Walter Hinchman Sangree

SangreeWalter Hinchman Sangree, 93, on August 31, 2019, peacefully at home in Wellesley, Mass., surrounded by family. Walter was born on June 15, 1926, in New York City to Carl Michael Sangree and Constance (LaBoiteaux) Sangree. The third of eight children, he grew up in Bryn Mawr, Pa., and spent summers in Nantucket and in Cummington, Mass.

As a teenager, Walter lived with his mother and stepfather, Thomas Drake, an active Quaker and history professor at Haverford College. In 1950, Walter received a bachelor’s from Haverford College. In 1952, he was awarded a master’s from Wesleyan University, and in 1959, a doctorate in anthropology from the University of Chicago. Walter helped found the Department of Anthropology at the University of Rochester in New York, where he taught from 1957 to 1995.

A Fulbright Scholar in Kenya in 1954–56, Walter engaged in research among the Tirik, a community of Luhya people in Western Kenya—the location of the greatest number of Quakers worldwide. His book, Age, Prayers, and Politics in Tiriki, Kenya, is an important ethnographic study of a Quaker community. Walter was a National Science Foundation Fellow in 1963–65, conducting field research among the Irigwe people in Nigeria.

He was a visiting scholar at Harvard University’s Department of Anthropology in 1979–80, and at Harvard’s Center for Population and Development Studies in 1986–87. After relocating to the Boston area in 2007, Walter was active at the African Studies Center at Boston University. He was a member of the American Anthropological Association, the African Studies Association, and Sigma Xi.

Walter married twice, the first time in 1952 to Mary Lucinda (Shaw) Sangree; they divorced in 1986. Walter met Ilse Michaelis in 1986. They married on December 31, 1988. They brought to their marriage four daughters: Beth and Cora (Walter’s daughters) and Sandra and Lara (Ilse’s daughters).

Walter was a lifelong member of the Society of Friends. He was a conscientious objector during World War II, participating in the Civilian Public Service. During the Vietnam War, Walter counseled conscientious objectors.

Walter was a member of Rochester (N.Y.) and Nantucket (Mass.) Meetings before joining Wellesley (Mass.) Meeting in 2007. He was active on the Peace Committee at Wellesley Meeting. Friends say that his intellectual curiosity and open heart made him an engaging companion.

Walter was active in Friends World Committee for Consultation (FWCC), participating as a delegate from New York Yearly Meeting at FWCC’s triennial conference in western Kenya in 1982, and at its 1985 conference in Oaxtepec, Mexico.

Walter and Ilse traveled extensively. He loved immersing himself in new cultures, meeting new people, and learning new languages. In addition to travel, Walter loved to sail, and was an amateur contortionist. He was a member of the Wellesley Choral Society. He and Ilse were active in Wellesley Neighbors, helping older people remain in their homes.

Walter’s wife of 30 years, Ilse Sangree, died in December 2020. He is survived by two children, Beth Sangree and Cora Sangree; two stepchildren, Sandra Kuhn and Lara Kuhn; a daughter-in-law, Teresa Calabrese; one grandchild; four brothers, Carl Sangree, John Buttrick, Hoyt Drake, and Daniel Drake; a sister-in-law, Inge Nagy; and numerous nieces and nephews.

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