By:Thomas Fleming | July 20, 2011
I am sorry to inform you that my long time friend and Rockford Institute board member Peter Stanlis has died from a combination of lymphoma and an untreatable lung disease. Peter and his wife Joan had known for several months that the end was imminent.
Gail and I managed to visit him twice recently, and Peter was quite lucid and even cheerful. Peter was justly content with what he had accomplished in his long and useful career, revealing the true and abiding significance of Edmund Burke and of his old friend and mentor Robert Frost. He did express some concern with the shoddy scholarship on Burke that deliberately ignored two generations of important scholarship.
I first met Peter when he was still teaching at Rockford College. At that time the college was being ruined by an incompetent and not especially scrupulous president who spent the endowment and ran the institution into near bankruptcy. Neither the trustees nor the local media would believe an honest man, even when he could back up everything he said with facts. But that was Peter, always playing Diogenes but with a quip or impossible pun on his lips. His puns used to drive his good friend Jim Rauen (and their friend Chilton Williamson) to the point of distraction, but he knew they would.
Serious men admired Peter, as anyone would expect, but women of all ages were delighted by him. Even in his late 80's he could charm lovely young things. It was partly the way he had of taking things—and people—seriously without affecting the mock solemnity of the Academy.
The last time we saw him, as we were taking our leave, he called me to his bedside, saying "I've got one more thing to say." Holding up a recent copy of Chronicles, he said he had been reading the magazine carefully in recent months and wanted me to know he regarded it as an extraordinary accomplishment, unparalleled in the contemporary English-speaking world. I did not know that these would be his final words to me, but perhaps he did.
These brief remarks fall short of what I should say, but I am getting ready to leave for Quebec, where my wife and I shall be celebrating our 40th anniversary. Peter, who also charmed my wife, will understand. I'll try to extend my remarks but I hope some of his friends will chime in.