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Stephen Congdon

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Stephen Congdon Obituary
Stephen L. Congdon

Lenox, Massachusetts Stephen L. Congdon, long-time faculty member at the Pittsfield, Massachusetts campus of Berkshire Community College (BCC), passed away on July 22nd, 2016 at the age of 81. Professor Congdon taught General and Organic Chemistry between 1964 and 1998 to several generations of nursing and pharmacy students, and also some of the first computer programming classes. He was well known for making chemistry understandable to professionals and non-chemists alike, often using stories about his family to illustrate his points. Stephen was born the youngest son of Herbert and Helen Congdon of Arlington, Vermont. His interest in science was demonstrated at an early age when he detonated homemade fireworks on the high school sports field. After graduating with a Bachelor of Arts from Amherst College in 1956 and a Masters degree in Chemistry from the University of New Hampshire in 1959, he worked as a chemist at Dewey and Almy for three years in the Boston, Massachusetts area. He served in the Army Chemical Corps and Army Reserve starting in 1957. He married Lenore Congdon in 1961. After the birth of their first child, Stephen and Lenore moved to Richmond, Massachusetts in 1964, where they lived for 52 years. A Jack-of-all-trades, Stephen built a large addition to his house, maintained a 3000 square foot garden which supplied much of the family's food, raised bees for honey, made his own maple syrup, built book cases that covered most of the walls in the house, baked his own bread, and split many cords of wood to heat his house past the age of 80. Stephen had a love-hate relationship with the wildlife on his property. On one hand, he found that sleeping in a tent near the corn was the best deterrent for coons and other animals. On the other hand, he fondly recalled the fox cubs that played with him one summer while he worked on the property, and a cardinal with a bald head. His great delight in retirement was feeding the birds from his hands whenever he was outside. Stephen had broad interests, included the origins of the English language, Christian history, far eastern culture, geology, poetry, astronomy, botany, and classical music (especially J.S. Bach). He taught himself to read Norwegian and Icelandic because he was interested. Stephen was a member of the choir at the Richmond Congregational Church, and the occasional repairman of the church's organ. He and his wife sang in the Berkshire Concert Choir. He also served on the Richmond Library Board for several decades. He will be remembered for his dry and occasionally wicked sense of humor. Stephen was a strong advocate for alternative energy and conservation. He made large solar-powered cooker and a solar-powered food drier. He was well-known for riding his bike or moped to work in all types of weather during his 34 years at BCC. Stephen was one of the first people to install solar-electric panels in Berkshire County; after his retirement in 1998, he installed enough panels and batteries to power the house for four days if the public grid went out. Stephen always loved traveling and the outdoors. He hiked the Long Trail, part of the Appalachian trail, the Lye Brook wilderness, and the mountains around Arlington, both alone and with his friend Pete McCabe and his colleague Pat Bybee. He traveled to England and Norway, and canoed the Battenkill River in Arlington. He accompanied his wife on sailing trips off the coast of Maine for several years on the ship the American Eagle. He cherished the memory of hiking through an underground lava tube near Mt. St. Helens in Washington State with his son and daughter-in-law. Stephen followed humanity's exploration of space from its earliest flights, to the first exploration of the outer planets, to the 2015 flyby of Pluto, comet landing, and the latest findings on Mars. While in the Army he was in the "ready room" when Sputnik was launched. One of his most powerful memories from Boston was going up onto the roof of the Beacon Hill Friends House, sitting on the top of the chimney with binoculars, and watching America's Echo 1A satellite go by. He traveled to the Canary Islands to view the longest solar eclipse of the 20th century, where he met Neal Armstrong and Scott Carpenter. He also took the entire family to Canada in 1974 to view a spectacular solar eclipse. Forever the teacher, Stephen's final act was to donate his body to Boston University for training the next generation of doctors. FUNERAL NOTICE: To work around scheduling conflicts, a memorial service will be held during the summer of 2017. A private service of interment at the Evergreen Cemetery in Arlington, Vermont will follow at a later date. In lieu of flowers or gifts, donations to St. Stephen's Table (http://ststephenspittsfield.org/we-serve/st-stephens-table/) or the Richmond Land Trust (P.O. Box 21, Richmond MA 01254) are requested by the family. Stephen is survived by his son Charles and daughter-in-law Kathrin, his daughter Eleanor, his sister-in-law Betty, his sister-in-law Joan and husband Dale, his brother-in-law Jim and wife Priscilla, two nieces, and three nephews. Stephen's family is especially grateful to the compassionate and professional staff of Berkshire Medical Center, Kimball Farms Independent Living, and Kimball Farms Nursing Care Center in Lenox, and for the assistance and love provided by neighbors Gail and Mark Wojtkowiak, Sue Wendling, and Rick and Cindy Bartlett.
Published in Bennington Banner on July 30, 2016
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