Stella Lundelius

Stella Lundelius

My great aunt Stella Lundelius was the nurse at Manumit when it just opened in 1924…there she met a teacher Walter Sassaman and they got married in 1925. Stella was a close friend of writer Sarah N. Cleghorn, who in 1924/25 was a teacher at Manumit. I am reading this book called “Threescore” by Sarah N. Cleghorn….it talks about the Finckes, who at one time owned a share on Brookwood and than bought a farm and started Manumit..she mentions my aunt Stella and Walter on 3 pages and I have copied them..I dont know if you want to use them at all but here are the dates for

Walter R. Sassaman – teacher at Pawling – April 11, 1903 – June 6, 1990
Stella Lundelius – nurse at Pawling – Dec 10, 1890 – June 1987
Sarah N. Cleghorn – teacher at Pawling – 1876 – 1959


“Threescore” by Sarah N. Cleghorn

That year, too, I wrote “Nightfallen Snow.” Like all my poems in these years, it represented my overbrimming sense of unity between the life of man and the (possible conscious) life of nature.

These nights of snow are loving to the air
As the still mother of a grieving boy;
For so they fill the air with soft concern,
Imponderable, irresistible,
And draw the numbing hardness slowly out,

And slowly weave a gradual sweetness in:
So spending, on its harsh and hungry gloom,
The last calm silver penny of reckless love.

O perfect strength of soft, unstrenuous snow!
O mouth of beauty whispering in the night!
Aeolian snow, that thrills against the wind,
That drifts on hidden grace and lights it up
With shreds of many rainbow blending white!
O wild and revolutionary snow,
That tosses utter newness round the world
And lays it on the nations in their sleep!

It was in these years too that I wrote “The Life of Water,” to express yet once again the bright joyful sense of unity in nature, and its intense aliveness.

A chord sounding thus in the depths of the heart is made up of more notes than once. Perhaps the chief note in this newly keen sense of mine of the oneness of life came from the new unities and fellowships of my life as a teacher. In such a school as Manumit there’s not only a strong fellowhip among the teachers themselves, but a still stronger one between teachers and children.
Of this I think Walter Sassaman was the best example we ever had at Manumit, except the Finckes themselves. Even during the first winter, absorbed as I was in my own work and vicissitudes in classroom and community, and blind for the most part to everybody else’s achievement, I couldn’t help exulting in the brilliant way in which Walter was blending his teaching of the social sciences with the spontaneous creative impulses of the boys and girls. I don’t know how he did it. Not, from experience or training, for he hadn’t been trained as a teacher, he was very young, and this was the first of his teaching. Evidently it was parcel and part of a genius he has, or perhaps it was owing to the fact at this time he was in the act of falling in love with my young friend Stella Lundelius , whom I had known first at the House that Grace and Anna had started in new York, and who had now come to be the school nurse and dietitian at Manumit. They were married the next year.
Something convivial and hearty about him created a kind of campfire of the spirit. I remember once coming suddenly on a spring day out of the house at Manumit, feeling my heart chasing the summery wind as it blew over the grass, and seeing Walter coming forward in the line of impassioned rope-skippers in front of the dining-room door. It was his turn to cut in and out of the double ropes in one of those elaborate fancy jumping sets the children had – almost a folk-dance, and with just such an odd, pretty name of its own – and as I watched him sporting thus with the children in his rich fraternizing gusto, I understood in a flash how this fellowship would naturally flower in his classroom successes. And I went on to think, with an electric thrill, “Has everybody else been too absorbed, like me, in her own attempts, to realize what threads the others have been interweaving with ours?”
We were soon to share a general feast of one another’s achievements. Late in May we had a series of delightful evenings when we took time to tell each other in detail about our teaching. These evenings followed delightful days, the most halcyon of my working life. In May the children at Manumit were extra happy, in somewhat the idyllic way that Wordsworth describes; they did “like young lambs bound As to the tabor’s sound.” They bounded out of bed early in the morning, rode the farm horses, rushed up the road for lilacs, ran up Cobble Hill and snatched bouquets of jack-in-the pulpits. We could have our classes out of doors, read our plays in parts, rehearse, even take a Regents sample examination sitting on the grass. When it was time for outside work, we weeded long rows of tiny vegetables in fresh earth, or pulled the rosy rhubarb, of which we could have four helps at supper; at the mid-afternoon bell we rushed into the swimming pool and seemed to bathe in wine. Then came the evening, when our pleasure rose so high at each other’s success and at bringing the harvest of our own. Manumit, a little more earthen than Brookwood, was still too good for earth.
When we came back to school we found that during the summer vacation a small ailment with which Bill Fincke had been annoyed – a mere lameness of the neck – had proved to be part of a probably incurable malady; leukemia, in its gravest form. None of us found this at all possible to believe, except Stella Lundelius , the school nurse, who knew what leukemia was. But, as in such cases from the beginning of time, we knew that we should have to come to believe it.
The school was falling round us. “Brightness fell from the air.”
We didn’t tell the children.