Oct. 2, 1924-Aug. 26, 2014
Kenneth Gale Potee was born October 2, 1924 on Mahatma Gandhi's 55th birthday to Esther Gale Potee and Kenneth Leon Potee, Disciples of Christ missionaries, at Itarsi, Madhya Pradesh, India. His twin brother died at 48 hours. For Gale, home was Pendra Road, in the part of India where Kipling's Jungle Books took place.
Kindergarten was in West Haven, CT, while his father was at Yale Divinity School. His next 12 school years were spent largely at the Kodaikanal School in Tamil Nadu, South India, from which he was evacuated in 1942. Gale graduated Phi Beta Kappa from the University of Michigan in 1945 and Alpha Omega Alpha from Western Reserve School of Medicine in 1949.
He became an ardent pacifist after writing a term paper on Buddhism his senior year at Kodai School and after reading John Steinbeck's The "Grapes of Wrath." He was jailed in the federal prison in Boston for refusing to register for the doctor's draft for the Korean War in early July 1950, making the front page of the Boston Globe. The American Friends Service Committee bailed him out for 500.00 and after that, he became an enthusiastic Quaker.
Medical training included internship and residency at the Boston City Hospital, Mount Auburn Hospital and Springfield Hospital. He became an internist and did cancer chemotherapy at Pondville Hospital, Walpole, MA. He was also an infectious disease fellow under Max Finland at Harvard Medical School and Boston City Hospital.
In 1946, under the Marshall Plan, he helped tend 1700 pregnant mares on a ship to Bremerhaven, Germany. With his best friends, Chas Wilder and Bob Dudley, he spent summers climbing mountains in Colorado and working in silver mines and wheat fields in the west.
He married Joanne Koch in Cambridge in 1963, when he was 39. They raised their five children in Petersham, MA, which he often proclaimed were his "happiest years". He worked as an internist at Wing Memorial Hospital in Palmer, MA, for 33 years and 18 days, retired at age 71. He was greatly beloved by his patients and colleagues.
He had many passions including building stone walls, collecting over 20,000 Massachusetts vanity plates, and travelling to 42 states as well as 24 countries. He returned to his beloved India three times. He prided himself as a bibliophile and surrounded himself with shelves holding more than 2,000 books. Summers he spent at the Chautauqua Institute in upstate New York where he began writing sonnets in 2000. A poet at heart, he had written more than 15,000 sonnets.
Most important, Gale Potee was the most loving, understanding and supportive father imaginable. He is survived by Rigo and Linda Schmelzer and their children, Emma and Charlie, of Bloomington, Ill.; Jenny Potee and Mike Yohan and their children, Nathaniel and Tessa, of New Salem, MA; Deb Potee and Richard Fitzgerald and their children, Vivienne and Juliette, of Northfield, MA, and Ruth Potee and Stephen Martin and their children, Ben, Ella and Jane, of Northfield, MA.
Gale was predeceased by his son, Charles Samuel Potee, in 1991.
He also leaves his former wife, Joanne Potee, of Turners Falls, MA. His older sister, Carol Potee Salmonson died in 1996. His younger sister, Elinor Potee Nichols, lives in Lincoln, MA.
He remained active in Friends Meeting at Cambridge but also attended Mount Toby Meeting in Leverett, MA.
Donations in his memory may be sent to the American Friends Service Committee, 1501 Cherry Street, Philadelphia, PA 19102.
A memorial service will be at a future date to be announced.
Published in The Recorder on Aug. 27, 2014