Category: R.I.P.

Claudette Rogers

by Peter Robertson

I’m 61 years old and convinced I know everything worth knowing. But assuming any self improvement is still possible, I want to be more like Claudette Rogers.

Claudette found a lump on her back, and began to document it on her Facebook page in the same even tones (and with pictures!) that she wrote about that evil, man-eating, thorn-encrusted plant she bought. I want to be more like Claudette.

The lump became more serious, but Claudette didn’t flinch: her posts remained brutally honest and without a hint of self-pity. I want to be more like Claudette.

Claudette over the past several months has called upon reserves of inner strength that beggar description. She, and her alter ego Dot, have kept their senses of humor when lesser people would have seen theirs fail. I want to be more like Claudette.

We spend our lifetimes building relationships with friends and family that are among the most important parts of human existence, yet many of us have trouble calling upon those relationships to ask for or accept help when it is offered. Claudette recognized when she could use help, and accepted it so that she could conserve her physical and emotional energy for the battle that really matters. I want to be more like Claudette.

Our bodies fail us as certainly as the seasons turn. Not a one of us can escape that truth. On my slow march to the grave, I noticed arthritis starting over a decade ago. Type two diabetes showed up five years ago, though it’s well controlled with medication. A skin cancer four years ago was little more than an annoyance. Four additional ones a couple of months ago, including a melanoma, were a little more sobering. Through it all, as my family can attest, I have whined and cried about each new malady like a mewling baby. I want to be more like Claudette.

Adversity doesn’t build character. It reveals it. Claudette’s struggle has cast a light on her extraordinary character. The six decades of my life have been blessed with ridiculously few things to complain of. When the troubles come to me, as they come to us all, I want to be more like Claudette.

June 24, 2017

I’m taking the liberty of cross-posting Peter Robertson’s beautiful tribute to our dear classmate, who passed into eternity on Saturday after a long battle with cancer. Well done, Pete. Well done, Claudette. Steve

Claudette’s obituary in the Tulsa World, July 13, 2017.

Mme. TenZythoff

Dina TenZythoff was Edison Jr. High’s French teacher. Learning French played hell on my spelling in English, but Mme. Tenzythoff’s old-school teaching method helped me understand concepts of grammar (e.g., “le subjonctif”) better than I would have in English class, were I to understand them at all.
On the rare occasion I attempt speaking a little French with my friends who grew up hearing/speaking Cajun French, they wonder why my pronunciation is inflected with Dutch.
I have only this to add: “Je voudrais du jambon, une salade … et une pâtisserie!” R.I.P. Mme. TenZythoff.


Dobelbower JackDobelbower

This clipping from The Tulsa World Sept. 20 1995 was in one of my old files. Thought I might share it here for posterity.

Jack Dobelbower was definitely a teacher of the old school, and quite unapologetic about it. He taught math at Edison since it opened in 1955 until his retirement in 1986.

Two facts about his life impressed me. One was that he and his wife married three weeks after they met. Dobe was not big on indecision. And if I’m not mistaken, the Dobelbowers opened their house and took in quite a number of foster and/or adoptive children. You’d have thought that he’d had enough of kids on his day job.

Richard Curby was an outstanding teacher with a brilliant head for math and science and a computer geek before geeks were cool. He taught me and a host of other minds full of mush the power of deductive reasoning and the art of dimensional analysis. In other words, Mr. Curby’s classes laid the foundation of my ability to think like an engineer.

In addition to teaching Geometry and Physics, Mr. Curby was our Junior Class sponsor as well as the sponsor of the Chess Club. He also took on the task of developing the first-ever Computer Science curriculum at Edison in the Spring semester of 1973. He would probably have been somewhat surprised that I learned enough html code to be able to manage a WordPress blog.

My thanks to David Alaback for forwarding Richard’s obit. I had no inkling of the challenges that confronted Mr. Curby in his life. May he rest in peace.

Richard Curby

December 23, 1941 – April 13, 2015

RICHARD, a life long resident of Tulsa, died peacefully at home. His was a life well lived in spite of repeated hospitalizations and major surgeries for a cranial tumor discovered when he was 37.

The result of these procedures left him with extensive lung damage, nerve injury to the right side of his face rendering him blind and deaf on that side, taking food through a J-tube, and breathing and speaking via a tracheotomy tube. His love of teaching math and physics at Edison High School ended when he could no longer project his voice. However, his stubborn determination won out. He learned ASL sign language, continued his computer interests, and worked to advocate for accessibility for the disabled nationally, in Tulsa, and in the Kansas-Oklahoma conference of his church. For hobbies, he went to Oilers ice hockey games and collected humor to send to friends by email.

His family and friends will celebrate his life 10:00 a.m., Saturday, April 25 at Fellowship Congregational Church, 2700 S Harvard. In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to TSHA (formerly Tulsa Speech and Hearing) or Evergreen Hospice.

by Julie Price Davidson

In the field of journalism, the deadline is king. This reality came back to haunt me earlier this year when I heard about the death of an Edison teacher. Benson was not just any teacher. For me, she was THE teacher – the one whose influence was real and still remains with me today. Many of my high school memories have faded through the years, but the experiences with Benson remain vivid. She was direct, often confrontational, and always uncompromising in her pursuit of educating her students.

I first met Sandra Benson in sophomore journalism class, and I was hooked. She was unlike any teacher I had ever known – welcoming any and all questions and enthusiastically sharing the knowledge and practical expertise she had gained as a reporter for the Kansas City Star. She was ahead of her time in many ways, working in what was then a male-dominated profession and earning a master’s degree. And that energy and drive translated well to the classroom. She made it fun to learn, giving us an uncensored peek into the real world, which made us feel informed and emboldened.

Benson with her daughter at an EHS excurricular event.

Benson and her daughter Laura at an EHS extracurricular activity.

In the pre-digital era, Benson taught us the hands-on skills of laying out a page with a pica pole, counting a headline to fit, and using a proportional wheel to size photos. We learned the inverted pyramid style of newswriting, how to construct a strong “lead,” and the importance of proofreading (complete with hilarious and usually off-color examples of typos from her newspaper days.)

She was just plain cool – insisting we call her “Benson,” instead of “Mrs.” Benson; letting us sit on the tables as she taught us the art of collaboration; giving us freedom to come and go as needed to pursue a story or shoot the right photo; constantly challenging us to dig deeper; and most of all, treating us like people who could be trusted. Yet, there was never any doubt who was in charge!

Junior and senior years, I had her for both journalism and yearbook. She had instituted the awesome tradition of an early morning “kidnapping” of the new Torch staff members each year, followed by breakfast and her announcement of the new staff positions. A bit shy and somewhat insecure, I had applied to be a section editor as a senior. When she named me the new editor-in-chief, I was completely intimidated. I hadn’t asked for that role and I wasn’t sure I could do it. But in her inimitable way, Benson was telling me that I could and that I would.

I went on to major in journalism and am still working in the field of communications. It’s taken me years to fully appreciate the many life lessons Benson taught me and I had always intended to write her a letter of thanks someday. Then I read of her passing on Dec. 30, 2013. She had served Edison students for nearly 40 years, ending her career as a school counselor. Benson, thank you for caring about young people and for contributing so significantly to my life. And please forgive me for missing my deadline.

With Benson's blessing, the Torch staff had our yearbook photo taken at the Tulsa County jail.

With Benson’s blessing, the Torch staff had our yearbook photo taken at the Tulsa County jail.