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Edward W. Blatchford

Died: April 19, 2020

Ted was a teacher and leader throughout his life of 76 years. He died on April 19, 2020 of complications from late-stage Parkinson’s Disease and the COVID-19 virus. He leaves behind his wife of 52 years, Claire Howell Blatchford, their daughters Laurel and Christa, and their four grandchildren.

Entering Yale from Noble and Greenough School in Dedham, MA, Ted was already a leader and a teacher. As president of the Fence Club, he invited Yale’s chaplain William Sloane Coffin to speak at the fraternity. As a member of Fence, I was afraid “The Rev.” would encounter a rowdy and perhaps hostile bunch of preppies. Instead, the Blatchford-Coffin team taught and led us to new understandings of social action and engagement. Ted was also committed through Dwight Hall to the Ulysses S. Grant Foundation, tutoring underserved middle school students in New Haven’s public schools. He wrote for the Yale Daily News, where he contributed on the editorial board and as senior editor. He was a member of Aurelian and St. Elmo’s Society.

After Yale Ted spent a year teaching in Lebanon at AUB: The American University of Beirut. He also met his future wife Claire Howell in Oxford, England. Next Ted enrolled at Columbia University, and earned a master’s degree in English Literature in 1968. After his marriage to Claire, he was conscripted for military service in the Vietnam War. He appealed as a conscientious objector and was subsequently enrolled in civilian service, assigned to teaching English literature at Tuskegee University in Alabama.

Following their time in Alabama, Ted and Claire moved back to New York City where he entered a Doctoral program at Columbia in English. “However,” as noted in his obituary, Ted “soon took a turn away from the academy and towards teaching.” In 1970 he taught at the Garden City Waldorf School, an experience which opened for Ted and Claire a lifelong study of the spiritual teachings of Rudolph Steiner and anthroposophy, which encompasses a scientific exploration of the spiritual world, or the synthesis of science and spirituality. Ted taught English and wood working, which would become a lifelong passion. A skilled craftsman, he made many pieces of furniture and household objects such a bowls and candlesticks. He enjoyed creating children’s toys, and often incorporated wood picked up on frequent walks.

From Garden City Ted moved in 1978 to teach English at Buckley Country Day School in Roslyn, also on Long Island; soon he became Assistant Headmaster. His teaching and leading skills were further recognized as he became Headmaster of The Country School in Madison, CT, in 1987. Here our paths crossed regularly, as we both attended annual retreats for independent school heads from CT, NJ and NY. Our gatherings were held on “the first Wednesday through Friday in November” at Mohonk Mountain House in New Paltz, NY. This was a great location for long hikes in the “’Gunks” where beleaguered school heads bared their souls safely to each other. I treasured great walks with Ted, who by then began calling himself Ed. I never found out why.

After the The Country School Ed and Claire ran an alternative school for two years: the Uplook School based in Greenfield, MA. His crowning achievement as teacher and leader came as co-founder and founding principal of the Four Rivers Charter Public School, also in Greenfield. As Ed wrote in his Reflections for our 50th Reunion,

“It was the chance of a lifetime to create a public school from
scratch, with an eager faculty working together to apply the
best progressive practices. And it worked! I served as director
of Four Rivers Charter Public School for seven years and feel
tremendous gratitude for all the school has become.”

We honor Ed by ending with the values of The Country School, which he led for 11 years, the longest stretch in his great career.

Our three simple rules that we know children will be able
to memorize and easily recite:
1. Be kind to others.
2. Respect everyone’s right to learn.
3. Take responsibility for yourself, and your world.

Stephen M. Clement III