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Duncan “Tim” Hay ’57 and I-Chin Maeda ’98 are in a neighborly stand-off about who deserves recognition most. 

Hay insists that it's Maeda who’s worthy of praise, for stepping up to help him and his wife Betsy (Jones) Hay ’60 with grocery shopping during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Maeda demurs, insisting it's Hay that should have all the kudos for his ongoing service to their tightknit community.

“Everyone pitches in and looks out for one another and I know that Tim called you to give me recognition but Tim is really the one that deserves the shoutout!” Maeda said in an email. “Without prompting, Tim will do things to help others out, which is why neighbors are more than happy to step up for him.”

Among Hay’s neighborly acts include removing tree stumps, playing superheroes with the neighborhood children and assisting stranded motorists who happen to get stuck in the neighborhood.

“Several years ago during a storm, one of our trees fell over. My husband and I were discussing what to do when Tim stopped by to provide his support. We had no idea what to do, but Tim brought his tools, and a man who was almost 80 was helping us push up a tree to secure and try to save it,” Maeda said. “That is just the way Tim is, and as I’ve gotten to know them better from these weekly drop-offs, they are the stereotypical Whitties — lifelong learners and just amazing people. I know everyone in our little neighborhood thinks the world of them.”

The Hays have been neighbors with Maeda and her husband since 2011. Near downtown Bellevue, Washington, their neighborhood is a mix of young families and older retired or semi-retired folks. The fellow Whitties met in 2012 during an annual neighborhood potluck. The Hays and Maeda aren’t the only Whitties on the block, either — another family also claims Whitman connections.

‘There Is No Higher Definition of Relief’

While everyone generally looked out for each other, the COVID-19 pandemic meant some neighbors were more at-risk than others, particularly when it came to leaving home. 

“My kids were having ‘recess’ outside when I saw Tim and Betsy, and we were all offering to help out," Maeda said. “I used to see Betsy at all the same stores that I shopped at, so I offered to pick up groceries. At first, they were hesitant, but as things got more serious, I was able to convince them that it’s probably safer for them to stay home and let the rest of us help out.”

Now, several months in, Maeda has a smooth system — texting Betsy for her list before she goes out. At the store, Maeda rings their purchases up separately, and then Betsy pays her back via PayPal.

“They’ve made it work perfectly. I’m just a hungry adjunct, I guess,” Tim Hay joked. 

Hay is humble about his own impact on his neighbors, insisting it’s “just a good neighborhood.” But he’s grateful for how others have stepped up to help him and Betsy, and others like him, stay safe from COVID-19.

“I still can’t believe our good fortune,” Hay said. “It’s saved our lives. There is no higher definition of relief than that.”