It was Norm Sabin‘s memories of our English teacher from John Muir days, Dr. Theodore Twitchell that led me to search for him online. He says that he would never forget Dr. Twitchell’s trying to teach “a bunch of ninth graders the finer points of Dickens’ Great Expectations.” Donna Canzoneri Wray remembered that we read David Copperfield in his class.
And who suspected that our English teacher was really a brilliant musician at heart? Jan DeJaegher said she went to dinner with him when she was in her 30s. “A great guy. He was writing a symphony when he was teaching us. He had the score at his desk and worked on it when we were doing assignments. I never got to (play) any of his works, sadly.”
Steve Raine found a reference to Dr. Twitchell writing “Burbank on Parade.” and said the music was arranged by Joe Rizzo, who was BHS’68 grad, Gary Rizzo‘s dad. Joe used to play with Lawrence Welk’s orchestra.
So, it was with great sadness that I found his obituary: Jan verified that this is the same Dr. Twitchell who was writing Tidewater when we were his students. She says he married really late in life and lived life to the fullest. “I was honored to have known him and to have been mentored by him.”
Theodore Grant Twitchell, 83, of Charlottesville, died Tuesday, October 4, 2011 at The Laurels of Charlottesville. Born January 26, 1928 in Melrose, Kansas, he was the son of the late Curtis and Sarah Frances Lane Twitchell. In addition to his parents, he was predeceased by a stepson, Russell Norman. He is survived by his wife Rebecca J. Twitchell; a stepdaughter, Dawn Jiricek of Missouri; a stepson, Mike Norman of Charlottesville; a sister, Elva Louise Staley of California; a nephew, Grant Staley of New Zealand; a niece, Joan Staley of California; and a cousin, Ray Lane of Michigan. Dr. Twitchell, a veteran of the U.S. Army, was a music educator, composer and poet. He obtained his doctorate degree in Secondary and Higher Education from the University of Southern California at Los Angeles in 1964. He was a past president of Palo Verde College in Blythe, CA. Among his musical compositions are Tidewater, The Pride of Monticello, and Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address which was performed in Gettysburg for Lincoln’s birthday by the U.S. Army Field Band and Chorus. A memorial service will be conducted 2 p.m. Tuesday, October 11, 2011 at The Laurels of Charlottesville. In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions are suggested to the Alzheimer’s Association, 1160 Pepsi Place, Suite 306, Charlottesville, VA 22901. The family would like to express their sincere appreciation to the staff of The Laurels for all their loving care and compassion.
I was especially saddened to think that his brilliant mind may have been felled by Alzheimers. His granddaughter wrote:
I just finished grandpa’s memoir and now truly wish I had read it earlier so that I could’ve have discussed it at length with him. Reading it allowed me to see him with new eyes; not just as the grandfather I knew, but also as a compassionate, accomplished man. He gave more of himself than I knew to his family and had every right to be proud of his achievements. I always admired that he carried himself with pride and dignity and I feel privileged to have been but a small chapter in his life. The end of his book said that at the end of his life, he hoped to be viewed as a man of good character. I would say that he most certainly achieved this and was viewed by many as such.I love you, Grandpa Ted— heaven has gained a brilliant mind.
Please feel free to enter any remembrances you may have of Dr. Twitchell.