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Out & About: Hartford Cane recipient has a lot of memories from his 99 years

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    Richard "Dick" Schwartz, of White River Junction, was recently honored as Hartford's oldest citizen by the Hartford Historical Society. Schwartz turned 99 on May 31. (Scott Fletcher photograph) Scott Fletcher photograph

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 6/2/2021 9:47:07 PM
Modified: 6/2/2021 9:47:04 PM

WHITE RIVER JUNCTION — The phrase “sharp as a tack” doesn’t do justice to Dick Schwartz’s extensive memory.

Schwartz, of White River Junction, at 99 is the most recent recipient of the Hartford Cane, which the Hartford Historical Society awards to the oldest living resident of Hartford. He was presented the cane during a ceremony a few days before his 99th birthday.

“I can’t believe that,” Schwartz said during an interview last month at Valley Terrace. “I may be the oldest one that’s been reported.”

During a wide-ranging interview last month, Schwartz recalled many details from his 99 years, which began when he was born on May 31, 1922, in Albany, N.Y. and have continued through his move to White River Junction since last August, where he moved to be closer to his family.

He recounted his electrical engineering studies at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, N.Y., his training for the Army’s Signal Corps during World War II and mentoring schoolchildren during his retirement.

Although Schwartz was a member of the Class of 1944 at RPI, he graduated from RPI a year early and enlisted in the Army in 1944.

“We got six months kicked off the program because there was a war on and all of us were draft bait,” Schwartz said.

He was sent to training at Fort Dix in New Jersey along with other members of his class. Training at other bases followed and Schwartz recalled learning how to shoot using a Lee-Enfield rifle, which troops used during World War I.

“It was a new experience, the time at the shooting range, and I wasn’t an expert shot but I qualified anyway,” he said.

While he was in the Army, Schwartz researched radar and microwave theory. In 1946 when he was discharged, he returned to RPI for a master’s degree. Schwartz had a long career teaching and practicing electrical engineering. He; his first wife, Ruth; and their children moved around the country as Schwartz earned a doctorate and worked at different universities, according to a history written by his daughter, Kate Mortimer. In addition to being a professor, Schwartz continued his education through academic studies.

“I worked on research projects,” he said.

Among his accomplishments was co-authoring a 1959 book, The Eavesdroppers, Civil Liberties in American History, which gave an account of spying and surveillance. He also helped develop computer science curriculum at the University of Pennsylvania in the early 1960s, then an emerging and exciting field.

Schwartz’s last academic role before he retired in 1994 was as a professor at SUNY Binghamton. He and his second wife, Margaret, whom he married in 1982, were very involved in Endicott, N.Y., where they made their home before moving to Peru, N.Y.

It was in Endicott where Schwartz started mentoring schoolchildren deemed at-risk by their schools. He became particularly close to one of his mentees, Jackson, who was 10 at the time they were paired together.

“I met him every Tuesday and he was always expecting me,” Schwartz recalled. “I taught him how to play chess. I taught him how to play Scrabble. He learned very well.”

The two still keep in touch to this day. Jackson went on to college and now works as an accountant.

“He and I had become very good friends,” Schwartz said.

Schwartz keeps in frequent touch with people from the different places he lived and the different organizations he’s been part of.

“I write a lot of letters,” he said.

Liz Sauchelli can be reached at or 603-727-3221.

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