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So many people shared their thoughts on Carroll Paul 'Sandy' Theobald with such eloquence; we wanted to share them with you

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Background image is an excerpt from one of Sandy's favorite poems: The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock by T.S. Eliot. Full text
(Prufrock is also a favorite of Senator John Kerry, see New York Times)

Dedication from Jamie's dissertation:
This work is dedicated to my dad, who more than anyone else is responsible for its completion. He taught me everything I know about writing - from the alphabet, to composition, to the very reasons we write - and still I find words defy my gratitude and appreciation for him. He was the greatest teacher, and the kindest man I've ever known.

I have tried to put together some of the things I remember about Sandy. I remember the day of his birth, at home, and the thatch of red hair, and pushing him around in a buggy. I don't remember too much of his childhood except for the hip problem and how agile he was on crutches. I do remember being at his graduation, with honors, from Loras......I remember how the two of you met at Cindy's wedding and of the courtship days and of how you used to catch a ride on the Kenniston truck to Oelwein and stay with us......I remember your wedding in Iowa City........I was so sorry to hear he was ill so soon after retirement.........My words can't express how sorry I am about his untimely death. My youngest brother. Tom Theobald

I have known Carroll Paul Theobald all his life and nearly all of mine, since before a neighbor nicknamed him Sandy, as a newborn.

I knew him when his red hair made him easy to see when we played Kick the Can.

I knew him when he fell off the porch and when he fell down a cellar door and when he got his hand caught in the mixer blades.

I knew him when he had to spend a year on crutches and could hold off every bully. I remember he always had his nose in a book and as a ten year old decided he'd ride a bus 50 miles round-trip to take weekly piano lessons.

He had a paper route and a dog, Penny, who kept him company when his five big brothers were in the service or working to help the family during war time.

In college he was curious and adventuresome and creative and busy. He designed and made all kinds of theatrical costumes.

On his first teaching job he taught Latin and English and on his second teaching job in his hometown, he also became the golf coach. That was worthy of his wry humor, because he'd never actually played golf-ever- and never did. When someone on the street called out to him, "Hello Mr. Theobald", he looked around to see where the real Mr. Theobald, his Dad, was.

Later he took care of his Dad, after his Mother died.

When he married and had two sons he and Wendy visited family and traveled a little and explored and dreamed of intriguing places.

They always had unique houses, modern and colorful and full of books and art.

We saw him three times in the last six months, more often than we'd been together in years.

I will miss him always, his observations, his delights in teaching, his take on politics, his pride and love for his wife and sons. I will love and miss him always, because he was my baby brother.

Jerry Theobald

Dear Jamie & Melissa,

Your father's passing was recently brought to my attention while visiting another former student of his in Madison. I am sure that there are many of his "past pupils" who share your loss, and would offer our support to your entire family in this difficult time.

For me in particular, I wanted to share that I owe a great debt to your father. Over 20 years ago, I was a high school drop-out facing difficult challenges and surely would never have graduated has it not been for the personal interest and support that Sandy gave me. His encouragement, guidance, and personal intervention on my behalf with the school administration allowed me to reverse my fortunes and achieve any success I can claim today. He was unique in his willingness to believein one's potential and offer them the opportunity to prove that they were worthy of that trust.

I am certain that many will recall his outstanding abilities as a educator, but you should know that he also had a great compassion for his students' futures that went beyond ensuring their knowledge of english and composition. His real legacy was to instill an ethic of caring and service in others - he may have developed many minds, but he also touched many souls. He will be truly missed.

All the best,
Craig Acomb - Class of 1983 Regional Manager, Minnesota Dept. of Natural Resources

I remember Mr. Theobald saying to our class once, "Books talk to each other. Did you know that?" Even as I mourn the loss of my beloved teacher, I try to take comfort in the thought that his wisdom will live on in the minds and hearts of his students, as we read, write, and argue about a lifetime of books. He also once asked us whether we thought we were lucky, and why. I can't recall my answer at the time, but now I say, Yes, I am lucky, because I had Theo as my teacher.

Amanda Fulmer, JMM class of 1997

I am now a junior at Lawrence University but I had Mr. Theobald for English my senior year. I have only fond memories of him -- how he never hesitated to tell us stories about his life and family on those Friday afternoons when no one really wanted to work; how he would remind us that everyone has a story and that we all see different things when we look out the window; and his calm and gentle manner. Mr. Theobald taught me not only how to discuss works of literature and how to write about them, but he communicated to his students invaluable knowledge about life. I had nothing but respect and admiration for him both as a teacher and as a human being, and I say with utmost sincerity, that the world has lost an incredible man. Megan Losse

In the fall of 1998 I arrived at Memorial to be the librarian. My oldest son was beginning his senior year. My second son was a freshman. I had never met Sandy Theobald.

Our first encounter came over lunch. . . .

Four years later, after teaching my second son, Sandy left. . . . he still came to each day with a love of the students, a love of the classroom, a love of literature, and a love of Memorial High School. In June, I stood outside of his class listening to the last lecture of a long career. He snarled when students began to pack up before he concluded his comments. The bell rang and then the seniors rose and began a long and sustained applause. They knew they were lucky. But that wasn't the end. They lined up and hugged him - spontaneously, tearfully, happily and then they left with him to begin their new lives. Sandy always invited them to stay in touch - there is such a thing as a free lunch, he would tell them. I'll buy you lunch when you return from college. They did. He did.
. . .
To honor my friend, I will strive to live the life that he Loved. I will strive to be a decent caring person who is thrilled by the privilege of teaching young people. I will strive to stay intellectually awake, always learning, always seeking new understanding. I will strive to honor my marriage and my family - we are so privileged to have others who love us. We will all miss him.

"Think where man's glory most begins and ends.
My glory was I had such a friend" (Yeats- with slight modification)

Love to all who loved him. And peace to his soul. Kris Brown

The enduring image I have of your father is walking out of Grandpa Theobald's house in Oelwein, when your Dad was living with him. I watched as your Dad, who cut a dashing figure back then, jumped into his early 1960s white Thunderbird and drove off. Now, that was cool. . . .

I was at an Iowa football game and started talking to the person I was with about my Dad, Oelwein and the Theobald brothers. An older man nearby heard me and, to make a long story short, it turned out that he had your Dad as a teacher in Oelwein when he first started teaching and that he used to hang out and party with your Dad. I got such a kick talking to the man. Bill Theobald

i visited the website and thought that you might like to have the words i prepared for the forensics tournament which was held last saturday. --bill rodriguez
Welcome to the Sandy Theobald Memorial Forensics Tournament.
. . .
Sandy Theobald was a lover of language, of beautiful images and wondrous rhythms. He may have never been on a forensics team, but he was a great orator. His lectures were passionate, dramatic, and inspiring even to those in the room across the hall. He read Leaves of Grass aloud and made Whitman come alive. He taught Dante's Inferno and shared with his classes his knowledge of philosophy, theology, and history. He discussed Shakespeare and modern novels in a sociological and psychological context that led students to think about how the ideas in literature applied to their own lives.

And he took an interest in the lives of his students. He listened to them as they talked--about the decisions they faced, about their dreams and plans, about their problems and their feelings. They knew he cared about them, and many came back over the years, during college vacations, to share their accomplishments. Sandy Theobald was always interested in what young people had to say.

Through his teaching, through his compassion, through his love for language and for humanity, Sandy encouraged his students to participate: to learn, to question, to think, to write, to discuss, to live.

Maybe there has been someone in your life who has cared and encouraged, who has inspired and listened. Maybe Sandy Theobald is not just another man you don't know. Maybe you are here today because someone like Sandy Theobald has touched your life.

And maybe you will do the same for others. And you too will be remembered for your kindness and compassion.

But there is something about Sandy that you do not know. He was a supporter of brevity. And so I will end my speech with a brief quote, something Sandy said to me many times and that I will never forget:

"Oh shut up."

You mentioned in your note how Sandy really loved all his students. . . I wanted to tell you that we all really loved him too. In the last couple of weeks, I have been in touch with students of his who I had not spoken to since graduation. There are many, many people remembering him and missing him. Sometime, I'd like to tell you about why he was special to me, and what I remember and miss. Emily Carpenter

I graduated in 2002, and currently attend UW La Crosse. The day that the announcement came out about Mr. Theobald, I was walking down the street to class. I heard someone running behind me and they yelled my name. It was a childhood friend who I have remained close with. We both had Mr. Theobald and had been reminiscing about him over dinner 2 nights before that. She grabbed me and hugged me and told me the news. And let me tell you, I had never seen so many people effected like that before. Everyone from Madison spoke about memories of Mr Theobald when I saw them. All over the internet were tributes to him and his wonderful teaching. People cried, and reminisced, and others just remained silent at the shock.

Mrs Theobald, your husband touched so many people lives. There were times in his class where I could speak to him like a father, and sometimes I really felt like he was a second father to me. I had his class on September 11, and he was the only professor that day who I felt handled the situation well. He gave the class support and gave me a comfort and I have never really felt in a classroom setting before. I was so impressed how he handled himself and his class. He had a true gift of grace.

I am so honored and feel so blessed that I was one of his many students whose lives were changed drastically because of his love, caring, and support as a role model. Mr. Theolbald touched my life. He made me look at the world in different ways, and let me question the "normalties" in life. Courtney Olsen

I got to know Sandy (and Wendy) through my parents, Joe and Sally Benforado. Sandy's warm smile, beaming radiant light across the room, and his contagious laugh - I'll hold those memories close, very close. My sincere sympathies to you and your family, Dave Benforado

Maya Thet's introduction to Sandy's 2001 graduation speech
There are few people who can boast of being respected and loved by everyone, but I think that Mr. Carroll Theobald, known as Sandy to his friends, is one man who can. Currently the chairman of the English department at Memorial, he has won numerous awards that attest to his abilities as a teacher. Acquired over the course of his forty-six year career, these include: the Outstanding Teacher Golden Apple Award in 1985, the University of Wisconsin's Teacher of Teachers Award in 1986, and the school district's Distinguished Service Award in 1995. Mr. Theobald truly is an amazing teacher, one whose legendary sense of humor has endeared him to all students who pass through his class. He uses laughter to embed the themes of a novel in our mind, often relating some personal experience to a central point of the novel. I particularly recall one class in which Mr. Theobald, discussing the importance of names in Toni Morrison's Song of Solomon, announced that he had known a child with the name "HiHo, silver!"

Mother Theresa once said, " If you judge people, you cannot love them." Mr. Theobald loves his students and accepts them for who they are. I have never seen him pass judgment on any one, nor have I seen him lose faith in a student. Where others see delinquency, he sees potential, and where others see shyness, he sees a voice yearning to be heard. He has a genuine concern for students, a fact proven by the multitude of Memorial alumni who return to tell him what they've been doing with their lives.

When I hear students ask Mr. Theobald if he is going to retire, I think, "how can he?" Mr. Theobald reminds me of the energizer bunny, a mentor whose energy and love of teaching never stops. He renews his students' enthusiasm toward life, giving them confidence in the paths they decide to follow. Mr. Theobald is an incredible teacher, yet he is much more than that. He is a mentor, a friend, and an example for us all. I am truly privileged to introduce Mr. Sandy Theobald.

Please accept my heartfelt and sincere condolences on the passing of one of the finest people I am proud to have known. Mr. Theobald was one-of-a-kind. Someone who touched my heart, and I know many others' as well. I have stayed close with many Memorial students, and even before his passing (when we all reflected on what a special person he was), we often would recall a comment "Theo" made, or a piece of advise he shared that really affected us. I think fondly of the way he joked with us, the way he scurried down the hallway, that voice one could hear from across the wing, and the way he spoke to our hearts with incredible wisdom and true caring. He definitely set the bar high for my future teachers, and none yet have reached it. I, as I am sure we all can say, will NEVER forget what kind of teacher, person and role model he was and will continue to be. Claire Boyce, class of 2002

Ever since graduation, I always wanted to go and see Theo or write him to see how he was doing, but for some reason I didn't. I thought of him at least every day. I can honestly say that he was the person I always turned to in my head when I had a problem. I would imagine what sarcastic but honest remark he would make that would suddenly reveal the raw truth in any situation. I will miss Theo very much, but I know that he will always be with me because of the lessons I have learned from him. He taught me so many things it is impossible to put them all down on paper or even attempt to describe them. He was the person I looked up to most, the person I trusted the most, the person who showed me the value of living with compassion, honesty, and curiosity. Thank you Mr. Theobald, you truly were a genuine person, friend, and mentor who I will remember and look up to always. with love Sasha Acher, class of 2002

To A Friend Now Absent

...He was generous with smiles, but you knew you?d really made him laugh when you saw his partial, a little glint of dental work on his upper-right bicuspid. His laugh absolutely lit up the English teachers? office. It was audible from an impressive radius within the A-wing.

...I'm certain that people will celebrate his wit and intellect, but I was also struck by Sandy's sincerity. His classes were a sanctuary to me in those days. I remember charging into those classes full of self-righteous misery, probably at the pinnacle of both intellectual and personal frustration, and wanting to pick a fight with any number of classmates. Full of venom one morning, I remember alleging something dark and pretentious; that life was a hollow charade, a long march whose 'sanctity' was validated only by collective fear and organized religion. A less patient teacher could (and probably should) have humiliated such an outburst. He waited a moment and said "Yes. But there are people who love you." He looked me in the eyes as he said this. "Did you know that Mark? There are people who depend on you." If there is a time we can be forgiven for thinking only of our own suffering, I think high school is it. But there was genuine compassion in his words that shook me awake.

..."Come find me up north. I'll buy you a sandwich.?" Theo gave me a strong hug and a kiss on the cheek, scraping my face with his five o clock shadow. Only a handful of people gave me hope when I was seventeen, but Sandy was first among these. Mark Samuels

Him a man of Whitman more than Joyce; and I, something never quite so serious. Sandy Theobald is dead, and so we all must both suffer Borges in his absence:
Outside awaited other dreams.
I find myself unable to type much else. Perhaps I will sign off from this blog tonight as he did so many years ago in my yearbook,
May your house be free from dragons.
Aaron Kraus

I think that I shall never see / A poem as lovely as Sandy T.
...Now, having made English poetry the main focus of my education, I can add my voice to the many, many who say without hesitation that Sandy Theobald had a bigger, better influence on their academic lives than any other teacher they ever had. posted by Benjamin Dueholm | 5:56 PM

Sandy invariably gave a student Leaves of Grass as a graduation gift:

.. the last scud of day holds back for me,
it flings my likeness after the rest and true as any on the shadow'd wilds,
it coaxes me to the vapor and the dusk.

i depart as air, i shake my white locks at the runaway sun,
i effuse my flesh in eddies, and drift it in lacy jags.

i bequeath myself to the dirt to grow from the grass i love,
if you want me again look for me under your boot-soles.
you will hardly know who i am or what i mean,
but i shall be good health to you nevertheless,
and filter and fiber your blood.

failing to fetch me at first keep encouraged,
missing me one place search another,
i stop somewhere waiting for you.

I could not have chosen more fitting words.

Rest well, CPT

posted by Senay | 6:54 PM

I wanted you to know how much Mr. Theobald affected my life. I am now a sophomore at UW-Madison studying elementary education. I decided I wanted to become a teacher because of my experience with him. I want to be able to touch the lives of children, the same way that Mr. Theobald has touched my life and the lives of every student he has ever had in his many years of teaching. Beth Satchell

Sandy was the first and greatest of the mentors I have had in my life. It is amazing that he was able to touch and make such a significant impact on so many lives - not only as a teacher, but as a friend and mentor. Zaw Thet

Sandy was more than just a teacher that I had in high school. He was more than just a friend. And more than just a mentor. Sandy is a role model for the type of person I want to become. He dedicated his life towards helping students. He was compassionate, caring, wise, unique, and passionate. And all of those qualities do not even scratch the surface of the type of person he was. Danny Balkin

He was an extraordinary person - always bright and well-read and interested in people and the world. His reputation as a teacher in Memorial is truly admirable. Paul Grossberg

I've spent much of this evening trying to collect my thoughts, trying to remember very simple details like the first time I met Sandy. But the truth is you didn't meet Mr. Theobald; you heard about him. He was the one teacher that everybody wanted to have. It didn't matter if you were a boy or girl, black or white, a good student or a poor one. You wanted to be in "Theo's" class. His reputation preceded him.

It didn't take me long to understand why. There are very few teachers who make you want to come to class - especially when that class begins at eight in the morning. There are even fewer who can playfully mock their students and get away with it. But extraordinarily rare are the teachers who compel their students to return long after graduation, who share personal stories about their wives receiving letters from The New Yorker, who make literature feel important by reading it with a voice that demands attention and even awe. Extraordinarily rare are the teachers who so routinely and seamlessly change lives.

Sandy changed my life. Had I not taken his class, I would not have pursued degrees in English, and I would not be pursuing a career as a writer. But that's little compared to what I really would have lost, had I not known Sandy Theobald.

He was my friend. I feel extraordinarily privileged to be able to write that. Sandy was the kind of person you meet but once in a lifetime - gentle and smart and so very funny. I will miss him greatly.

Please accept my sincerest condolences and heartfelt sympathies Andrew Hinderaker

We had two children who graduated from Memorial and had "Mr. Theobald" for their teacher. . . . It is important for you to know how many students loved and respected him. It is truly a gift for someone in their 60's to relate so well to 16-18 year olds! . . . He was a gift to our children and many others! The Sauer Family

Few experiences in my life have been as transformative as the year that I spent in Sandy's class. He was dignified, sarcastic, hilarious, wise, intense, relaxed, and inspiring. Even here in Philly I feel his loss acutely.

Please know that knowing and learning from Sandy was one of the greatest gifts I have ever received. I treasure countless memories, kind words, and all the invaluable wisdom that resulted from knowing him, and learning by the example he set. Chris Timmerman

Both my children were fortunate to have had this very special teacher. While that was 20+ years ago, Sandy always asked about them by name, whenever we chanced to meet. He touched so many lives. Charlotte and Hal Woolf (Amy and Sam)

. . .While we lost touch with one another over the years, I cannot tell you how often and with what tremendous affection and fondness I thought of Sandy in that time.

As with his students, he opened his heart to me in the fall of 1987 when I had the great fortune to learn from him as a student teacher in his classrooms at Memorial High School. He was, simply, inspirational.

From the start, I was smitten by his warm affection, engaged by his calm and sure demeanor, and captivated by his wit and wisdom.

You should know how often I tacitly acknowledge Sandy and his legacy as a teacher with my own students. He was a sure guide and a powerful mentor for me as I began my own teaching career, and I still bring the gifts of his gentle instruction into my own classrooms at Verona High School. I hope to continue to honor his memory with every student I teach. Richard Kuhnen

I feel so very fortunate to have known Sandy during my senior year at Memorial and for many years later. His thoughtfulness and attention to his students places him in a class to which others only may ascribe. . . . He leaves such a legacy, not only in you and your family, but in all the lives he touched. He left a little piece of himself in all his interactions and connections with others in his life. I feel truly privileged and blessed to have received such a piece of him in my heart and soul. His guidance and friendship have become so intertwined with my essence. I will never forget him. Mark Timmerman

Retirement Letters/Letters of Thanks

I know you've heard it all before but you truly are a wonderful teacher. Your class has made me actually think about things, and has made me actually appreciate lectures, actually connect literature to my life, and actually kind of enjoy Shakespeare (. . . all this stuff that I always thought education was supposed to accomplish.)

Good luck - have fun with retirement - keep in touch if you feel like it - and thank you very, very much. Emily Carpenter

First, I want to wish you the best of health. You have my deepest sympathy and concern, and that is no trite platitude uttered meaninglessly. You are more than a teacher to me. You are a friend and a mentor. I have internalized your year of instruction and the wisdom of your lessons, and as I brave this new world that is opening before me, your teachings will serve as a wise and venerable guide for this untried but eager soul. You can rest assured, my garden will be well cultivated and the road not taken will not be regretted. Your last lesson was to cherish the people you love and the people who love you. What I want you to know the most is that I cherish you. With all my heartfelt gratitude and best wishes, I will always remain,

Your Student, Mike He

At risk of sounding cliche, I wish you the best of health and offer my condolences on your illness. I wish to thank you for the lessons that you taught me, or rather that you inspired me to find out for myself. Some people teach facts, but you taught us far deeper lessons, how to think, how to defend our personal beliefs. Thank you for asking us the difficult to answer questions. As an eloquent poet once said, "The powerful play goes on and you will contribute a verse." You have contributed many verses to many people and your poems will always be treasured, enscribed in our hearts.
Sincerely, Liana Dalton

. . . Of course I mean that: I really did grow intellectually and emotionally last year, and no small part of that growth owed its progress to the books I read in senior English class. Embodied in the scat and tragedy are timeless and fascinating questions about life and death, pleasure and pain, heaven and hell, virtue, justice, artistry, freedom, religion, God- questions that should confront and continue to confront all human beings through their whole lives. Questions that for me anyway have become more pressing in the recent months as I read further in college and grow still more.

Thank you, Mr. Theobald, for posing those questions.
Sincerely, Trevor Croxson

Thank you Theo for everything. You've made me realize that I have a view that is important enough to share with others and have given me a love for books and reading that will never go away. I will always be grateful that I gave into peer pressure, listened to Shira, and took your class. It was wonderful. Thanks again - & may your house and classroom be always free from dragons too. Much love, Kathryn Sundquist

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Last modified: Thu Jun 3 23:32:21 CEST 2004