Chauncey Devereux StillmanREV. GEORGE RUTLER
Of wealth and war, Chauncey Devereux Stillman (1907-1989) knew much and said little.
In his country home in Dutchess County, now a museum he endowed, is a youthful portrait that makes it easy to imagine Chauncey in Paris in the Roaring Twenties. In 1942, the future commodore of the New York Yacht Club donated his gorgeous flagship Westerly as a patrol boat on the lookout for German submarines. As squadron air combat intelligence officer on the USS Enterprise, he fought in the Battle of Leyte Gulf in October of 1944 and wrote the history of his Air Group 20, which in three months sank 33 ships and destroyed 345 enemy airplanes. Later he served as a staff officer with the National Security Council.
Schools and charities flourished by his philanthropy, especially after his embrace of Catholicism. The Gentleman of His Holiness was an efficient cause of many of the Church's most vigorous new academic and cultural institutions. One regret Chauncey vouchsafed to me in this regard was the abuse of the chair of Roman Catholic Studies that he had endowed at the Harvard Divinity School. Christopher Dawson was its first holder until 1962, and Stillman thereby was the chief publicist of that formerly neglected genius, but since then the professorship has gone the unhappy way of the school itself. The university ignored Chauncey as curtly as it had eagerly accepted his largesse. The day after our discussion, the incumbent professor unexpectedly died.
last Mass he heard was in his Madison Avenue apartment, and his whispered request
of me was that the sign of peace be omitted "because the butler finds it awkward."
The last Mass he heard was in his Madison Avenue apartment, and his whispered request of me was that the sign of peace be omitted "because the butler finds it awkward."
Aesthetics did not throttle ascetics, and when he was dying of lung cancer I occasionally met him praying the rosary in a hideously modern Manhattan basement chapel. The last Mass he heard was in his Madison Avenue apartment, and his whispered request of me was that the sign of peace be omitted "because the butler finds it awkward." I obliged the Gentleman of His Holiness and the gentleman's gentleman, and I perpetuate that final wish as often as I can.
Rev. George W. Rutler. "Chauncey Devereux Stillman." Crisis (September 2005).
This article is reprinted with permission from the Morley Institute a non-profit education organization.
This article appeared first as one of the "Cloud of Witnesses" columns Father Rutler wrote for Crisis. It is included in his book, Cloud of Witnesses - Dead People I Knew When They Were Alive.
Since 1988 his weekly television program has been broadcast worldwide on EWTN. Father Rutler has published 17 books, including: Cloud of Witnesses - Dead People I Knew When They Were Alive, Coincidentally: Unserious Reflections on Trivial Connections, A Crisis of Saints: Essays on People and Principles, Brightest and Best, Saint John Vianney: The Cure D'Ars Today, Crisis in Culture, and Adam Danced: The Cross and the Seven Deadly Sins.
Copyright © 2010 Father George W. Rutler
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