Marian Blanchard (Mabel Lang’s sister)

Posted April 11th, 2011 at 8:31 am.

My last face-to-face visit with Mabe was nearly two years ago. One day, sitting in the sun on the patio, we shared memories and points of view.

About her name: “Mabel is a nice name,” our mother would say defensively, but it is not scholarly. Somehow dropping the ‘l’ makes a difference to some of us, and so she is Mabe.

Throughout my recollections, please remember that Mabe and I are nearly nine years apart in age. But more than years separate us. She was ever the scholar while I was a homemaker and mother for many years. She can’t have thought I would appreciate her classroom and publishing accomplishments, but I do recall hearing about the popularity of her baby Greek course, references to her role in BMC faculty shows, her knit socks of original design for a campus benefit.

Mabe spoke at Colgate in the ’70s — I have hanging on my bedroom wall a photo of her as she spoke. By then I was working in PR and publications at Colgate and was more aware of my sister’s many distinctions so I put her name forward for an honorary degree. The very next year (1978) we were proud to see this “home town girl” among those honored. Our brother, who was the family “rock,” came from Roanoke for the occasion though fighting leukemia (he died the next year).

We heard about summers of study in Greece and digs in Turkey, the American School of Classical Studies, and saw evidence of her research in books and monographs but never any details except a suggestion that August was not the time to visit Athens.

For years Mabe faithfully (dutifully) returned to Hamilton for Christmas, but she seemed less and less to take part in our family gatherings. Our sister Helen always made gingerbread men and it was Mabe’s special job to decorate them.

“Dutiful” reminds me of letter writing particularly when Mabe was at Cornell. She wrote home every Sunday, and if there was no letter from her in Tuesday’s mail our mother would worry. I seem to remember a laundry case going to and from Hamilton and Ithaca (remember, that was the late ’30s!).

Mabe was born in Utica where our father was an apprentice baker (having emigrated from Germany after 1900). The family, which then included Walter, Helen and Mabe moved to Hamilton in 1924 when our father purchased the bakery there. At Hamilton Central School Mabe played basketball and was a member of the Almeda Literary Society (for initiation her costume was something with a fish pole). I recall proudly walking to school with my big sister now and then. While in high school she became acquainted with a faculty couple named Garrison (baby sitting?) and I believe Anne Garrison may have led Mabe toward the study of Greek. At Cornell she was guided by Professor Harry Kaplan. She lived in one of Risley Hall’s towers (sixth floor) and developed a heart murmur (wouldn’t use the elevator).

After Mabe died, nine members of our family, plus Pat McPherson and Peg Healy from Bryn Mawr, met at Cornell to scatter her ashes. We shared a luncheon of Greek food, recollections, and an ouzo toast before we, plus our five dogs, went to Cornell’s Beebe Lake where from a bridge each of us released some ashes.

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