Brother Peter Lino Barili
Peter Barili, class of 1968, exemplified Sigma Beta brothers of his era. His vibrant spirit was always in evidence at the house. To an outsider, his antics on deck and at parties belied his intelligence and sense of commitment. As a member of the Army ROTC at UNH he believed in the United States involvement in Vietnam. In time of pacifism and “Hell no, we won’t go!”, he stood squarely on his beliefs that to preserve democracy, the U.S. needed to be at war in Vietnam.
Peter was killed in action in Vietnam on February 21, 1971. He was buried at Arlington National Cemetery with full military honors in front of a group of his Sigma Beta Brothers, family and friends.
In 1978 we established the Peter Lino Barili Memorial Scholarship Fund to honor his memory and his example of living life to the fullest. Out of respect for Peter’s independence, we put no stipulations on recipients of the award – not need, not scholarship, not ROTC – the actives vote among themselves to the choose the recipient(s).
The scholarship started at $100 per year. It has grown to $1,100 per year and is increased $100 each year that the award is made, subject to the money being available. The current market value of the fund is in excess of $60,000. Awards are made only from the income, not from the principal. The program is administrated through the Foundation and the funds are invested through The Common Fund, a specialist in investment management for educational institutions.
Remember, the reason the current Brothers can get this financial help is because old brothers still care. If you want to contribute or get involved contact either of us.
John Lindahl, ’68
Ed Shapiro, ’68
An Ultimate Sacrifice
February 21, 1971. Sunday. God’s day. A day like any other day.
What were you doing on February 21, 1971? I was 13 then, pretty sure that I was just working on my ability to breath and think at the same time. It would have been the middle of a snow buried winter in New Hampshire, so I’m pretty sure I was ice skating…trying to play hockey…on the pond just off of Corduroy Road, about a quarter-mile from the house.
I and the neighborhood kids (among them Bob Burns, later to become a Beta brother in 1978) would trudge through the snow with shovels to clear off the pond. That is until Bob’s dad would make his way down with the snow blower (what a luxury back then!). He would throw long looping sprays of snow far and wide so we could wobble our way up and down a clean sheet; half the time leaning on the stick for balance, other times in a mad race against someone else for the puck. Don’t let it go into the snow! We’ll never find it again.
Forget about stopping. Hockey turns were something to be cherished because you couldn’t always do it; more often than not, to stop, we fell. Just after attempting to stick out a skate and hoping not to twist your ankle.
It was like our version of frozen golf. Whacking away at the puck, trying to execute a pass, hoping like hell the other guy would stop it before it disappeared into the light, fluffy white. Never to be seen again. As I think about it now, it was training for years of Beta golf outings. Whack it hard, hope you don’t lose it. But bring a couple dozen just in case.
It was a wondrous time for a 13 year old. No clue about life. The biggest concern was would the Bruins win tonight and I wonder if Katrina Kennison actually did look my way in Friday’s math class. Cute? Lord, she was gorgeous. But I was scared to death to even talk to her. What could she see in me? Man, it was fun to dream.
It was fun to be a kid in New Hampshire. It was just fun to be alive.
But halfway around the world, in a land so foreign to us, against people so different, so seemingly simple and inferior, life was not so fun. In a hot and sticky jungle, insects buzzing all around your head, sweat pouring from your brow, you walked lightly, crouched slightly; plodding through rice fields in a virtual monsoon, keeping your head up, your eyes always fixed ahead and to the left, then the right. Your right index finger never left the trigger.
Senses were at a constant high alert. Every noise, every twitch of a tree branch, even the wind; every silence was analyzed, studied. As the wind blew it brought scents, sometimes of life, sometimes of death.
The life of Army infantry during the Vietnam War wasn’t the least bit romantic. Or glorious. Forget what you saw in Forrest Gump, it was far more Apocalypse Now than anything. More Platoon. It wasn’t Tom Hanks or Michael J. Fox and Sean Penn.
It wasn’t titillating. Forget George C. Scott in Patton, telling you about blood and guts and making the other guy die for his country. You prayed you never had to drive a bayonet into another man’s (boy’s?) stomach and watch him bleed out. It needed to be impersonal. It needed to stay impersonal. You wanted to shoot from distance, if at all. Hoping never to see up close the humanity that you snuffed out.
It was Hell.
Yeah, you were there for a reason. And no matter what side of the argument you stood on, you knew that this had better be a means to an end; a good end. A greater good had better come from this.
And you just hoped that if your day came, especially on God’s Day, that it was quick, without suffering, and that you didn’t end up in Hell, but Heaven.
Sunday, February 21, 1971.
Peter Lino Barili, UNH Class of ’68, ascended to Heaven that day. While the rest of us played and laughed and celebrated life that day, Peter Barili’s life ended. Dying for a cause he so fervently believed in. Democracy. A promising life stopped. Like that old cliché, he died so others could live. He suffered through war so others could live in peace. It was idealistic. It was romantic. It was…sad.
But it was what was planned for him. And in the belief that he didn’t pass away in vain, Peter’s fraternity brothers from UNH, established a scholarship in his honor. It is arguably the most coveted Beta award, and the only scholarship offered from a fraternity.
Here, in the words of classmate and friend, Ed Shapiro ’68:
In the beginning of the 1964 fall semester, Ed Shapiro met Peter Barili as both were freshman residents of Gibbs Hall. Peter was from Michigan and Ed from Massachusetts. They became close friends and when second semester fraternity rush began they quickly focused on Sigma Beta, excluding all others, and became part of a 15 man pledge class. Peter Brown ’67 befriended the two pledges and partnered with Barili in the “Pete’s Bubbly Belcherama”, a beer-for-sale business that for a mere 25 cents sold only the finest American beers – Reingold, Schaeffer, Schlitz and Pabst.
John Lindahl ‘67/’68 (a change warranted by 32 straight days skiing in Tuckerman’s Ravine mid-semester) and Chuck Swartz ’68 pledged as sophomores spring semester 1966 and soon became close friends with Peter Brown, Ed Shapiro and Peter Barili.
Peter Barili exemplified Sigma Beta brothers of his era. His vibrant spirit was always in evidence at the house. To an outsider, his antics on deck and at parties belied his intelligence and sense of commitment. As a member of Army ROTC at UNH, he believed in the United States’ involvement in Vietnam. Peter stood squarely on his beliefs that to preserve democracy, the U.S. needed to be at war in Vietnam.
Peter was killed in action in Vietnam on February 21, 1971. He was buried in Arlington National Cemetery with full military honors in front of a group of his Sigma Beta Brothers and friends, mother and father and his fiancé.
John Lindahl and Ed Shapiro established the Peter Lino Barili MemorialScholarship Fund to honor his memory and his example of living life to the fullest. Out of respect for Peter’s independence, they put no stipulations on recipients of the award – not need, not scholarship, not ROTC – the actives vote among themselves to choose the recipient.
The reason that current Brothers can get this financial help is because old brothers still care. The original scholarship was $100; it now exceeds $1,100 per semester.
Sadly, if the house should close and not reopen, the university can ultimately retain the Barili Fund and absorb it into the university endowment. This is contrary to the reason the Scholarship was established. Sigma Beta is the only fraternity on campus with its own scholarship. It is another example of our excellence, independence, and need to rebuild.”
It was a Wednesday, early evening. I was late by half an hour, which bothered me. I came through the back door of the house, camera in one hand, fumbling with the combination on the lock with the other.
As I walked through the lobby, I saw through the open front door, four gentlemen standing on the porch looking out over Madbury Rd. Ed Shapiro, John Lindahl, Peter Brown and Chuck Swartz. All friends of Peter’s, all here tonight to take down the plaque memorializing Peter that has adorned the Main Chapter Room for so many years.
There wasn’t much left to say. To look into their eyes you could see the history of the past 40-plus years. You could feel the resignation. I felt sad.
There was the collection of four men and four full lives. College memories, sweethearts and marriage, children. Graduations, skinned knees, triumphant little league games, piano recitals and high school proms; tough times and good times. Reunions. Grandkids. Vacations. Heartwarming moments and moments full of heartache. Joy and despair. Homecomings. Always homecomings and a trip to look at the plaque. All the trappings of adventure and grandeur; humility and grace. It was all there. Four full lives.
There should have been five.
It made me think about all that had happened in the world since 1971. How things have played out. And though he wasn’t here to be a part of it – and oh, I’m sure he would have been a BIG part of life – Peter Barili was, in fact, still alive.
Since this award first began, it has enriched many people. The brothers who have been acclaimed as Barili Scholarship Recipients have come from all walks of life; they have had different measures of success in life; they continue to journey through life, eyes wide open.
I wonder how Beta life has changed over the years. Each generation has made a telling and lasting mark on the house, on the Brotherhood. I guess we all like to think that the time we were there was the best time the house ever knew. Certainly for us the richness of “living life to its fullest” was an integral part of college life and Beta provided us with all we needed.
Peter Barili’s sacrifice provided some more of that for us. To me it wasn’t so much that Democracy should live on here and across the world. Don’t get me wrong, that is very important and Peter’s strong felt belief in it should never be minimalized (especially by today’s wayward standards). No, it was more in the appreciation of what we have today. It is of what we should be thankful for.
Within the walls of Sigma Beta lay the story of all of America. Truly. We came from all walks of life; we learned to appreciate people, their differences, what makes them unique. We learned to get along, to enforce discipline when necessary. To show compassion and caring for our Brothers when difficult times and tragedy befell us. We all had different likes and dislikes, different viewpoints, different habits. We were and are a melting pot. And we took in Brothers from every faith, many races, from all corners of the globe.
And yet, we are one Brotherhood.
That’s what Peter Barili gave to us. That’s what he represents to me. A man of a strong foundation, whose core beliefs not only charted his course, but affected the course of so many of us through the years. Those who walked beside him, in childhood, college and in war. And those who came after him and prospered through his sacrifice.
I don’t go for that “It Takes a Village” crap that we hear so often today. No one can exist without being affected by others. We all know that. But I also know that one man did affect us all. The 800 of us who have called Sigma Beta home. And he will continue to be in our memories, so long as we have a reason to remember. I hope we can pull off this reclamation of Sigma Beta. It has been a great measure of joy and success and heartache for many of us. We need everyone’s involvement. We need everyone’s contribution, in whatever form it comes.
Thank you, Peter Barili.