Wychmere Harbor. Stocky told me the following about the Wheeler’s and tennis playing on Cape Cod:
I am part of the larger clan of Clarks and Cushwas. …We are related thru the 4 Cheever sisters and we have always been bound by a sense of kinship and gratitude to the Wheelers over several generations….
We all enjoyed tennis, but never to the level that Bats and Mercy maintained for so many years. A friend and I were just learning to play tennis on the Rockwood’s tennis court. I remember Bats showing up with an opponent. He un-assumedly asked how our tennis was going! We jumped and quickly gathered our balls and vacated, so we could watch the best player in Harwich Port. What a delight to see his always consistent strokes and slice backhand.
As we got older, I was able to play Bats a few times and Mercy many times. Always fun and competitive.
We have spent many hours on their [Wheeler] deck looking over the harbor…Mercy’s endless joy and Bats’ interesting prospective on the world were wonderful.
On one of Bats’ numerous trips to South Carolina, he and I teamed up to play doubles against my Greenville lawyer and his son, Dave Merline and Dave Merline, Jr. We played on clay at the prestigious Greenville Country Club—a tennis bastion. The Merlines were excellent players, but Bats and I played our best that day and beat them on their home court.
Bats and Mercy played lots of mixed doubles together. One match in the finals of a Mid-Cape Tournament, Bats double-faulted in the third and final set. Mercy said to him, “I can’t believe you did that, Bats.” Bats, who had a fine reputation for always being a gentleman on the tennis courts, merely said, “I didn’t mean to.”
They often played on the 4th. of July weekend in Woodstock, Vermont with Danny and Karen Mayers. Mercy would pair up with Danny and Bats with Karen as mixed-doubles’ partners. “It was always a fun tournament. Danny was a great tennis player and one day we played so hard, Bats got over-heated and jumped into a local Vermont stream to cool off.”
Bats consistently wore two pairs of socks on each foot, neither ever matched. “His tennis attire always left something to be desired,”
One year we ran into a friend of Bats at a funeral of Bats’ client. We asked him, “If you were going on a trip, where would you go? He said, “Oh my G.., you’ve got to go to Australia and see the Australian Open Tennis Tournament. We booked it with our travel agent, who suggested the Langdon Hotel telling us it was within walking distance of the matches. They served enormous breakfasts so we didn’t have to eat lunch. We had great seats and watched tennis almost every day from 2 PM until 10 PM. I remember watching the Bryan twins play amazing doubles….That was our last big trip.
Years before, Bats and I went to Bermuda and played with Mike and Sue Hazard at the Coral Beach Club. We never won anything but had a great time.
In September 2019 the tennis club Bats helped found on the Cape alerted Mercy that they’d like to have a BATS WHEELER MEMORIAL TENNIS TOURNAMENT. Mercy was delighted. On September 14, 2019, George Jr. wrote the following:
Just before I collapse into bed, I promised Mercy I would write a note to you to let you know what a tremendous success the “Bats Wheeler Memorial Tennis Tournament” of the Harwich Port Tennis Association, held in gorgeous, perfect weather conditions today, turned out to be. Mercy did a wonderful job of introducing Bats and his tennis background to a very large group of contestants, many of whom, although not all, had known him and his important role in founding the HPTA - and realized he had been one of the best players here for many years. . . . It was won by Gil Daley and Mike Miller—prominent Boston tennis players, … Bats apparently had known each of them for quite a while. Mercy, as you can imagine, kept in close touch with everyone there throughout the day. Emily was here, as well as Ian and Judy Duncan. ….
Mercy plainly was … delighted with the tournament and extremely gratified that everyone there knew about Bats and the reason for the event. The Club, fortunately, has an excellent young professional who kept everything running on schedule. The whole thing was a great success!
Winners of the 2019 Bats Wheeler Memorial Tennis Tournament, Harwich Port, Massachusetts—Gill Daley and Mike Miller with Mercy and their trophy (made from one of Bats’ racquets).
Hello all. I've been working this summer in Maine and journeying to Vermont to discuss my latest writings with my Editor. The above photo shows the 2 of us next to a mountain near Warren, VT.
I'm writing a book about my late brother, Bancroft R. Wheeler, while at the same time, I'm writing some essays. Here is my Preface on my Essay Book:
Getting Away – Again!
“…a man is always a teller of tales, he lives surrounded by his stories and the stories of others, he sees everything that happens to him through them; and he tries to live his life as if he were telling a story.” ...Jean-Paul Sartre
Although I’ve certainly not lived my life as if I were telling a story, I do enjoy telling stories—and have led an interesting, busy, and productive life—so far. As the writer, Robert Caro said in his recent book, WORKING:
Why am I publishing this book now …while I’m still—at the age of eighty-three—several years from finishing it?
The answer is, I’m afraid, quite obvious …I may never get to write that memoir …I decided that, just in case, I’d put some of them [anecdotes] down on paper now.
At age eighty-five, I, too, have decided I must keep on writing—and editing— and publishing— what my editor and I deem worthy.
I wasn't much of a reader in my younger days but do remember one of my favorite childhood books, “Paddle to the Sea,” in which an American Indian boy carves a small figure in a canoe he names ‘Paddle to the Sea.’ Paddle travels from the Great Lakes to the Atlantic Ocean with wonderful illustrations depicting the voyage. I read that book over and over again and longed to become as adventurous as that little boy.
Since I’ve travelled much in my adult life, I was once accused of hiding my head in the sand (like an ostrich) to get away from problems in my business and home. I’ve been on the go since I was a small boy and learned how to ride a bicycle. That bright red Columbia bike was my transportation around and out of the village of Moosup, Connecticut. I spent lots of time on it, even as I learned how to fly and drive—both of which I did at ages 14 and 13, respectively.
I met Pat on a blind date in Richmond, Virginia in 1956 and three days after we were married on November 30, 1957, we were skiing on the Zugspitze in Bavaria and a week later, I was back commanding a U.S. Army Quartermaster company in France. Pat has a wide variety of interests and enjoys travel almost as much as I do. Together, She and I have four adult-children and eight grandchildren—all vastly different and fun to be with.
I have learned how to fly, cruised and raced sailboats, skied on a college ski team, moved a textile company from New England to the South, founded a screen-printing company in Hong Kong, managed (with Pat) a live theatre, and written a number of books. Along the way I’ve enjoyed telling stories and writing about my life.
The following essays, some of which have appeared in my blogs, (henrymorganhaskell.com) expand on things I’ve done—in no particular order. When someone asked Pat if I was a great writer, she replied, “Hank writes!” I did not take her remark as a put-down as I knew she meant some people talk a good game, but her husband is both a doer and a writer about things he’s done and is interested in. I don’t consider myself a gifted-writer, but writing has always been one of my life’s joys. I was fortunate to meet a man in college who became a distinguished college English professor and shared many of the same interests I do. We’ve been friends for years and he has edited most of my books. Let’s start with that story
Our son, Steve Morgan Haskell, has been a soccer fanatic for most of his life. Growing up in a small South Carolina town that was nuts about American football. Steve played that sport for one year and, although the fastest boy on his team, decided he was too small for that sport—and started looking for another sport to play.
I recently spoke with Steve about his love of soccer and asked him to write something about this love. I’d forgotten he played for Furman University against Clemson. Steve wrote:
I play soccer at least twice a week; I watch it all the time, I coach.
Growing up in super small towns in the 60's and 70's I had little
exposure to the sport until I found a thriving culture in a New England
boarding school at age 13. I was tough and fast enough to play American football
but my size kept me from imagining I could be great, or even
stay alive. Soccer was the perfect match for this wild country boy.
Soccer is one of those sports that one can run around not knowing what
they are doing until they might, through osmosis, put
the science and the art together to actually figure out how to play well.
I don't think I have even figured that out yet, but I have my moments.
Soccer found me touring with an all-star American team in Germany and Austria.
I actually remember the post game celebrating more than the games. We were easily
defeated game after game but I managed to score a lot of goals and I was always
invited to party with our victors after the matches. Much schnapps and beer, and laughing.
Some of my favorite moments have been watching the beautiful game.
It was never, or hardly, on TV so if I wasn't reading book upon book about
World Cups past and the South American and European leagues, I was capturing
some local college games in my home town which happened to be just a few
miles away from Clemson University who didn't begin its Varsity soccer program
until 1967-the same year we moved to Pickens, South Carolina.
I.M. Ibraham, the father of Clemson soccer, imported players from around the world
and especially Africa and South America. I was awed by these players and watched
as they ran circles around teams who had predominately Americans on their teams.
They were always top of their conference and won at least two national championships.
I was actually, years later, one of those unenlightened Americans when I played for Furman University on the very Clemson soccer field I spent so many languid afternoons watching those foreign artists do their magic. My full circle moment might sound more romantic than it actually was, I remember touching the ball very few times, but just the fact that I was playing division one soccer against one of the best teams in college history was enough for me. Yes, we lost the game. By a lot.
Soccer saved me. That is a myth I perpetuate but which is based in truth. It enchants my son, Morgan, and I am catching up on all the soccer I couldn't watch when I was young by catching as many games as I can on the computer and here at our local college the Berkeley Bears, who have great women and men's teams. My wife [Michelle] and I even caught a live World Cup game in Berlin Germany in 2006 where we sighted a burgeoning, 18-year- old, Lionel Messi who has since become, arguably, soccer's greatest player of all time. We were there from the beginning.
I was there at the beginning of soccer in our own country. We have come a long way, baby. I still want to be a professional soccer player. Maybe my dream will come true: actually, it already has.
Aboard cousin Brad Haskell's 28 foot Pearson Triton Summer of 2019
It’s been a busy summer Down East and I really don’t miss my boats as I have friends who invite me on theirs. I’ve sailed and motored a few time with my friend, Toby, and cousins Brad and Sarah.
I continue writing on my book about Bats Wheeler, Mercy’s late husband. What a fascinating guy Bats was. I’m getting lots of help from a number of people and credit the following information to my Good friend, George Rockwood, who I refer to as “Rock” in my book—what Bat called him.
The Cheever sisters figured importantly in Bats’ and Rock’s early lives and were the reason for the Wheeler-Rockwood-Cheever connection. with Elizabeth Cheever Bats’ grandmother on his father’s side and Ellen Tyler Cheever being Rock’s father’s first wife.
The Cheever sister’s family, Reverend Henry Tyler Cheever and his brother George Barrell Cheever both graduated from Bowdoin with advanced degrees in theology. George was in the Bowdoin class of 1825 which included Henry W. Longfellow and Nathanial Hawthorne— all three members of Phi Beta Kappa. Another student, class of 1826, was John Brown Russwurm, Bowdoin's first African American college graduate., who became governor of Liberia.
Rev. Henry married Jane Tyler, who came from Jewett City, Connecticut—just down the road from Moosup [where Mercy and I gre up]. Henry and Jane lived in Hallowell, Maine where he was a prominent preacher during the 1850’s and 1860’s against slavery. Jane died when their four daughters were young. Henry’s brother, George, according to Rock, “Spent his entire life in a state of perpetual rage against slavery, and spent a bit of time now and then in jail when his table-pounding rages got a bit out of hand.”
Elizabeth Cheever Wheeler [1862-1947], Bat's paternal grandmother and a [younger] sister of my father's first wife married Dr. Leonard Wheeler, who at the time in the latter 19th. Century and early 20th, was the most prominent medical doctor in Worcester and Bats’ grandfather.
The second-eldest of the Cheever sisters was Ellen Tyler Cheever Rockwood, who, when she was younger, was brought up in the same household where Rock’s father lived while he was a student at Worcester Polytechnic Institute. Although she was eight years older than Rock’s father George Ichabod Rockwood Sr., the two were married two years after he had graduated from WPI.
Rock’s father (who I’ll refer to as Mr. Rockwood) became close friends with Bats’ father albeit their difference in ages, i.e. 31 years. The Rockwoods were largely responsible for the Wheelers buying their house in Harwich Port, which I will write more about later. Rock explains:
My father, [George Ichabod Rockwood Sr.] regarded the whole Cheever/Wheeler group as his own family, as well as his wife, Ellen's, family. Consequently, when Ellen, who was unable to have children herself, died, and my father married her (Canadian) nurse about a month later, my mother was welcomed immediately into the Wheeler/Cheever family.
Mr. Rockwood was born in Dorchester, Massachusetts in 1868 and moved to Worcester as a young boy. He graduated from WPI in 1888 with a degree in mechanical engineering, a master’s degree in 1898, and an honorary degree in 1929. He founded Rockwood Sprinkler Company in 1906. This Worcester company was very successful and he sold the company to the Gamewell Company in 1930, now owned by Honeywell.
In 1936, undoubtedly inspired by the Cheever brothers, particularly George (Bats great uncle), Mr. Rockwood wrote and published (privately) a book entitled “CHEEVER, LINCOLN and The Causes of the Civil War”. In his fascinating book, digitalized in 2012, Mr. Rockwood says:
Although causes other than religious feeling co-operated, nevertheless the war which was against all the material interests of the North was the direct result of the election of Lincoln, which itself resulted from the preaching of the abolitionists, of whom Garrison, Cheever, Beecher, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Whittier and, in his heart, Lincoln himself, were outstanding; and, at the crisis, Cheever [George] carried the load.
Bat's father, Dr. Bancroft Cheever Wheeler, was one of three sons and one daughter of Dr. Leonard and Elizabeth Cheever Wheeler. Their other children were Leonard Wheeler, Jr., the prominent Boston lawyer, among whose accomplishments were his service as one of the lawyers at the Nuremberg trials of the Nazi’s, Eunice Wheeler, a graduate of Smith College and accomplished violinist, and Nathaniel Wheeler, the youngest of the four who was a graduate of Middlesex School, Harvard, and Harvard Business School and became a banker in Worcester.
As a side comment and perhaps not particularly relevant to Bats’ story, at age 13, I dated a Jane Cheever from Norwell, MA at Cardigan Mountain School. Jane and her sister, Susan Cheever, were daughters of the writer, John Cheever, with Susan becoming a well-known author herself. Susan wrote Home Before Darkin 1984 in which she wrote about her father and sister, Jane. I’m not sure what relationship Jane and Susan have with Bats’ Cheever family connections but undoubtedly there was one.
I knew Bats’ Father and Mother and remember meeting them for dinner at the Public House Restaurant in Sturbridge, MA, plus having Thanksgivings with them at Mercy and Bats’ Needham house. They were most cordial to Pat and me and Mary Wheeler was proud of her sons and obviously adored Mercy. Our parents got along well with Bats’ parents. Dr. Wheeler was an outstanding surgeon and urologist who performed a prostate operation on our father in the 1960s.
The Sayward-Wheeler House in York Harbor, Maine was in the Sayward and Wheeler family from 1720 on. Bats’ grandmother, Elizabeth, bought this house in 1900.She was a direct descendent of Jonathan Sayward, who remained loyal to the English during the Revolutionary War. Although a loyalist he and his home survived the war intact. Eunie and Nat donated their house to Historic New England in 1977 with Bats’ help, and it is now open to the public.
York Harbor is a beautiful town in the southern section of the Maine coast. When I cruised the Maine coast with my father in the 1950s. We visited York Harbor a number of times and always ate d inner at The York Harbor Inn. This was about the same time we’d met Bats’ family but didn’t know their connection with York Harbor.
Bats and his family spent summers before World War II in York Harbor, Salter’s Point, and visited the Rockwoods in Harwich Port—where they eventually bought their own house.
“We watched the best [tennis] player in Harwichport”
Bats had been a top New England tennis player and at Harvard, he played on the tennis team before getting more involved with squash—which he continued to play for a long time too. He competed in tournaments all over New England, serving on the board of New England Senior Tennis Foundation for many years. He was a member of the Longwood Cricket Club—one of the world’s oldest tennis clubs, founded in 1877 and moving to Chestnut Hill, MA in 1922 and tennis clubs in Harwich Port, MA.
Among many significant events played at Longwood was my idol, Arthur Ashe’s 1968 victory in the only National Amateur Championship that remains one of the game’s great historical moments. The first Davis Cup tournament was also played at Longwood.
I was fortunate to play a number of times with Bats and Mercy at Longwood. With 25 superbly maintained grass courts plus 20 clay courts, this club still has an all-white tennis dress code. I once brought a banker friend from Pickens, SC who featured himself an outstanding tennis player. He’d bought ‘whites’ just for our Longwood match with Mercy and Bats. I’ll never forget the look on his face when Mercy aced him with her first serve on that grass court. it was downhill for John and me from that point on.
Stocky Clark, a close friend of Bats and Mercy told me a couple of stories about the Wheeler’s and tennis playing on Cape Cod:
I am part of the larger clan of Clarks and Cushwas. …We are related thru the 4 Cheever sisters and we have always been bound by a sense of kinship and gratitude to the Wheelers over several generations.
We all enjoyed tennis, but never to the level that Bats and Mercy maintained for so many years. A friend and I were just learning to play tennis on the Rockwood’s tennis court. I remember Bats showing up with an opponent. He unassumedly asked how our tennis was going! We jumped and quickly gathered our balls and vacated, so we could watch the best player in Harwichport. What a delight to see his always consistent strokes and slice backhand. …
We have spent many hours on their deck looking over the harbor…Mercy’s endless joy and Bats’ interesting prospective on the world were wonderful.
Each weekend, …we would scamper up to the Yacht Club to watch the Wiannos come in. Bats was always on the Ebb, skippered by George Rockwood. Somehow the cypress wood bottom absorbed more than other Wiannos, making it less competitive. It didn’t matter. They looked like they were having a ball.
On one of Bats’ trips to South Carolina, he and I teamed up to play doubles against my Greenville lawyer and his son, Dave Merline and Dave Merline, Jr. We played on clay at the prestigious Greenville Country Club—a tennis bastion. The Merlines were excellent players but Bats and I were playing our best and beat them on their home court.
Bats and Mercy played lots of mixed doubles together. In one match playing together in the finals of a Mid-Cape Tournament Bats double-faulted in the third and final set. Mercy said to him, “I can’t believe you did that, Bats.” He said, “I didn’t mean to.” Bats had a fine reputation for being a gentleman on the tennis courts.
They often played on the 4th. of July weekend in Woodstock, Vermont with Danny and Karen Mayers. Mercy would pair up with Danny and Bats with Karen as doubles’ partners. “It was always a fun tournament. Danny was a great tennis player and one day we played so hard, Bats got over-heated and jumped into a local Vermont stream to cool off.”
Bats wore two pairs of socks on each foot, that never matched. As Mercy said, “His tennis attire always left something to be desired.” [see photo of Bats playing, wearing his J&B Sweatshirt we gave him]
BATS by HMH
(Plus, Stories from Family & Friends)
My twin sister, Mercy is a social-person. From our early days growing up in Moosup, Connecticut, she has been a magnet in developing friendships with many people. Named after the famous Mercy Otis Warren, (1728-1814) my sister and I have been very close for eighty-six years and I wanted her to marry a very special man.
She did! She married Bancroft (Bats) Richmond Wheeler, 63.5 years ago.
What a marvelous couple they were and Bats was a super addition to the Haskell family. I was fortunate to get to know Bats well and spent lots of time with him over the years. Bats was Secretary of the company I ran for 40 plus years and most effective in resolving father-son disputes that invariably occur in family businesses. His intuition and smarts affected my own life dramatically.
Bats suffered from Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. There is no cure for this horrible illness which forced the Wheelers to sell their lovely home in South Natick, Massachusetts and move into a new wing of the Wingate Retirement Home. Mercy, together with their daughter, Emily, cared for Bats f in their beautiful and tastefully decorated apartment at Wingate until Bats died on March 21, 2019.
On April 10, 2019, Mercy and their three daughters, Emily, Polly, and Amy, arranged an unforgettable memorial service for Bats at the Eliot Street Unitarian Church in South Natick. I joined their daughters and five other speakers to remember this unique and wonderful guy.
Mercy came to visit Pat and me at our home on Hilton Head Island, South Carolina a week following the service. While visiting us, we talked a lot about Bats and Mercy asked me to write something about him. I eagerly accepted her challenge.
We spoke about one summer (circa 2004) when Bats and Mercy were cruising with Pat and me off the Maine coast. We wound up at Monhegan Island—a magical and somewhat remote island ten miles off the Maine coast, known primarily for its famous artists. We borrowed a lobsterman’s mooring, as there were no docks for visiting boats there. While picnicking aboard that beautiful sunny day. Bats asked me the question, “What would you like to be remembered for, Hank?”
I was taken aback with his question. We talked about various things and It never occurred to me that fifteen years later I would be writing about this man, who we miss so much and I was proud to call “My brother-in-law.”
Bats and Mercy at the Tennis Courts on the Cape
Bancroft Richmond Wheelerwas my only brother-in-law, married to my Twin Sister, Mercy. His nickname was “Bats,” and this great guy died last week of complications related to COPD.
Bats asked me to speak at his memorial service on April 12, 2019 at the South Natick Eliot Unitarian Church. I was honored to be asked; joining Bats and Mercy’s daughters and other close friends as we pay tribute to a true friend.
Bats graduated Exeter Academy, Harvard, and Harvard Law School and became a very successful attorney. One of Bat’s clients was the Haskell family business, Brunswick Yarns. Bats served on the Brunswick board of directors for many years and became our Corporate Secretary. He was also my closest business-advisor and in my tribute to him in my book, Brunswick Yarns,I wrote:
‘I constantly consulted with Bats in my business career. He served almost as many years as I did on the Brunswick board and, in addition to becoming the corporate secretary, he became my most trusted advisor. His ideas, encouragement, and support were unfailing. I will always be grateful for Bats’ determination to protect my personal interests, especially throughout those troubled years.’
Mercy and Bats were married for sixty-three years and what a wonderful couple they were. Mercy and I have been particularly close over the years and our respective spouses, Bats and Pat, witnessed many family gatherings when ‘The Haskell Twins’ showed their unique characteristics. After all, we’ve been together since before birth.
Bats was an excellent athlete. He played squash and tennis superbly and I was fortunate to have played tennis with him on many occasions. I particularly remember Bats and my joining forces on the tennis court at the Greenville (SC) Country Club where we outplayed my friend, Dave Merline and his son, both excellent tennis players.
Bats took up skiing and became very good at it. This was one sport I took seriously and was able to compete with Bats on the slopes. We had some great family ski-vacations and I remember Bats interrupting my afternoon nap one day at Sugarloaf, Maine to get me to ski with him on a new slope he’d discovered. Boy did we slam down that slope trying to get one last run in as the day darkened.
Bats loved Cape Cod, where he and Mercy owned the house on Wychmere Harbor owned by Bat’s parents. Although I don’t believe he ever owned a boat, Bats enjoyed boating. I remember one weekend off the Maine coast when Bats and Mercy joined Pat and me for a cruise on our Pat Pat boat to Monhegan Island. We pick-nicked on the boat and Bats offered to captain the boat back to home base. Mercy and I talked in the stern as Bats and Pat headed home. After about an hour, I walked up to Bats and asked him if all was ok? I knew these waters and didn’t recognize where we were. Seems like Bats had mistaken a buoy and was actually sailing down the Maine Coast. We kidded him often on that move, which was excusable as we were quite far off the coast.
Bats was handsome in a Paul Newman way and exceedingly bright. I remember playing word games with Bats in our parent’s house in Moosup before Mercy and Bats were married. He was right on the money in those games.
Bats was a true FAMILY MAN who adored their three daughters and their clever off-spring.
Most of all, Bats and Mercy loved each other. They did things together and Mercy was the hostess par excellent at the many parties we attended together. Mercy assisted Bats in his legal practice and what super doubles partners they were.
We miss Bats very much. He told me shortly before he died, “Hank, I really enjoyed joining your family.”
I told him, ‘Bats, you added great quality to the Haskell family when you came aboard!’
Coby Whitmore painting of Arthuir Ashe beside yours truly at a young age.
My Idol, ARTHUR ASHE
I’ve just finished reading a wonderful new biography of the world-renowned tennis player, Arthur Ashe. The book, “Arthur Ashe: A Life” was written by Raymond Arsenault, professor and leading civil rights historian.
Arsenault says in his Preface:
“As the first black man to reach the upper echelon of a notoriously elitist and radically segregated sport,Ashe exhibited an extraordinary strength of character that eventually made him the most beloved and honored figure in tennis. . . .
Today, twenty-five years after Ashe’s death in 1993 . . . I offer Arthur Ashe, A Life as an attempt to do justice to the nuances and subtleties of a personal saga worthy of our full attention.”
Arthur Ashe was my favorite tennis player. I met him at a tennis match on Hilton Head (circa 1972). My friend, Ben Keys, of Greenville, SC was an excellent tennis player himself and a good friend of Donald Dell (Arthur Ashe’s long-time friend and manager). Ben organized a weekend with friends to see Arthur play and after the match, Donald Dell introduced Ben and me to Arthur Ashe—what a gentleman!
I played with the tennis racket designed by Arthur in conjunction with Howard Head at the Head Company—known primarily for their skies. This racket is shown in the above painting by Coby Whitmore celebrating Arthur’s playing on Hilton Head Island only four years after beating the Dutchman, Tom Okker, at the US Open. Ashe went on to beat Jimmy Connors to become Wimbledon Singles’ Champion in 1975.
Arsenault’s fantastic biography taught me far more than I knew about Arthur Ashe and I finished this book with a renewed admiration for this outstanding American.
My tennis-playing days are behind me, although my Twin Sister, Mercy, still plays. I have great memories of my own tennis playing days and was delighted to read this book. I've also read another super book about Arthur Ashe and Clark Graebner by the New Yorker author, John MCPhee, "Levels of the Game."