It is with great sadness that we share the news that Gillian Adams ’51, Jerry Bidlack, and Barbra Tacy (both former faculty) have passed away.
Gillian Adams ’51- 1934-2016
Thoughts on Gill
While there were many extraordinary teachers at Buxton during my time there, without a doubt
Gill was the single most influential – not only at Buxton but probably in my entire educational
career. It wasn’t just that she was probably the most widely-read and encyclopedic, but more
that she most completely, and seemingly effortlessly, embodied the vibrant, enquiring, creative
and generous mind and soul. Why wouldn’t you want to become some kind of smart kid, read
every book, see every movie, since clearly it was the coolest thing in the world?
Since I hung out with (and/or worked for) her during the summers and after Buxton, the
memories of the many ways she taught me blur from the classroom to the veggie gardens to
Sabin Drive and beyond. Her ability to synthesize intellectual curiosity with the quotidian with a
healthy dose of sarcasm is still a model I try to emulate. And that she managed to survive the
very first complete meal that I cooked, as I pretended to be a “grown-up” in my parent’s dining
room (pork chops with coriander-something!) – with grace and charm, no less – proved she was
as sound of body as mind!
Bob Flynt ’74
Gill graduated from Buxton — at sixteen (she always hastened to point that out) — in 1951. The school had only been in Williamstown for four years, and Gill had many wonderful stories of Mrs. Sangster, Mr. and Mrs. Perrine and Mrs. Seymour, all teachers who came up with Ellen to Williamstown from Short Hills.
Gill went on to Radcliffe and met Jerry Bidlack at Buxton in 1953. They married two years later and then lived for twenty years in the red house on the way to the Barn.
Gill was interested in everything. She loved music, played violin and viola, and she especially loved the Buxton property — the Loop trail on Stone Hill was one of her absolute favorites. She had a special passion for the gardens that still surround the Main House, originally designed and built by Giovanni Raffinolli (who Gill knew well and talked with often after he was retired, living in the Gate House) in the early 1900’s. She would admonish the school every spring to “not pop the peonies before they bloomed.” She would underline her announcement as she walked back to her seat in the dining room muttering under her breath, “only mental defectives pop peonies.”
Gill loved to read. Actually, it would be more accurate to say that she loved to learn. She was endlessly and omnivorously curious about the world. Her enthusiasms made her an outstanding teacher. Over two decades, she taught Latin — at times four levels, Ancient History, European History and, after Jerry left for graduate school, Music I.
Gill was also an excellent cook and the Bidlack house served as a sort of “salon” for faculty at Buxton where good food, wine, intelligent conversation and wonderful music abounded.
Gill had a marvelous sense of humor, loved to laugh and was a warm, loyal friend to many. She will be deeply missed.
Read Gillian’s obituary here
Jerry Bidlack came to Buxton in 1953 after studying music at the Oberlin College Conservatory. He married Gill Adams two years later and they lived in the red house off the Barn driveway with their two children, Meredith ’73 and Allison ’76. He ran all aspects of the music program in the school until he left to get a graduate degree in 1972.
Jerry was an extraordinarily versatile musician. His principal instruments were piano and organ — he was the organist at St. John’s Church in Williamstown for many years — but he was able to give beginning lessons on all strings and wind instruments as well. During his twenty years at Buxton, Jerry taught all of the music classes, arranged all of the instrumental lessons, giving many of them himself, conducted the chorus, and oversaw a number of smaller instrumental ensembles. He also composed the incidental music for the all-school play every year and conducted the orchestra during the week the play was being toured in Washington, Quebec City, or Nantucket. Distinguished musicians, who were friends of Jerry’s, performed regularly on Sunday nights in the dining room, as well. In short, Jerry really WAS music at Buxton for two decades.
Most remarkable, though, were the unique charisma and humor that Jerry brought to every aspect of his involvement in the life of the school. He seemed to be able to make any group, student or peer, laugh helplessly whenever he wished. He also had inexhaustible energy to play music, counsel individual students, and share vigorously in the day-to-day life and work of a year at Buxton. Jerry was profoundly serious while being exquisitely funny, though. His commitment to music and to education more broadly was deep and year around. During the summers, often days after Buxton graduation, he would leave to work at the extraordinary Kinhaven Music Camp in Weston, VT, and, after leaving Buxton in 1972, ended up being director of the camp for many years. A vegetarian for most of his life, Jerry helped students at Buxton who did not want to eat meat arrange for appropriate nutrition, long before the days when different food options became standard in schools and colleges. He had a powerful and lasting effect on many, many people.
Jerry will be fondly remembered and very much missed by generations of students and colleagues at Buxton.
Read Jerry’s obituary here
The Tacy’s, Peter and Barbara, came to Buxton in 1961. They lived in the apartment on the first floor of the Barn, where Chris ’81 and Will ’84 grew up, until 1973 when they moved to the red house on the Barn driveway until they left the school in 1981.
Barbara worked part-time at Buxton and participated in faculty meetings even after she began her career as a psychologist working at United Counseling Services in Bennington. Barbara had many skills and interests and during her two decades in the school, she, at various times, taught ceramics, photography, and psychology. She was also an accomplished skier — downhill and cross-country. She loved gardening.
Barbara and Peter were warm and welcoming to me and to others when I was a young faculty member and I remember many pleasant evenings in their apartment in the Barn. (Barbara was a good cook, too.) There were a number of students who came and went from the Tacy’s apartment, and later from the red house, and, no matter how busy her work in Bennington became, Barbara was a concerned and “present” member of the adult community in the school who made time for many. She had truly extraordinary energy and wholeheartedly embraced life.
She will be missed.
Read Barbra’s obituary here.