Colgate Thirteen History

The Last Member of the Original Colgate 13: A Tribute to Dick Kromer

May 2024
Submitted by Edward Hines, Class of 1963

By Ed Hines, Bud Hedinger, & Steve Steele

At the 75th Anniversary of the Colgate 13, Bill MacIntosh was honored as a member of the founding group. As preparations for that celebration were made, it was discovered that there was one additional founding member unaccounted for. Steve Steele found an obituary in the Buffalo newspaper for Betty Kromer, and Ed Hines believed that was Richard "Dick" Kromer's wife. Bud Hedinger led us in honoring Bill MacIntosh at Reunion as we continued research about Dick Kromer. It took some time, but this is what we found about the last surviving member of the original Colgate13.

Richard S. Kromer was born and raised in Milton, Pennsylvania. Dick and his older sister, Jeanne, enjoyed a musical family life, but it was his sister who took piano lessons. Dick would eagerly listen to those lessons through a closed door, and afterward he would play everything with natural dexterity and musical insight. The family sang each Sunday in the church choir where Dick first experienced his love of vocal music and improvisation. During his youth, Dick was known as "Rich" Kromer, but after military service his nickname was changed to "Dick."

Dick graduated from Milton High School, and entered Colgate University in the Fall of 1940 on a football scholarship, but later he played soccer. He was among the top graduates academically. An accomplished pianist, singer, and song arranger, Dick put these skills to use when in 1942 he became a founding member of the Colgate "13." Beyond his musical talents, he provided leadership to the Thirteen and theater groups that performed at Colgate and local venues.

As a member of the first Colgate "13", Dick was highly valued for his musical expertise, arranging ability, and improvisational skills on stage. In a Colgate Maroon article July 8, 1942, he was described as a "star composer," and he was elected librarian and treasurer of the original Colgate "13."

After graduating from Colgate in 1944, Dick joined the Army Air Corps, and his permanent duty station was in the Aleutian Islands, Alaska. He learned meteorological techniques and weather forecasting. Following an honorable discharge, Dick was encouraged to try his musical talents in New York City, so he spent a year as a music librarian for the National Broadcasting Company. He enjoyed the creative environment and musical exposure, but found the competition to be against his natural temperament. Dick returned to his home town to run the family grocery store, where one Sunday in church, he met the love of his life. Betty Jane Farrington was the newly hired elementary music teacher and their combined musical passions allowed Dick a new opportunity, arranging children's music which was routinely performed in her music classes.

In 1949, Dick won a graduate student scholarship by Rotary International for a one-year study at the University of Edinburgh, Scotland. Dick and Betty traveled throughout Scotland and gave presentations to community, church, and Rotary groups. Often included were Dick's original arrangements of popular American songs.

Dick earned a M.A. at Bucknell University and taught English in New Jersey and Maryland, before settling in the Upper Darby public school system in Drexel Hill, PA. Dick's interest was in helping disadvantaged youth gain entrance to college. Over the years, he played a key role in helping hundreds of high school students enroll in colleges throughout the Mid-Atlantic region. Dick came to be known as an educator who made a difference in students' lives, and he eventually retired as Director of Guidance at Upper Darby High School. He was beloved for his yearly faculty appearance in student musicals, and his improvising on stage harkened back to his Colgate 13 days.

For most of their married life, Dick and Betty lived in Springfield, PA, where he continued to arrange and perform with a choral group they co-founded called the Triple Trio. During the 1970's, the group sang Dick's arrangements in church events, and a local conductor promoted these arrangements including performances on the Philadelphia NPR station. An Alameda, CA, Church commissioned Dick for a holiday piece featuring a choir and solo cello. Dick and Betty were in the audience for the premier involving their two daughters.

The entire Kromer Family was featured in yearly Christmas pageants performing Dick's own "Twas the Night Before Christmas." Both daughters received a solid music education, and Nancy became a concert cellist eventually serving as Artist-in-Residence with the Eaken Piano Trio at Dickinson College in Carlisle, PA. During the 1990's, this group toured internationally and would include Dick's arrangements as encore pieces, especially "Someone to Watch over Me" and "The Man I Love." Kromer's arrangements gained a larger audience, and in 1998 the Eaken Piano Trio and the Gershwin Trust presented a Gershwin Tribute to a sold-out audience in Carnegie Hall's Weill Recital Hall, forming a complete circle in Dick's musical life.

Dick retired from teaching in the early 1990's and enjoyed traveling and attending concerts with Betty while living in Media, PA. They eventually relocated to Buffalo, NY. In 2011, Betty passed away at 85 years. Dick moved to a skilled nursing facility where he enjoyed sing-alongs in true Colgate 13 style.

Dick celebrated his 95th birthday in March 2017 and passed away on July 1, 2017. In attendance at the Memorial Service were Paul Bradley, Eric Seidman, and Rich Tobin from the Colgate 13.

Prepared by Ed Hines 13-63, Bud Hedinger 13-69, and Steve Steele 13-64 on behalf of the Colgate "13"

Steven Steele, former US Air Force Colonel, Vietnam fighter pilot, and 13 member, passed away in 2023. His contribution to this history of the original Colgate 13 and his devotion to the Colgate 13 and Vintage Colgate 13, are recognized with appreciation.