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!’