BC SealBoston College Magazine Spring 2005
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. Linden Lane
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The soldier's poet

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Heath in the 1943 Sub Turri. Photo courtesy of Sub Turri

Heath in the 1943 Sub Turri. Photo courtesy of Sub Turri

In 1942, a Boston College senior, Thomas Heath, sat down at his kitchen table in Somerville, Massachusetts, and wrote a poem that his fellow students would carry with them to war. "Proud Refrain" took the perspective of a soldier remembering his days at BC, and Heath wrote it for his classmates, "some of whom had already been called up, and most of whom soon would be," he recalled in 1991.

Heath died on January 13, 2005, from injuries sustained during a robbery at his home in Kisumu, Kenya. He was 84 years old. A Dominican priest and high school teacher, he had spent the past 23 years in Africa.

At Boston College, Heath was a biology major who tended his love of literature as the editor of Stylus. According to the 1943 Sub Turri yearbook, he was voted "most accomplished," "best conversationalist," "class story writer," "class poet," and "most talented" in a poll of his peers. In May 1944, he decided to follow in the footsteps of his two brothers and enter the priesthood. He was ordained in 1950.

An estimated 5,052 Boston College students and graduates served in World War II. Among them was Terrence Geoghegan '42, a naval officer during the war and a friend of Heath's. Geoghegan keeps a copy of "Proud Refrain" in a simple wooden frame above his desk, in his home in Hingham, Massachusetts. The poem "just captured what life was like," he said, after Heath's death. "BC was our home for four years. It was just four buildings and the linden trees—Gasson Tower, St. Mary's, Bapst, and Devlin—but when we got dragged out of there . . . you had the feeling you were gone from both your homes. It was a wrenching, gut feeling."

A poster of the poem, from the 1940s

A poster of the poem, from the 1940s

 

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