Alumni across the world helped Bob Mist ’44 recover from a devastating injury

Bob Mist '44

Of all the ties that bind us together as a community, the stories of Ephs supporting Ephs can lift us up the most.

The stories are everywhere. Small kindnesses that make a big impact.

Black and white yearbook photo

Here is one such story, of Bob Mist, Class of 1944

It begins with a short notice at the end of 1944’s class notes in the winter of 1982.

“Bob Mist broke his neck in a swimming accident in Hawaii. Bob is paralyzed and in the hospital. Martha reports our friend would love to hear from ‘44 classmates. The address is: 2711 Puuhonoa Street, Honolulu, Hawaii 96822. Keep those letters coming.” (Winter 1982 Alumni Review)

A few issues  later, an update.

“The best news around here is a letter from Bob Mist... Bob reports, ‘I’ve had so many truly great letters from classmates that I can’t possibly answer them all and would like to put a little squib in the Review to thank everyone...I appreciate not only the thoughtfulness but the willingness of all of you in writing. Probably one of the best things that ever happened to me was going to Williams, and I never fully realized, until the chips were down, what wonderful guys I was with there. Please keep the cards and notes coming and thanks, ‘44, for the wonders you have done for me and the thoughts you have sent to me.’”(Summer 1982 Alumni Review)

The next issue featured two more letters from Bob, including one to the entire alumni community, printed in the “Letters to the Editor” section.

“A brief paragraph in your Winter 1982 issue reported my swimming accident and paralysis. As a result of this notice, so many great letters from classmates and friends have arrived that I can’t possibly answer them all individually. Permit me to use your columns to thank these guys and explain a little:

I should explain first that I have no more idea of what happened to me than any of you. We were up at the Mauna Kea Beach Hotel to celebrate our 34th wedding anniversary. All I was doing was swimming back and forth across that magnificent bay in front of the hotel. They found me on the beach, gave me resuscitation, then air medic evac to Honolulu. I’ve since spent three months in a hospital, a couple of months in a rehabilitation center, and now at last I’m in my own home. Somehow I must have hit something, or something hit me, that broke my neck right up at the top, and as a result I have no function from my neck down.

The old bean is still working, at least as well as it ever did, and with the help of guys like you and hundreds of other friends, I’ve been inspired to try and do the best I can with what is left of me. My family has been great and many people have come to see me. I’m blessed with a lot of other things, too. I’ve got a great array of gadgets which permits me to telephone from my bed, and I’ve got a wheelchair which is a marvel. It carries its own respirator and is powered by batteries so I can drive it around myself.

I guess the message I really want to convey to all is how very much I appreciate the willingness to take time to pen a letter to an old friend. Receiving such warm words makes me realize once again that going to Williams was one of the best things that ever happened to me. Please keep the cards and notes coming, and come and visit us if you can.’”(Fall 1982 Alumni Review)

A note to his class was included in the 1944 class notes column. 

“I have reaped a number of wonderful letters from various long lost friends as a result of your letter to ‘44. I don’t know how they all manage to say something that makes me feel good, but these letters have certainly been great for my spirits. I am still existing between bed and wheelchair, but every day seems to bring some slight improvement that I hope in the long run may add up to my being a more useful member of society.” (Fall 1982 Alumni Review)

Over the next several years, more invitations to visit were printed in ‘44’s class notes.

Then, five years after his accident, the Alumni Review reprinted a feature article from the Honolulu Advertiser. It opens powerfully:

“In the past three years, Bob ‘Wake’ Mist ‘44 has completed five children’s books, a family history and personal memoir, and the history of an Island company—better than 150,000 words.

That might seem relatively unremarkable, unless you knew that Mist has punched every word into a personal computer with a pointer clenched between his teeth.” (Spring 1987 Alumni Review)

Pretty incredible, right?

As the Class of ‘44 approaches their 50th reunion in 1994, they did not forget their friend.

Man in hat propped up in bed with 50th Reunion paraphernalia on his chest

“Class bard Bob Mist ‘44 couldn’t make it to Reunions from his home in Hawaii so the class mailed him all the requisite paraphernalia, proudly displayed here by him.” (Summer 1994 Alumni Review)

Three years after the class of 1944 celebrated their 50th reunion, Bob died in Hawaii. But the story of his Williams connections through class notes endures and continues to inspire.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *