Chicago mourned


In the second memorial service for Saul Bellow, X’39, who died April 5, friends, family members, colleagues, students, and admirers gathered Tuesday afternoon in the city he had made his own, at the University’s Rockefeller Memorial Chapel. Eight speakers recalled Bellow’s life and work, alternating with Lyric Opera musicians who captivated the crowd with some of Bellow’s favorite pieces.

Some speakers focused on Bellow the man. Chanting the 23rd Psalm in the traditional Hebrew, Rabbi William Hamilton began the service, he said, “in the simple manner Saul would have wanted.” Son Gregory Bellow, AB’66, AM’68, discussed his father’s tenures at the University, as both student and teacher, “engaged with fine minds” and confronting “tough questions.” Friend Eugene Kennedy, an author and professor emeritus of psychology at Loyola University in Chicago, recalled Bellow’s irrepressible sense of humor. One New Year’s Eve Bellow came home to find his wife had left him. She had marked all of their belongings with round stickers—a blue dot on his possessions, a yellow one on hers. Bellow told Kennedy, “I guess she just went dotty.”

Others highlighted Bellow’s professional triumphs: professor emeritus in the Committee on Social Thought, he had won the Nobel Prize, Pulitzer Prize, three National Book Awards, and a Presidential medal. In 1989, Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley said, Bellow “stole the show at my first inauguration.” The man who began The Adventures of Augie March “I am an American, Chicago born,” Daley said, “understood Chicago like no one else.” Neither friend nor family member, Jeffrey Eugenides, who won the 2002 Pulitzer Prize for Middlesex, noted his connection to Bellow as “the only person here who moved to Chicago entirely because of Saul Bellow. I came because of Herzog and Augie March and Humboldt’s Gift.”

And Richard Stern, Bellow’s friend and the Helen A. Regenstein professor emeritus of English and American Language and Literature, recalled that after reading a draft of Humboldt’s Gift, he had lunch with Bellow and told him, “I can hardly believe you wrote this.” What he meant, he said Tuesday, was “I could hardly believe such a wonderful creation could come from someone with whom I was having a hamburger.”


Photos: As Rabbi Hamilton speaks, Mayor Daley, Gregory Bellow, Jeff Eugenides, Richard Stern, former student James Cohn, and Eugene Kennedy wait their turns (top). The audience listens as Lyric Opera soprano Susanna Phillips, accompanied by Alan Darling on piano, performs. (bottom).

Photos by Dan Dry.

September 30, 2005