Art Diefendorf died at the Siegenthaler Center, a hospice facility in New Hartford, NY, attended by Dodie (Georgia), his wife of 59 years and their two children, Don, who is an MD, and Liz on the morning of November 26th, 2021. Art was born in Syracuse, NY to Donald W. and Ruth L. (Arnold) Diefendorf and lived much of his life in Cazenovia, NY. Art had been battling degenerative diseases exacerbated by a case of Covid-19. Art’s brother Willis A.”Bill” died of Covid-19 last December 11, 2020.
Art, after attending multiple grammar schools, graduated from South Kent School in 1953 and Yale University in 1957 with a degree in Philosophy. After finishing Navy OCS, he served aboard a Radar Picket ship patrolling the Pacific Ocean. He had dreamed of teaching Philosophy in a small women’s college but his father called upon him to work in the family’s successful Diefendorf Gear Corporation in Syracuse manufacturing industrial and specialized gears. He was President during the difficult period when Chinese subsidized companies took over the market and forced the sale of the Corporation. During this time, Art used the resources to make sure that the long term employees were taken care of financially.
Art was an avid Finn sailor famous for his red hulled Newport Finn #260. He served as the USA Finn Association’s spark plug President between 1976 and 1982. He had the vision and energy to take advantage of a new generation of sailors who accepted the challenge of an Olympic Finn campaign and led the Class during the high-water mark of USA Finn sailing when USA Finn sailors were eight of the top ten in the world. After his presidency, Art remained active in Finn leadership including being a founding member of the Finn Foundation.
Art was a story teller extraordinaire and inspired so many to sail in and serve the class. Ever the happy philosopher, his stories communicated values that were endemic to the Finn culture: that if you wanted to be the best, you have to race with the best; that great players are committed to the other class players and are joyful to be a part of it; that in the rivalry you learn from loss, how to deal with adversity, and share mutual respect; that by class participation you grow by standing for each other; that racing the amazing Finn is as good as it gets.
In 1968 Art, together with Rush Marshall, initiated a Finn Regatta at Willow Bank YC on Lake Cazenovia. A few years later Art and Rush recovered an old fashioned cast iron toilet from the dismantling of the local railroad station and decided to have some fun by making it the perpetual regatta trophy; one that the winner never wanted to take home for a year. The “Toilet Bowl” has been a super enjoyable fixture on the Finn racing circuit ever since, even during the Covid-19 pandemic. Many came from around the globe to race the “Toilet Bowl” regatta on Lake Cazenovia and many sailing luminaries didn’t win the “Toilet Bowl”.
Lake Cazenovia is famous for discussions, comments and complaints about the Presence controlling the changes in race wind direction and velocity. Future vagaries in wind patterns will surely be blamed on Art for playing with the minds of his beloved Finn sailors.
Having lived well, Art is now in the great Love of the All.
By August Miller