Marsom Pratt, 85; had long career as investment banker

Marsom Pratt was a financial adviser to the Mass. Health and Education Authority, where he organized bond offerings. Marsom Pratt was a financial adviser to the Mass. Health and Education Authority, where he organized bond offerings.
By J.M. Lawrence
Globe Correspondent / May 3, 2009
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After a lengthy career as an investment banker in Boston, Marsom Pratt donated his pin-striped suits to Goodwill and enrolled at Massachusetts College of Art and Design.

Mr. Pratt spent his 70s studying photography, filmmaking, sculpture, and painting. He repeatedly changed his major so he could stay in school for a decade, according to his family.

"He loved being young again in some way without being pretentious about it," said his photography professor, Abelardo Morell. "His thirst for knowledge was a delight and good for the students to see that kind of model for an older person."

Mr. Pratt, who lived on Beacon Hill in Boston, died March 17 from myelodysplasia, a bone marrow disorder. He was 85.

"He really enjoyed life and people. He was a wonderful husband," said his wife, Laura Pincus Bernard.

Her husband was "unconventional, but he didn't directly defy convention," she said.

Mr. Pratt enjoyed a subtle protest against the confines of business by ironing only the collar and cuffs of the white shirts worn under his suits, his wife said. "The other part was all wrinkled," Bernard said.

He spent most of his business career at the Boston-based firm of Adams Harkness & Hill, where he was a partner and head of the municipal finance department.

Born in Plainfield, N.J., Mr. Pratt studied engineering at Princeton and earned his master of business administration degree from the Wharton School.

He enjoyed acting as a financial adviser to the Mass. Health and Education Authority, where he organized bond offerings for Harvard, Tufts, Wellesley College, Massachusetts General Hospital, Brigham and Women's Hospital, and for what was then Beth Israel Hospital.

Mr. Pratt always looked younger than his age and enjoyed living life on his own terms, said his Princeton University roommate, William Chester. Both men graduated in the Class of 1949 after serving in the Navy together.

"He was bright. He had wide interests. He didn't worry too much what other people thought of him," said Chester, who lives in Tunbridge, Vt.

He fondly recalled their days in training for the Navy when Mr. Pratt used to sleep in class and would tie his head to the back of his own chair to keep him from slumping over.

His classmates tiptoed out of the classroom one day, leaving Mr. Pratt to wake up alone and startled, Chester said.

The Navy sent Mr. Pratt to Japan as World War II ended. He was aboard the USS Capricornus when it entered Nagasaki Harbor after the United States dropped an atomic bomb.

Mr. Pratt and his first wife, Bettina, raised three children in Cohasset and kept a summer home in Bradford, N.H. His son, Marsom II, recalled how his father taught him about tools and woodworking at the vacation home.

Their relationship became rocky after his son decided to study art at the Museum School in Boston, instead of going into investment banking.

The younger Marsom became a successful modelmaker for museums and architectural firms. He finally won his father's approval when some of his models were exhibited in bank windows in downtown Boston.

"One of his friends asked him if the models belonged to him," said the younger Marsom, who lives in North Dartmouth. "It was the first time I got any credibility."

Mr. Pratt received his bachelor of fine arts from MassArt in 2002.

Among his projects at the school was a short film about Boston, featuring his wife in a bathtub on the roof of their home with a view of the Esplanade.

"I get into the tub with my dress on, and he comes in like a waiter and is feeding melon to our two cats," Bernard said.

The couple met on a flight from New York to Boston and married in July 2000 on a boat along the Charles River with a brass band, lemonade, and cucumber and watercress sandwiches.

Mr. Pratt enjoyed traveling and visited every continent in his lifetime, his family said.

"He just had an appreciation for all things beautiful," said his daughter Laura of Brattleboro, Vt. "Whether it was artwork, or a garden, or a beautiful archway on Beacon Hill, he was always kind of standing back and admiring."

In addition to his wife, son, and daughter, Mr. Pratt leaves another daughter, Drusilla Pratt-Otto of Brookline; his stepdaughter, Daphne Bernard of New York City; and four grandchildren.

A private burial is planned for June in Riverside Cemetery in South Paris, Maine.