Friday, May 24, 2024

Dwight Bartholomew


Dwight Bartholomew

March 8, 1932- February 8, 2023

Dwight Bartholomew was a boundless spirit, bursting with accordion music and song, and a son of the rich who'd climbed off the corporate ladder to teach grade-school kids. Dwight Bartholomew, a descendant of five Connecticut governors, who preferred the blue-collar towns in the West over his blue-blooded roots in the East, died February. 8, 2023, at his home in Port Angeles, WA. He was 90. The suspected cause was congestive heart failure and emphysema. 

He was born on March 8, 1932, at Sloane Hospital for Women, founded by his family in New York. A scion of privilege, his father was Dana T. Bartholomew, Yale Class of 1928, whose family helped found the town of Ansonia, Conn., as well as its brass and copper works. His mother was the former Adela Sloane Griswold, whose family founded W. and J. Sloane, the nation’s first home furnishings company, which decorated the White House and Gilded Age estates, and Griswold Iron Works, which manufactured cast iron cookware for kitchens across America.

His early years were spent in the family’s five-story brownstone on Lower Fifth Avenue, in New York. Summers were spent at the family’s colonial compound on Black Hall, in Old Lyme, Conn. He was educated in North America’s top schools: Selwyn House in Montreal, Quebec, Canada; St. Paul’s School in Concord, New Hampshire; Yale University in New Haven. While at Yale, he excelled at enduring friendships, beer, hockey, the swing of an oar, and solo bicycle rides as far as his muscular thighs could carry him. Most of all, he excelled at music. Like his father before him, he could straighten his shoulders, crane his neck, drop his jaw, load up his largest vowels, and sing.  His deep baritone lobbed cannonades of joy, filling rooms with his music. While at Yale, he was tapped to lead the Whiffenpoofs, its elite a cappella group, but demurred to focus on grades. He sang in the Yale Glee Club, was inducted into Scroll and Key, and competed in intramural crew and hockey. He graduated, Class of 1954.

He served in the U.S. Army as a chaplain’s assistant, private first class, at the VII Corps headquarters in Stuttgart, West Germany. He worked for First National City Bank of New York, in Brazil, then later joined Alcan Aluminum, which his father helped run. At age 38, he answered a call to classroom teaching and P.E. instruction. He taught at Rosita Elementary in Santa Ana, Calif., Adams and Paularino schools in Costa Mesa, Palm Valley School in Cathedral City, Westside Elementary in Thermal, and tutored in Leavenworth and Wenatchee, WA.

On Sept. 7, 1957, he married Elizabeth “Betsy” Hill. The marriage produced four children and lasted 25 years. He later met Mary Ellen Olson, whom he married on Aug. 14, 2004, in East Grand Forks, North Dakota. They united in song.

He’d picked up an accordion when he was eight and never put it down. At age 60, he began playing the bass trombone, in tune with his favorite Dixieland jazz. Nearly 30 years later, he was learning the ukulele. When he’d return to accordion, he liked to say he was “back on ‘box.” A lifelong seeker who loved hymns such as “How Sweet Thou Art," Dwight practiced Christian Science, briefly attended Calvary Chapel in the 1970’s, then found solace in the Quakers’ Society of Friends. He practiced yoga before dawn, long before most people heard of yoga, and Canadian Air Force aerobics, before most anyone heard of aerobics.  He cared less about TV and smartphones. Being from the East, he dreamed of moving to far-off places, and sometimes did: North Dakota for its frigid winters and outdoor hockey; Washington for its volcanic mountains and winding rivers and straits. 

A connoisseur of words and writing, Dwight loved the clack of a manual typewriter, just like he loved the clickety-clack of long-ago steam and passenger trains. A “voracious reader,” he inhaled everything from short stories by Damon Runyon to the philosophy of Arthur Schopenhauer. His final read: “A Pilgrimage to Eternity,” by Timothy Egan.

In contrast to his Republican forebears, he was a Democrat who avoided talk of politics or debates. A longtime member of Alcoholics Anonymous, he preferred to share his experience, his strength, and his hope. With a twinkle in his eye and an upturned grin, he liked to acknowledge the good in people and had plenty of good words for strangers. He’d also loved to regale family and friends with stories. To him, stories were how people connect, and he connected well.

He was a lifelong fan of the Montreal Canadians, whose hockey logo was pasted on the cars he’d love to drive across the state and country. During a short wake, his body was draped with the red-and-white Hab flag of his beloved team with his favorite cat resting at his feet.

Dwight Bartholomew is survived by his wife, Mary Ellen; his brother, Andy “Pujan” Bartholomew of New South Wales, Australia; his first wife, Betsy of Leavenworth and their four children, Dana Bartholomew (and Toni Plume) of Los Angeles, Sterling (and Mireya Quick) Bartholomew of Leavenworth, Sloane Bartholomew Schubert of Leavenworth, Caroline Bell Bartholomew Davison of Wenatchee; two step-children, Jesse Olson of Grass Valley, Calif., and Arielle “Charlie” Stellar of San Francisco; and two grandchildren, Treat and Price Bartholomew Schubert. He was preceded in death by a sister, Adella Sloane Wilmerding of Old Lyme.

A memorial service will be held at 11 a.m. Saturday, April 15, 2023, at Holy Trinity Lutheran Church in Port Angeles. It will be followed by a burial later in spring at the Griswold family cemetery in Old Lyme.