was born on 19 June 1912 at Needham, Massachusetts.
on 15 June 1940 at Ashburnham, Massachusetts. He was 27.
Walter Everett Bezanson died on 5 February 2011 at Minnesota at age 98.
BEZANSON, Walter Everett A former resident of Brookline and (earlier) of Needham, Massachusetts, Walter died peacefully in Minnesota, on February 5, 2011, at age 98, with his wife at his side.
He had an unparalleled zest for life.
Born in Needham, Mass, on June 19, 1912, to Stanley and Rainetta Bezanson, Walter graduated from Needham High School; he received his B.A. from Dartmouth College, where he studied under Sidney Cox, and his Ph.D from Yale. His doctoral dissertation was on Herman Melville. Mentored at Yale by Stanley Williams (English) and Ralph Gabriel (History), Walter was one of a group of formative scholars of Melville's writings, which had been newly re-discovered. During WW II Walter was a lieutenant and an instructor in the U.S. Naval Air Force, 1943-46, serving aboard the aircraft carrier Intrepid in the Pacific; in August they were off the coast of Japan, preparing for invasion, when the war was officially ended. Walter taught English three years at Harvard and then taught 35 years at Rutgers in New Brunswick, New Jersey, where he had a double appointment as Professor of English and Professor of History; he instituted a new program there in American Studies. He was a Fulbright Professor for one year in Liege, Belgium. He was also a visiting professor at several Mid-western colleges, including Macalester College in St Paul and the University of Minnesota. In the 1950s, Walter originated several courses in the new discipline of American Studies, including Urban Studies, Film Studies, and African-American Literature. He was recognized as a scholar-writer-critic of the first rank in the study of Herman Melville, and was honored as President of the Melville Society three separate times for outstanding critical writing on Moby-Dick and other works, and for his groundbreaking scholarly edition of Clarel, which still stands as the definitive edition. A born teacher and lecturer, Walter enchanted legions of students with his love of literature and his charismatic ability to engage an audience. After retiring from Rutgers at age 70, Walter continued to lecture in New Jersey. Upon marrying Gail Coffler, a professor at Suffolk University in Boston, he moved with her to Brookline, Massachusetts; he taught many courses at the Boston Center for Adult Education on Commonwealth Avenue. After the couple moved to Minnesota in 2006 to be near family there, he continued to teach short courses in the works of Dickinson, Frost, Faulkner, Hawthorne and Melville.
In addition to his wife of twenty-two years, Gail Coffler, he leaves two sons (from his first marriage) Mark Bezanson (Tricia) of Frenchtown, NJ, and James Bezanson (Laurie) of Portland, OR; his step-son, Douglas Coffler (Kara) and two step-granddaughters, Samantha and Jocelyn, of Minneapolis; his step-daughter, Janna Coffler, of Rockford, Illinois; three nieces in Massachusetts: Polly Bezanson of Hingham, Susie Leary (John) of Scituate, and Barbara DeSantis of North Weymouth; and three Maxwell step-children (from his second wife) and their families. Preceding him in death, besides his parents, were his only sibling Paul Bezanson; his first wife, Bett Briggs Bezanson, and his second wife, Jean Maxwell Bezanson. Walter will be deeply missed by many for his wit and wisdom and his great heart.
A private ceremony was held on Feb 6, and a celebration of Walter's life will be held in the spring at Parkshore Apartments in St Louis Park, Minnesota, Walter and Gail's home for five golden pond years. Memorials in honor of Walter Bezanson may be given for a Melville Prize in his name; checks may be made to The Melville Society , designated for "Bezanson Prize," c/o Dr Tony McGowan (Treasurer), Dept of English, Bldg 607, West Point, NY 10996 or to the Audubon Society.1