William White, who taught at the Whitcomb Middle School, is remembered as passionate and engaging by his colleagues while the entire school attempts to deal with his loss.
"People have routines. He is a character. That is the only way to describe him. He was a character," said Teacher Donna Roche of the man who had taught in Marlborough for 29 years. "He was a wonderful man; a teddy bear. He tried to have a gruff exterior but it didn't work."
William White's unexpected death Sunday night has left a palpable absence at the school, said four teachers who worked closely with him. White was a man of routine and passions that included drag racing. When these passions and routines came together at the school, they engaged students, said the teachers.
"It's all about connections and he made a lot of them," said Teacher Rick Wise.
Let Patch save you time. Get great local stories like this delivered right to your inbox or smartphone everyday with our free newsletter. Simple, fast sign-up here.
Those passions were diverse with many seemingly at odds. He loved observing nature but would return sunburned from a weekend in New Hampshire watching NASCAR. White was a staunch Republican while also being a die-hard union man. He was a "shop" teacher and excellent with his hands but always into the latest technology.
"He didn't fit the mold," said Teacher Jeff Gay who shared an office with White for 15 years. "He was always into the cutting edge no matter what it was."
It was through one of his passions, drag racing, that he reached many students. He created an 80 foot track that played host to balsa wood race cars for over 10 years at the middle school. From the shape honed in a table-top wind tunnel to the design painted on the car, the students were able to customize these racers while learning, said Wise.
Students always had nothing but good things to say about White, said Roche. He was able to engage the students who might not have been the most scholastic, but could work and learn with their hands, said Teacher Mary Pacific.
"Some of the kids who were not really into academics excelled at making those cars," she said. "You could just see the excitement with the kids because they had accomplished something."
That appreciation has poured out into two posters that were signed by students this week after they learned of White's death. It was a sad day for the students of the 7th grade class White taught on Monday, with many students unable to wrap their head around White being gone, said Roche. The true impact will be seen when classes resume for them next week, said Wise.
White has left a void that will be hard to fill, said Roche.
"It's a shame. He is so young. 53. It's a shock to all of us," said Gay who explained that he was very protective and close to his family. "He was a very passionate man."
Visiting hours will be held on Thursday from 4 to 8 p.m. at the Slattery Funeral Home. A mass will be celebrated on Friday at 10:00am at St. Matthias Church. Burial will follow at Fairview Cemetery at 45 Fairview Ave. in Hyde Park.