Sunday, December 1, 2019

In Memoriam - A Guest Post

If you've been reading this blog for any length of time you know Lucy as a regular around here.  It is only fitting that he gets the first ever guest post.


We walked into the classroom on that first day of school, expecting to once again spend a year learning about the Mayflower. And the Revolutionary War. And the War of 1812. And the run up to the Civil War. Again. Every other year, it was the same thing: U.S. History this year, and in the intervening years, World History.

But this time, something was different. On each desk was a Sunday edition of The Salt Lake Tribune. The teacher introduced himself, and welcomed us to U.S. History. “We’re going to start with yesterday, and work our way back to where you left off the last time you took this course,” he explained.

We spent that hour studying the front page of yesterday’s newspaper. The next day, we covered the same stories as reported in The Deseret News, and the rest of the week learning how the same facts could be interpreted differently based on your point of view.

During the following weeks and months, we studied local, national and world news. We studied protests. And song lyrics (‘There’s somethin’ happenin’ here ...) We learned about the Viet Nam Conflict, and its complex causes. We studied the Korean War, and its causes. Then, WWII. The rise of the Nazi Party. The Great War (the War to End All Wars, WWI). Somehow, we also got to cover all the other stuff like Civil Rights, the politics of the Fifties, Prohibition, & Women’s Suffrage. And, how all of that is woven together in an all inclusive Tapestry of Human Events.

By Easter, we were studying the ‘Winning’ (theft) of the West.’ (Hint - How The West Was Won is NOT how the West was won ...) Reconstruction. And finally, for the very first time, we found out in an actual classroom, officially, who actually lost The Civil War. (And why Gone With the Wind is not very good as a Historical Drama.)

James Witucki did not just teach about History, he taught us to love History. He wore his passion about History on his sleeve. He also taught us to view History with a healthy skepticism based on the Historians’ bias (never trust a single source). He taught us how to research, and how to debate.

He was just nine years older than his students when I started in his class that autumn in 1970. He changed the manner in which we viewed History, and made a significant impact on my life personally. I Honor him, his memory, and his legacy, as does (and I am dead-assed certain about this:) anyone who had the Honor of sitting through one of his classes.



From The Class Website:


James C. Witucki

Nov 4, 1944 ~ Nov 13, 2019

"To strive, to seek, to find and not to yield" Alfred, Lord Tennyson

Well, my picture is in the obits, so I must be dead. I departed this world on 11/13/19. I, James Charles Witucki I, was born to Ernest A. and Mary T. (Kopczynski) Witucki on November 4, 1944 at 6:06 A.M.( I was fond of double numbers!) in South Bend, Indiana.I attended St. Casimir's Elementary School and Washington High School in South Bend. I attended the University of Utah after I moved here in 1962; I received a B.S. in 1965 and an M.S. in 1967 in History. I married my college sweetheart, Monika F. Hood at the Fort Douglas Chapel on July 27th, 1968; 51 wonderful years. She was the joy of my life and together we raised 3 delightfully bright and charming children: Theresa (Matthew) Brown, Houston, Texas; James II (Sheri) Salt Lake City, Utah; and John Paul (Kirby), Las Vegas, Nevada.


I taught History/Sociology at South High (1966-1982) and East High (1983-2001) for 35 years. I enjoyed teaching and felt that is how I left this world a better place. I also served in the Utah State Legislature from 1983-1985 as a proud Democrat. I loved learning so I attended 13 colleges and universities including Harvard, Stanford, Notre Dame and Whitman College.

I loved to travel; I visited Europe at least a dozen times. I also traveled to China, Thailand, Australia, New Zealand, Tahiti, Peru (Machu-Picchu), Ecuador (the Galapagos Islands), Cuba, Croatia, Slovenia, Canada, Mexico and 45 of the 50 States.

My greatest joys were my darling wife, my family, my friends, my flowers, my walks, the gym, and leisure and pleasures.

My services will be held at the Cathedral of the Madeleine on Monday, November 25th at noon. A visitation will precede the mass.

In lieu of flowers please give to one of the many worthwhile programs at the Cathedral of the Madeleine, St. Jude's Hospital, or the charity of your choice.

Take time and really focus on the ones you love, forgive those who hurt you, and raise a glass in celebration of Jim's life.


1 comment:

LucyInDisguise said...

Thank you for this opportunity, David.

If I may, a short (but true) story:

On April 5, 1971, we learned that Mr. Witucki had been suspended by the Salt Lake City School Board. By 10:00 AM that morning, there were 70 students sitting on the lawn in front of the school, more or less enjoying the Spring weather. On the 6th, fully a quarter of the student body had joined us. Wednesday we were up to a full third of the student-body were out there with us. Thursday got to be a little interesting because it rained most of the day. Chilly doesn’t even begin to describe it, yet there we were - more than 800 kids spending the entire day in the rain in support of Mr. Witucki (to be fair, most of them did not know why in the hell we were doing this, but what the Hell? it was another chance to Protest!). Friday, the 9th, Mr. Witucki was reinstated without restriction.

Why you might ask, was he suspended? He had this belief that wearing a necktie added nothing to his students learning experience. Some silly idea that what was in his head was more important than what was around his neck - and so he flatly refused to wear a tie (or jacket) while teaching.

A true story torn from the script of Father Goose?

We may never know - If I hadn’t spent all week + a day sitting in the rain with a bunch of fellow students, I’d never believe it, so I won’t take offense of your healthy skepticism. I and my fellow classmates could fill a sizable percentage of the web with stories about Mr. Witucki.

He always, to the best of my knowledge, taught history backward. Kinda like Ginger Rogers to History’s Fred Astaire (only without the heels)… and always one hell of a tough act to follow.

Thanks Again, David.

And a Special Thanks to you, James.