Harvey Simmonds ’60* is the subject of a PBS documentary to air in the fall, “He Who Is Blessed.” Simmonds spent 20 years in the publishing world in New York, worked as a pot-washer and bartender on a riverboat in New Orleans, and then became a monk at the age of 46, all the while suffering from periodic bouts of severe depression. When he became a monk, he took the name Benedict, which means “he who is blessed” in Latin, hence the name of the film.

The producer, Ron Stegall, who was a student at Williams with Simmonds, produced the film. He lives in Deer Isle, ME in the summer, as do I, and is a friend of a friend, so I saw the DVD of the film. It includes many clips of people who know Simmonds talking about him, as well as many of Simmonds speaking about his life.

At Williams, Simmonds devoted most of his time to theatre. He explains how he would catch a ride to New York City on Friday afternoons, see a Friday evening show ($1 for standing room), sleep in Grand Central Station, catch a Saturday matinee, a Saturday evening show, and a Sunday matinee, and then return to Williams on Sunday afternoon. After graduating, he landed a job as a gardener, and horticulture became a lifelong passion for him. His job on the riverboat led him to befriend Wendell Berry and other great writers of his time.

You can order the DVD from the Web site, He Who Is Blessed.com. If anyone knows when the one-hour show will air on PBS, please post it below.

* The film doesn’t say what his graduation year was, but he was born in 1938.

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