Jon Eric Carlson


Died November 23, 1987

College: Davenport

Looking back on my acquaintance with Jon Carlson, I realize now that we were friends not so much in New Haven as in Paris. I got to know him when we both signed up for a summer in France with the Yale-Reid Hall Program. This brought us together every day for the six weeks that our group was in Paris. Our student residence was a wonderful old building just off the boulevard Montparnasse. It was built around a garden courtyard, where we often took our classes.

I remember that Jon made friends that summer with a heavyset boy, who had applied to our program from another college. I think they often took walks across Paris together. On one of these forays, which lasted into the night, he and Jon challenged each other to leap into the Seine. Fearless, they stripped to their skivvies and jumped from the quay into the water, plunged down deeper than they had imagined, then kicked to the surface in triumph. The other fellow was really quite large, and Jon later kept us laughing with descriptions of him floating under the bridges of the city “like a barge.”

I saw Jon once more after we graduated. In Paris on a Fulbright, I went one night to the Cinémathèque, at the Palais de Chaillot. I don’t remember what film I saw, but afterwards, as I was leaving, I caught sight of him in the lobby. He was with several other people, who seemed to admire him. In the few moments that we spoke, there was a certain stiffness between us; we weren’t really students anymore; we couldn’t joke about jumping into the Seine. I had the impression that he was living, perhaps permanently, in France. And that he was happy there.

by Leonard Todd