Jess Marchese '63 memorialized at College Pub
Former College students share some drinks back in the fall of 2007 at the Marchese Blue Light Pub.
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Many a Colby student regularly consumes libations at the Marchese Blue Light Pub, the school’s on-campus saloon, but how many how this hub of campus nightlife got its name? The story begins with the tale of Jess Marchese of Floral Park, New York, a member of the graduating class of 1963 and the Tau Delta Phi fraternity at Colby.
Marchese’s fellow alumni and fraternity brothers all remember him fondly as a one-of-a-kind individual. Charles “Pen” Williamson ’63, a member of the Delta Kappa Epsilon fraternity, called Marchese a “larger than life character.” Al Neigher ’62, another Tau Delta Phi who rushed alongside Marchese, described him as “one of the funniest and most outgoing people ever.
“He was funny, he was verbal, he was articulate, he was a character, he was one-of-a-kind,” Neigher said. “He was really just a unique personality, somebody who you remember your whole life.”
Jimmy Johnson ’62 spoke of Marchese’s unique genuineness. “We all wear faces in life,” Johnson said, “but Jess was just Jess Marchese.” Like Neigher, Johnson was also Jess’s fraternity brother. “I’ve never met anyone with such a genuine inner glow,” he said. “Jess was a beautiful person. When God created Jess he broke the mould. There’s nobody else like him.”
Johnson described how Marchese was “before his time.” Although Tau Delta Phi was a predominantly Jewish fraternity, and Marchese was a non-Jewish Italian, Johnson explains that that disparity did not make a difference to Marchese. According to Johnson, Marchese had “no prejudices, no biases.”
Marchese’s former roommate and fellow Tau Delta Phi member Bill Witherell ’63 added that Marchese was “a very dynamic fellow who added a lot to our college life, particularly with his music.”
Indeed, all alumni attest that in addition to his prodigious personality, much of Marchese’s popularity at Colby stemmed from his considerable musical talents. Neigher described him as a “a talented drummer, singer and musician.” Johnson recounts how Marchese and his band would play in downtown Waterville on Friday and Saturday nights at a bar called the Silver Dollar. Here students and locals alike would come to watch the group perform. Marchese’s band would also be hired out to play for other fraternities.
Williamson called Marchese an “outstanding drummer” and recalled living down the hall from him in Johnson dormitory his freshman year at Colby, he noted that Marchese always “had his doors open and played drums all the time.” David Pulver ’63, another Tau Delta Phi member, played double bass in Marchese’s four-piece band with Marchese on drums and vocals, Jack Bober on saxophone and another student on piano. He recalled that Marchese’s favorite song was Larry William’s oft-covered hit “Bony Moronie.”
After leaving Colby, Marchese went on to become an attorney and married local Dorothy “Dot” Mackay. He had two children, Kimberly and Jess. Tragically, Marchese died of a heart attack on March 4, 1984. After he passed away, “a number of his close friends and fraternity brothers led the effort to name the Pub after Jess because Jess was a pub-type guy, always ready to have a good time,” Pulver said. Michael Franklin ’63 was one of the principal people involved in the Pub effort.
Funded by alumni donations that were given in memory of Marchese, the first incarnation of the pub arrived in conjunction with the construction of Cotter Union in 1985. According to current Pub manager David Hartley, the pub was originally located upstairs, where the space functioned as the Spa by day and Pub by night. The Pub was then given its own space in the Fireside Lounge, downstairs from its current location. The space that it occupies today housed the Spa.
While renovations of Cotter Union and the construction of Pulver Pavilion took place in May 2007, the Pub found a temporary home in the pottery studio in Roberts Dining Hall. Finally in the fall of 2007, the Pub opened for business in its current location upstairs in Pulver, where it has resided ever since.
Today the Pub is a popular part of the Colby social scene. Pub enthusiasts and regular attendees Devin Burkhart ’11 and Tim Sciore ’11 spoke effusively about their love for the spot. Sciore enjoys the informal, familial atmosphere of the Pub and the opportunity it affords them to come and chat with the bartenders. “It really feels like it’s just our pub those nights when there’s no one there.”
But apart from those quiet evenings with close friends, Sciore also spoke positively of the Pub’s ability to bring together different social groups on campus. “On Wednesday nights you have the promos, and you get the entire twenty-one-year-old population that can go out that night there,” he said. “You see a lot of people that you don’t necessarily see, even if you go to parties all the time. We party with the rugby team because we’re rugby players, but you’ll see basketball kids or soccer kids [at the pub]. Everyone comes to the pub when you’re twenty-one.”
Though both Sciore and Burkhart admitted that they don’t know the Pub’s full backstory, Burkhart added that they have gotten to know a little bit about it this year by talking with the bartenders. Said Sciore, “My parents came here and they said that there was a pub but it wasn’t nearly as nice as this is. I don’t think it was really what it is today. People were more likely to go off campus to a bar versus come here.”
Burkhart recalls that when he was a first-year, he was skeptical about the Pub. “I remember hearing about the Pub and I was like, ‘Does anyone actually ever go there?’” But after he turned twenty-one an upperclassman friend urged him to go to the Pub, and he soon discovered what an integral part of campus life it was.
Given Marchese’s fun loving reputation, it certainly seems that he would be proud of the fact that the space dedicated in his honor has become a central feature of social life at Colby. The Pub has provided the College’s students with a warm, inclusive social environment for decades, and hopefully will continue to do so for many years to come.