Ward is 64 as of 11 April – difficult to believe! I met him 50 years ago when his father, Robert Bell and I went to his school in Connecticut for me to meet him. Bob and I were not yet married.


This photo was taken on that afternoon and the suspicious, or merely questioning look was part of that day. I took many photos that day and was thrilled to experience how much love there was between father and son. Ward clearly admired and imitated his father, and in some sense still does as he uses performance and charm to communicate ideas.

From that time Ward and I and the family Bob and I put together have so many memories – half a century’s worth. Time continues. Humans are such tiny parts of life, but each of us have our own history, each our own capacity for reinvention and change, each of us has a unique trajectory in time and we are all going in same direction, but we know so little about our journey. When I look at Ward even today I still see the paperboy who delivered the New York Times to my cottage in Princeton years before this photo was taken and before Robert Bell was an anchor in my life.

Ward is a treasured part of my life. Below he helps to carve the Thanksgiving turkey last November.


Changes in season brings camelias to my garden in Marin County, one marker of time between last Thanksgiving and Christmas and the time during which JoAnne died on December 1.


In 1955 at the Merck Sharp & Dohme Research Laboratories in Rahway, New Jersey I met JoAnne who was then JoAnne Newkirk. We started in the same month and were trained by Armand Bubulian, Director of the Assay Lab. Our real friendship began because we were both selected to be sent by Merck to the Waksman Institute for Microbiology a Rutgers University. We took the lectures and lab with the first year graduate students. That meant two days a week for a year JoAnne and I would drive from Rahway to New Brunswick. The trip took at least a half hour each way giving lots of time to talk and get to know something about the life of the other. We bonded.


Thanks to Joe Newkirk, JoAnne’s younger brother we got photos of JoAnne in her early years. The house shown at the top is where she was born in 1934; she is shown with baby brother in two photos and in 1943 with her whole nuclear family. The lower photos are yearbook picture – the one on the left is from Bridgeton High School in 1951, the one on the right is from Ursinus College in 1955. We used this short history as part of the information boards at her memorial on last Saturday. However, time marches on…

As life went on there were love affairs, marriages, divorces, moves from one place to another, more education, more degrees, and children – we never lost touch and tried to see one another even though for quite some time we were on opposite coasts. After her divorce from John Fabian she wanted to move on and looked at Law School again. She had done one semester of Law at NYU prior to her marriage and that was life she wanted to pursue.

JoAnne decided on Hastings Law School in San Francisco, part of the University of California and she and her daughter Gabrielle moved to San Anselmo in Fall 1971. Meanwhile Bob and I had moved to the Bay Area when in 1969 he was asked to Chair the Cinema Department at San Francisco State University. I was still going to Princeton University for my PhD, so we were a bi-coastal couple for a time. Ward came out for summer vacation (and to learn to drive) in 1970 and later that summer JoAnne and Gaby also came for vacation and for Jo to check out Hastings.

Bob and I rented a lovely pool house on an estate in Ross (one where I was able to barter some design and renovation for reduced rent) and it was here that we had lots of family visitors and our own Phaedra Bell, our daughter.

We began to look for a house to buy, JoAnne and Gaby were in San Anselmo, we were in Ross. And one night at dinner we started to talk about getting a house that would let us live together and have room for each of our families to visit. We looked at a lot of houses and in 1972 we found one that fit the bill in terms of size, but had been sorely neglected for decades because of family estate squabbles. It was a wreck – but 226 Magnolia Avenue became ours – and the Banks.

(to be continued)

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On the planet in California

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