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above: Dr. Thomas F. Bertonneau in 2006 (image courtesy of SUNY Oswego, Penfield Library Special Collections)

In Memoriam

In Memory of Thomas F. Bertonneau

Although Thomas F. Bertonneau published only once in Chronicles, on science fiction in 1997, this recently deceased professor of comparative literature was a contributor to whom we should have paid closer attention.
Tom, who died of Lou Gehrig’s Disease on Sept. 21 in Oswego, New York, at the age of 66 was a versatile polymath who read multiple languages. His essays, some of which are now being collected in a publishable anthology, reveal a depth of humanistic learning that I have found in few other friends. Not only in his published work but also in his copious letters to his multiple correspondents and in conversation, Tom poured out his staggering learning without the slightest trace of conceit.
During a visit by Tom to my home several years ago, I mentioned that I had just been remotely present at a Met performance of Wagner’s “Parsifal” and was blown away by the third act. Tom thereupon discussed all the imagery in this opera, first performed in 1882; he then discoursed on the evolution of the legend about the Holy Grail from the time Wolfram von Eschenbach...