A Tribute to Betsy Walker Hasegawa ’64
“Betsy was a free spirit who perhaps uncharacteristically for a free spirit also functioned at top level in whatever she attempted.” - Jinx Nolan ’64
Our remarkable friend Betsy radiated light and thoughtfulness and kept us smiling with her playful humor. At Bennington, she delighted in the surrounding fields, woods and streams on our many walks and bike rides. Walking to and from Jennings for music classes and practice was a special pleasure for her. Betsy was a gifted violinist and composer studying at Bennington with Orrea Pernel, Lou Calabro, Henry Brant, Gunnar Schonbeck and Lionel Nowak. During NRT of 1963, Betsy toured with Joan Brainard, Nan Newton, and Barbara Von Eckardt performing at various venues along the eastern coast in school auditoriums, churches, and small concert halls. On tour they often performed Betsy's gorgeous trio, Boscaglia, a piece written for clarinet, violin, and piano.
After Bennington, Betsy went on to study at Juilliard and Harvard. And then in 1971, in a dramatic moment worthy of the movies, she left America to live in Kyoto, Japan with her Buddhist monk husband, Seikan Hasegawa. There they had a son, Taiyo, and a daughter, Maya and built a Buddhist temple surrounded by gardens where Seikan practiced and Betsy would live for the rest of her life. From time to time she visited family and friends in the United States and some of us traveled to see her. Betsy died in Kyoto June 3, 2015, after suffering since 2008 from Cushing’s disease and pituitary surgery.
Imagine a contemporary Emily Dickinson living in Kyoto writing poetry, making origami, learning the Japanese language and its customs, and working daily to create a luscious garden of great variety. She wrote lengthy handwritten letters adorned with her whimsical drawings and fine photographs to friends and people all over the world. This was Betsy. Suffice it to say, there was no one like her.
- Submitted by Nan Newton ’65 and Gael Rockwell Minton ’64
Sometimes It's Like That
Run aground on a mussel bed
surrounded by an ebbing tide
there's nothing left for me to do
but jettison my pride.
My boat is settled down to stay,
or so it seems to me,
with small regard for damages
and none for propriety.
A drowsy vein of offshore breeze
flaps the resting sail
and underneath, the bivalves shift
and bubble to no avail.
But I'll not stay for the rest of night
nor watch the moon go down;
for well before, on the rising tide,
I'll sail for the lights of town.
- Betsy Walker Hasegawa ’64