Remembering Edward M. Chilton
(
November 19, 1942, to April 2, 2016)

  

       "If you're alone when autumn falls,
       you'll be alone all winter long.
"
          from
"Another Autumn" (one of Ed's many favorites),
         featured in
Paint Your Wagon

By Howie Levy

  

If I had to write a brief epitaph for Ed Chilton's headstone, it would be simply, "He was a one-of-a-kind."

Eddie was a loyal friend, a genuine "Renaissance man" and something of a folk philosopher. He had  an incredible memory for details and a remarkable sense of humor with a quick wit. Ed was truly a rare intellect, a competent professional in both psychology and human factors (also called ergonomics) engineering, a fine arts aficionado (especially for poetry and music), a skilled trumpet player, a photographer, and a talented, creative and colorful 

writer. He was remarkably multi-talented and bright, a voracious reader and a lifelong patron  of public libraries, an expert on American history, and an amateur historian and genealogist. Ed was highly principled, a champion of civil rights and firmly committed to his well developed political beliefs. And he was a humanitarian.

Ed Chilton cared deeply about others. According to his lifelong friend and our classmate, Jay Katz:

"Ed was a remarkably talented and generous human being who thought to provide for and protect his fellow beings, often to his own personal detriment. That's how important justice was to him."

Ed frequently posted book reviews on Amazon.com and communicated directly with authors whose work he admired or critiqued. He was a fan of a weekly online blog of classified "metaphorical" quotations assembled by Dr. Mardy Grothe, an "opinion influencer" and a retired psychologist, with whom Eddie frequently exchanged e-mails and who he considered a friend. Upon learning of Eddie's passing, Dr. Mardy wrote, "I thoroughly enjoyed our correspondence over the years, and will miss his periodic messages."  

Ed loved the time he spent growing up in Oceanside and was an early and frequent contributor to this website, both in terms of technological advice and content, the latter mostly from his vast collection of photographs, and one of its biggest fans. According to his sister, Margaret Chilton, OHS '65  (known as Peg in school, now known as Maggie), "Ed was proud and passionate about that alumni website." 

Ed's passion for music was deep and varied, from the big band swing music of the 1930s, to blues and jazz, R&B and, of course, our own rock 'n' roll. (His sister recalls a time when the only way to wake Ed was to play trumpet music, usually by popular trumpeter, Al Hirt, on the stereo.) OHS music teacher and director of our music program, Allan Segal (pictured at left), was clearly Ed's favorite and most admired and influential teacher. Ed wrote of him in 2015, "He does not realize his key role in showing me the joy of making music, alone and with friends."  Segal wrote of Ed, "his enthusiasm and his participation in the music program was always 100%, and he took great pride in his trumpet playing. He gave his all and never took a back seat to anyone. Ed was a real asset to the program, and a model student at all times."

Photo from our 1960 Spindrift. Students, clockwise from upper left: Bob Johnson, Ed Chilton, Tom Castoldi, Frank Collins, Kathy Isom (all from the class of 1960) and a younger girl (J. Weissberg, with flute).

  

The music your should have heard when you opened this page was recorded by our OHS orchestra, conducted by Segal, at a concert in February 1960 and features Ed (and Jim Heitler) on trumpet. (The same selection ĺ from the Broadway show, Gigi ĺ was also played at our graduation,)

  

Here's a selection of photos in reasonably chronological order from Ed's childhood, adolescence and  beyond, taken from his extensive collection ĺ and Maggie's. (Notice, Ed liked to put captions on his photos.)

 

            

  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

    The whole family, Mom,
    Dad, Eddie and Maggie

  

       

Looking more like the Ed we knew, with Maggie 

An early date in 1957 and possibly getting ready for another?

 

  

     

Two more from 1957:                                                                 And a Newsday photo of a breakfast gathering of its carriers
Ed's room                                                                                   (Ed was one of them.)                

 

      

                   Goodbye to OHS
  

      

Some of Ed's early vehicular transportation (Maggie says he had a lead foot!)

  


  
 

   1965, with first wife, Beth

Circa 1970, with second wife, Heather

Ed taught himself to play piano.

 

   

With baby daughter, Leslie
 (now known as Luminea)

  1978, with Luminae (l.) and son, Daniel    198?, with Daniel, Luminae (l.) and Maggie 

  

Eddie, the photographer. According to sister, Maggie, she and Ed both learned photography from their father. Three examples of what Maggie sees as Ed's best work are hanging in her house, including the one at right of the Toronto skyline.

  
  The Vietnam War and His Move to Canada

Ed moved to Canada in 1968 after his first divorce  followed by a call from the draft board. Sister, Maggie, explains:

"Ed had a marital deferment from the draft (he called it being a "Kennedy husband"). Three days after his first divorce was final, he received the notice from the draft board and moved to Canada, rather than allow the U. S. Government to shove a gun into his hand. As a fugitive, he was unable to attend my wedding in 1970 or my father's funeral in 1972."

  

Like the now late Muhammad Ali* before him, Ed's anti-Vietnam War sentiments were driven primarily not by a cowardly fear of being killed or injured in the war but rather of being forced to kill or injure someone else.
_____________

*

"I ainít draft dodging. I ainít burning no flag. I ainít running to Canada. Iím staying right here. You want to send me to jail? Fine, you go right ahead. Iíve been in jail for 400 years. I could be there for 4 or 5 more, but I ainít going no 10,000 miles to help murder and kill other poor people."  

Ed's anger and shame over the atrocities he attributed to our government lingered long after the war and were evident in his online and other writings and his creative digital photo-art such as the following composite image that he posted in 2000 on a website he maintained then, that is no longer available online, and that was called "Veritas Vietnam":

   

  
This photographic montage made by Ed was featured and discussed at considerable length in a 2003 essay by two university professors (Robert Hariman and John Louis Lucaites) entitled "Public Identity and Collective Memory in U.S. Iconic Photography: The Image of 'Accidental Napalm'." The title refers to a then 30-year old, yet still haunting image  in a 1972 AP photo of a young girl running toward a camera and screaming in pain and terror from the napalm burns on her body (which image went around the world and appears in Ed's montage superimposed with the face of Francis Cardinal  Spellman over the U.S. flag). Ed's artful montage is described by the authors as a "strong example of artistic accomplishment" and "hard to get out of one's mind." (
Click here to access the complete essay online.)

   

In 1997, while living in Canada, Ed wrote a letter about his anti-Vietnam War views that was published online (click here for full textby an organization called the Vietnam Veterans Against the War (although he was not a veteran).  It reads, in part, as follows: 

"[A friend] was killed during the Christmas 1965 'bombing halt-peace offensive.' He was a Warrant Officer helicopter pilot. His death was a shock to me. ... I also followed closely the pathetic court-martial of Lt. Howard Levy, M.D.** (Click here for an extensive, scholarly analysis of the case.) I knew I could not take Vietnamese life for this terrible political mistake but hoped against hope I would not have to face a 'decision.' My order to report for induction came in the wake of Tet and the awful assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. I felt my country then was the equivalent of 'rabid' - it had gone berserk - and I was not about to let it put me in jail for opposition to its mistaken politics, as it did Dr. Howard Levy. On 12 May 1968, I entered Canada. ... So have I spent much of my life. ... my actions infuriated several of my family members."

_______________
** Note that I am NOT the Howard Levy who was court-martialed in 1967 and mentioned in Ed's letter, above.

      

Eventually frustrated by the Canadian bureaucracy, around 2002, and as a result of a court decision, no longer under threat of arrest for draft evasion, Ed finally ended his long career mostly as a psychologist in the employ of a government agency and after several false starts, around 2002, he returned permanently to the U.S. He settled in eastern Michigan where he spent his last years.

  

Ed's Failing Health

 

Beginning in 2011, before he became physically unable to do strenuous work, Ed devoted much of his time in Michigan as a lone volunteer effectively "rescuing" old gravestones in abandoned cemeteries that had become overgrown and displaced over time. During that time, Ed maintained a personal website (www.gravefixer.org), sort of a "blog" that chronicled this unusual activity and contained other information about Ed's varied interests and thoughts (and his failing health and other unfortunate conditions) and some selected poetry. As of this writing, a portion of Ed's site is still accessible online although his last post was dated February 13, 2014. That entry referred readers to information placed the same date by Ed on the widely used public research site, www.findagrave.com, excerpts from which follow:

  

"In 2011, after snow melted, I toured local cemeteries, found them full of winter debris, and began their volunteer cleaning. As I did so, I began to notice the pathetic condition of 19th and early 20th century grave sites and grave markers. Clearly, many needed rescue and maintenance due to natural forces and time, or damage caused by vandals or neglect by cemetery personnel. ...
      
"Across the past three years I have rescued roughly 300 grave sites and markers ... . As I conducted this heavy outdoor work my age went from 68 to 69 to 70. When I recently turned age 71 my medical condition took a nose dive. I am doctoring for diabetes and multiple heart conditions. ... I will not be able to continue grave rescue activity or volunteer cleaning this year. My efforts will be limited to photographic activity, and my common advocacy as a 'Speaker For the Dead'."

mmm

Sadly, like the song from Paint Your Wagon says at the top of this page, Ed was often alone when autumn fell in Michigan, and there he endured many a long, cold and lonely winter. During that time, he suffered increasingly from multiple ailments, principally diabetes and congestive heart failure.  After several hospitalizations for episodes related to the latter condition, in January 2015, his doctor declared that he could no longer live alone, and he was placed on hospice care in a skilled nursing facility. 

cc

 As Ed wrote angrily at that time of his plight:

"Crossing the Rubicon for me will involve accepting the medico-legal status of hospice treatment for my terminal ailment of congestive heart disease. Basically, ... I will die in the care of health care workers specially trained and employed to make my parting a Disney death while reading to me The Cat in the Hat. ... Hospice not only lacks dignity, it is a theocratic tyranny forced upon me by the State of Michigan at the barrel of their gun.

Unexpectedly, his health improved somewhat for a while, and he took himself off the hospice program. 

The last picture we have of Ed (at right), looking quite content, was taken in 2015, but it was not long before his health went downhill again.  He ultimately succumbed to congestive heart failure on April 2, 2016. 

  

*  *  *  *  *

One of Ed's closest friends from high school, Dave Cooper, shares with us the following thoughts about him:

"My fondest memories are from the years, 1958-'60, with Ed and Dennis Deegan having fun at school and hanging out at the beach together during the summer. They really were pivotal moments in my life! Long  after we drifted apart during our college years, Ed tracked me down, and it was like no time had passed. R.I.P., old friend."

Another high school friend, Bill Schrader, wrote:

ďEd was the one who kept us in touch with our past and the present in Oceanside. He wrote some great commentaries about old photos; goodness only knows how he managed to find them after all these years! I wish him and his family peace from a distant ex-OHS Sailor.Ē

 

Many thanks to Maggie Chilton for her help with this page.

 

Come back to this special memorial page now and then when you are thinking of Ed or to see if anything has been added. And if you would like to add anything about Ed, please write me.

Classmates and other visitors are invited to submit material for a special
memorial page like this for any other departed classmate. Just e-mail it to me.

      Howie