On This Cold Morning: Thoughts on the Passing of a Colleague and Mentor


Early morning.

It’s currently 8 degrees below zero. The wind chill overnight took the temp down to about 20 below zero. For once, we didn’t turn the heat down. We kept a drip going on the kitchen and bathroom faucets.

We’ve had trouble with pipes freezing before. Been there, done that. Don came downstairs during the night and checked on everything and the water was still flowing. Good!

We’ve been up for over an hour and all the blinds and shades are still down. We’re trying to keep all the warmth inside. But still, I’m wrapped in a shawl. Don has the afghan tucked around him, quilts are at the ready. Since I sit in front of the big picture window in the den, I can feel little puffs of cold air sneaking through the glass.


The trees are still up. I’m not in a hurry. Besides, how can I take down a tree that still wafts its heavenly aroma my way as I sit here in my chair? I don’t think we’ve ever had a Noble Fir that kept its scent this long. This tree is amazing. I like the soft glow of the tree lights in the early morning hours. The first thing I do each morning is flip the switch on the little white tree and it casts it lovely magical light on the semi-dark living room.


I learned of the passing of a friend and mentor last night. Robert Chapline. Bob was one of the preeminent voice trainers in the country. He taught generations of actors, guiding them through the intricacies of the human voice, helping them to strengthen and enrich their instruments. He was a master teacher, kind, compassionate and wise.

When I was first applying for jobs as a Voice and Speech teacher, I applied to many universities. It’s a long and arduous process. I’d just about given up hope of ever being hired when an opening suddenly came up at Boston University. Because I’d been a finalist for a position in North Carolina, the Chair of that program recommended me to the Chair of the Theater Department at BU. I hurriedly flew up to Boston from Philadelphia, interviewed and taught a mini dialect class to Bob, the Chair and another faculty member, along with a couple of students. Somehow, I got the job. I surely wouldn’t have been hired without Bob’s approval. Bob and his partner Rick (also a faculty member) reached out to me, helped me find a place to live, welcomed me into their home. Bob became a mentor to me, helping me through that first year of teaching, always ready to pass on his wisdom, always generous and kind and respectful. Like all good mentors, he guided my journey but knew when it was time to gently shove me out of the nest so I could find what worked for me. I can never fully quantify how much I learned from him. I am forever grateful to him.

We lost touch over the years. Rick died many years ago. Bob was living in Los Angeles and had recently moved into an Assisted Living Facility where he read the words of Shakespeare every day. I can still hear his rich, mellifluous voice speaking that text. What an honor it was to know him. To be lucky enough to be his colleague and work by his side.

Rest in Peace, Bob. May flights of angels sing thee to thy rest.

Happy Saturday.


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  1. says

    Good Morning Claudia.

    My condolences on the passing of your friend. He sounds like he was a lovely man.
    About your Christmas Tree, there are no hard and fast rules on when you take it down. I had mine up way until Easter one year. A florist friend of mine kept his Victorian themed tree up for a whole year. You’ll know when it’s time to take it down but in the meantime, enjoy!

    Have a great weekend!

    ~ Cassandra

    PS: How ’bout those Spartans, eh?! Rose Bowl Champions! Go MSU! 😀

  2. Tana says

    I am so sorry for the loss of your friend and mentor. I am glad you have such wonderful memories.
    I think you should leave your tree up as long as you find it comforting. The weather certainly isn’t helping. I have been following the news and watching all the reports of your weather in the Northeast. You all are in my prayers for staying safe and keeping your power. Spring isn’t that far away!

  3. says

    Good Morning, Claudia
    Your friend and mentor clearly had a positive impact on your work, but also your life. It’s always heartening to hear a story of someone who not only does his or her work well, but with kindness and generosity. I suspect you do the same.

  4. says

    Claudia what a beautiful tribute to your friend and mentor. Always sad to lose someone, but the memories are always with us. It is so cold here, I’m under a fuzzy blanket and Charlie is curled up close for the warmth! Drinking coffee also (I’m still in love with that cup of yours), You and Don stay warm and enjoy the tree lights. I still have one of my trees up also! hugs!!

    • Claudia says

      We’re staying warm – tomorrow there may be freezing rain, which is just what we DON’T need!

  5. says

    How nice that you don’t have to go to work and venture out in the cold. Hope you continue to have free flowing water! stay in and stay safe!
    It’s difficult when family members and friends pass! How wonderful they live on in your thoughts and heart!

  6. says

    Always so sad to hear a dear friend, not seen in many years, has passed on. Nice to have good memories of a person who helped one along the way in the early days – may he rest in peace.

    Yes, much of the US is literally freezing this morning – including us – but nowhere near as cold as you. Again we have brilliant sunshine and the promise of 41F later We still need to get out and rake more leaves for the final pick up which comes mid-Jan., so hopefully a warmer, dry day will appear on the horizon soon.

    Hope the pipes keep piping!
    Hugs – Mary

  7. says

    We have the freezing temps here as well and another storm moving in this evening bringing another 12″ of snow. My friend has chickens freeze over night :( how horrible, I think they should put a light on them to keep them warm.

    • Claudia says

      Terrible about the chickens. What were they thinking? There should have been a heat lamp or they should have been brought indoors!

  8. Donnamae says

    I am so sorry for the loss of your friend and mentor…you wrote a great tribute. There is no good reason to take your tree down…except for the exercise it would provide to keep you warm…honestly! They’ve already closed the schools around here for Monday and maybe even Tuesday. Gonna leave the heat turned up ourselves…and have plenty of quilts on stand-by too! I’m gonna find some good movies to watch to keep me warm! 😉

    • Claudia says

      You guys are really feeling the cold out there! I shouldn’t complain. Stay warm and safe, Donna!

  9. says

    What a beautiful tribute Claudia..Seems that he meant a lot to you and you will always have the memories..Stay warm..Glad you don’t have to walk Scout…Mollie and I were out for 45 minutes this AM..Glad it’s not windy any more..Have a calm weekend..

  10. says

    I’m so sorry to hear of your loss of your beloved friend and mentor, Claudia. He sounds like such a wonderful man. Sending you lots and lots of hugs.

    I’m also sending you virtual waves of warmth from the west coast. I heard them say on the news that with the windchill factor, some place was going to be sixty below zero today, good gosh. Hoping you are able to stay bundled up and cozy. This may be a silly question but do you have a generator? I haven’t the smallest clue on how to manage in real weather, woe is me.

    Maybe next year I will get a tree again, just for the lovely scent and the lights – we’ve pooped out over the big decorating over here. Something so magical about a room lit by the glow of holiday lights though.

    Thinking of you, sending lots of um, warm and cozy wishes to you three. xo

    • Claudia says

      I think Wisconsin is getting the brunt of the brutally cold temperatures! We don’t have a generator.

  11. Janet in Rochester says

    Deepest condolences, Claudia, on the death of your friend and mentor. Even after losing contact with someone for years, a death comes as a shock, and it still hurts. But I bet you have worked with your students in the same generous way… and that’s his legacy living on. God bless.

  12. karen says

    The passing of old friends and mentors is a sad occasion indeed. Dwell on the good fortune of having made sucn an accaintance.

  13. says

    We’ve had bitterly cold weather too, -25 Celsius (about -13F) with wind chills down to -35 Celsius (-31F). Today and tomorrow the temperature is rising to -2 Celsius (28F) and we will be getting snow. Stay warm where you are Sorry to hear about the loss of a friend and mentor, but his legacy will continue.

  14. says

    So sorry to hear of the passing of your friend and mentor. Thoughts and prayers are with you.

    And for the weather! Man! What a year huh? Stay warm and cuddled up and safe!

  15. Janie F. says

    Your tribute to your friend was so sweet Claudia. A former pastor of ours who became a dear friend once said to us that “people are in your life for a season for a reason.” Bob was in your life to help you along the way so that later you would be able to help someone else along the way. May your memories of your friend always bring a smile to your face and joy to your heart. It’s cool here today and kind of overcast but all I need to do to warm up is get up and get to moving. Hope the three of you stay warm and safe and that those pipes don’t freeze. Enjoy your weekend!

  16. Chris k in Wisconsin says

    So sorry for your loss, Claudia. His work and legacy will live on through you and those you have worked with due to the time you spent with him. Circle of life. He will live on.
    School is already closed here for Monday when the real temps are to be about -25* and the wind chills -45 to -55. On the radio they said 90% of the districts in the state have already closed. That at least does help the parents who have to make plans for their kids for the day.
    75 days til Spring. At least Spring on the calendar….. certainly doesn’t always materialize into reality quite so promptly.
    Stay warm!!!!!

    • Claudia says

      Oh, you poor people in Wisconsin! When I look at the forecast there, I realize I ain’t got nothin’ to complain about!

  17. says

    Sorry about your friend. It’s hard hearing of passing of friends that mean a lot to us.
    Stay warm in this cold and snow. We are waiting on a storm to hit tomorrow. Hope it fizzles out.

    • Claudia says

      The next five days here look very strange weather wise. From lows below zero to a high of 49 on Monday to a high of 9 on Tuesday. What????

  18. Addie from California says

    Dear Claudia,
    So very sorry to hear of the passing of your friend, Bob. How great for him to have had a good friend in you!!!! May your memories warm your heart♥
    Being a California girl, I don’t know how you easterners do it??? Stay warm and enjoy your tree.

  19. Tina says

    So sorry to hear of the death of your mentor. From what I can glean from conversations with you about the craft, he taught you well. It seems from the timeline in your post that the former dean of North Carolina who recommended you to Robert was my dear friend Malcolm Morrison who passed away in November. So now you have 2 fans of your work rooting for you from above. Stay warm and pray those that your pipes (the house, I mean!) remain free flowing. We are hunkered down, drinking red wine and snacking on almonds and pumpkin seeds. Louis is glued to the heater.

  20. says

    I am so sorry for the loss of your friend, Claudia. I hope that you are able to stay warm and that your pipes don’t freeze, That is never fun. Our high tomorrow will be 45 and then 0 for a high on Monday. Crazy weather. xo Laura

  21. Debbi Saunders says

    So sorry to hear about the passing of your Dear friend and mentor..a huge loss! I pray that you and Don and Scout can stay warm in that unbearable weather!!! I just can not conceive of that kind of cold!


  22. says

    So sorry to hear about your friend’s passing. He sounds like a wonderful man.

    It’s very cold down here in Alabama too. I love winter, but we are not used to being this cold for so long. I’m sure it will warm up a little soon. In the meantime, we are doing the same as you & Don, huddling up and just hanging out together.

  23. Nancy Blue Moon says

    I am sorry for your loss Claudia..I still have my white tree up also..it warms my heart just a little more through this terrible cold weather..we have been covering with our warm old quilts too..

  24. says

    What a nice tribute to your mentor, Claudia. I don’t envy you the cold outside your home, but I’m glad there’s so much warmth inside. I’m happy to report that my hospital bed arrived and even though its very narrow, I finally got a good night’s sleep!

  25. says

    Hi Claudia: Your posts and photographs evoke such a feeling of warmth and coziness, I’m always excited to get email notification of a new post. Temperatures notwithstanding, how lovely to wake up in your little cottage every day. Will make sure to watch your husband on my Houston PBS station on the 7th. So sorry about your friend.

  26. says

    I also just had a friend and mentor pass just before Christmas. I think of her daily and can only imagine your loss. Boy has it been cold and more to come with lots of snow!! Stay warm and Happy new Year Claudia!

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