I am so sad to hear about Bill's passing. We were friends and enjoyed birding with him when he lived near us in Pima. He showed us a place where he found Lawrence's Goldfinches which was the first time I had seen that species in Graham County.
We worked with him on the Graham County Bird Checklist and just updated it in 2022 and is now posted on the Arizona Field Ornithologists website at http://www.azfo.org/d…
My funniest and more endearing memory of Bill was how he teased me about eating so much chocolate and would call me "sweet stuff."
Diane Drobka & Craig Wilcox
Bill Matheny was my English teacher at Brookstone School (class of '77). He was far and away the single most inspirational teacher I ever had. He instilled in me a passion for grammar that's lasted a lifetime. I remember a man enthusiastic about his subject matter who took a genuine interest in his students. I suspect his glowing recommendation was instrumental in my admission to the college of my choice, so for that I was always grateful. I only regret that I've found out too late that he lived in Tucson, as I live in Phoenix and would have so loved to have paid him a visit. I'll forever appreciate his contribution to my life. (note, had to put relationship "coworker" as "other" wouldn't let me post)
"Wild Bill" was one of a kind...He was my ornithology and literature teacher in high school at Brookstone School 1975-1976, mentor and dear friend ever since. His passionate ability to share the wonders of the natural world, especially birds, greatly influenced my life leading me to become a teacher myself, most of my career as a wildlife educator as well as a wildlife & raptor rehabilitator. Ornithologist extraordinaire, Bill showed me my first Peregrine Falcon 10/5/1975 at St. Marks Refuge Florida. It was a really big deal as he told me to watch closely because it was an endangered species and sightings were so rare that I might never see another one. 45 years later to the day, on 10/5/2020, after years of friendship & letters to keep us in touch, an injured male Peregrine was brought to me for rehab. Sadly its injuries prevented its ability to survive in the wild but is now in training to be an ambassador to help me continue sharing wildlife conservation messages and success stories of species that have recovered just as my mentor taught me. He has been named Matheny after my friend.
Dmitri, I believe you were on that St. Marks trip as a little 8-9 year old. I was so thankful that I had the opportunity to share this with your Dad when we talked on his 85th birthday and how it has all come full circle. His story will be shared with future budding naturalists and his legacy will live on through the lives he touched. He was so proud of you and shared that with every letter he wrote. I know you will cherish your memories.
Love always, Kim Mehaffey Kilgore "Kim Bird"
My condolences to the family. I learned Russian from Bill at Green Fields. He was a wonderful teacher. It created a lasting impact on my life and am still in touch with a couple people from the exchange program from the Ukraine.
Though I only had him as a teacher at Brookstone for English for just one year in the 7th grade, I can truly say that he was one of the best teachers that I ever had, and his ability to teach came so naturally. He also helped me get a Russian penpal in the early 70's at a time when they were probably non-existent! Of course, he could easily translate the letters for me! I have often wondered where he went when he left Columbus, and I am saddened to finally know through news such as this. Teachers, and people, like Mr. Matheny are rare these days. Memories live on. My sincerest condolences to the family.
I cherished Bill for his love of poetry and of the natural world. He was a kind and gentle friend, especially at a time when I really needed one, and I'll always remember walking forest trails with him.
To love freely without expectation. To be thankful for the little things. To focus on the beauty around you. And, so many plant and bird names 😊
In response to "What did you learn from Bill?"
I am saddened to learn of Mr. Matheny’s death, but I am grateful to have had him as a teacher when I attended Brookstone. Sitting around that table in the small classroom next to the library during senior year discussing Russian literature had a profound influence on my life that I did not realize until much later. Perhaps I would have read some authors later, but not all of them. Tyutchev, Pushkin, Gogol, Lermontov, Turgenev, and Tolstoy are the names I remember reading. If I am not mistaken, I still have all the books. I know you will miss him, but take comfort knowing that he changed many people’s lives for the better, the highest achievement any of us can hope to have. I count myself among those who benefited from his teaching.
Marina and I had 'cast our lot' as very young teachers - and we wound up teaching across the hall from one another at the Brookstone School in Columbus, Georgia. We were green but willing to learn. I had previously known Bill only as a prominent, respected teacher in the Upper School. At the same time, we were also blessed to have Bill's son Dmitri in our classes. I had Dmitri in class for two years - when he was in 5th and 6th grades. I taught two very different classes as the curriculum stipulated. One was MACOS, a student discovery methodology and the other was a more traditional, text based introduction to world history. Dmitri was in both over two years. At the same time, I was taking graduate classes at Auburn ... Longer story shorter - - - When I asked Bill if Dmitri (and a couple of his classmates) could come to my graduate class and describe the two different approaches for a group of 22 adults, he could not have been more supportive. He thought that was a GREAT idea and was wonderfully encouraging. And Dmitri and his classmates blew the adults in that grad class away with their insights and (Dmitri especially) with a 'compare and contrast' of student-discovery vs. teacher/text based learning. Even the professor walked away scratching his head. I don't think those folks had ANY idea (until that evening) that students could be so insightful about their own learning. I didn't have as much to do with the kids' conclusions as Bill did. Dmitri was smart as a whip and polite (in the face of doubtful traditionalists) and led the students in their affirmation of student-discovery learning - As I know Bill would have appreciated. It was an honor to know and work with Bill. I have thought of him often and 45 years later Marina and I still remember our days at Brookstone with both 'men' with affection. Dmitri - I am sorry for your loss - your father was great man - the kind of teacher we would all want for our own children. In reading this memory to Marina, we are both in tears - to have been so fortunate to live lives that bring us close to such wonderful people... - Jim & Marina, Beaver, PA
Mr Matheny taught Russian Humanities my senior year at Brookstone. He made it a fun class (though we would leap to the floor and play Hearts when he left the room), and greatly influenced me. I even took Russian Literature in college even though I was an engineering major. I wish I had known he was in Tucson - my in-laws lived there and I would have loved to see him again.
We were very lucky to have Mr. Matheny teach at Brookstone. My friends and I still talk about his Russian literature classes and how privileged we were to have those courses. He also led our Outdoor Club. I was the Star Student who selected Mr. Matheny to be Star Teacher in 1977! I still have the copy of the school newsletter with that article. I will always be thankful for how he taught and led his students. Condolences to all his family.
1956, Columbia, Tennessee, USA
Senior Yearbook Photo of Bill from Columbia Central High School
My most recent memories of your Dad are from the many concerts that we have attended over the years when you perform in Arizona, and his heartfelt warm greetings when he would see me. I think the first concert (well after college) when we saw Bill was at the Arizona Inn, and it was so great to see his smiling face and how he was simply beaming at the way that you played. I shared in his great enthusiasm at that concert!
Thanks for the beautiful overview of his life. I know you will miss him! My deepest condolences.
I was quite young when I first met Bill Matheny; as I moved away from Tucson I only saw him again a smattering of times over the passing decades. I have been thinking of him over these past days and why this loss hit me a bit hard.
I remember that Bill immediately made sense to me when I was young and just becoming acquainted with a lasting reality that many really would not. There was nothing disengenous about Bill Matheny and everything kind, intelligent, gentle, and interested in the world and in his son's young friends.
I didn't really understand it back in those early years, but, while I am not from the South, I am of the South, with many generations of ancestors who had little and who scratched lives into the dirt and out of nothing in that part of the country for centuries until my grandfather left as a young man to head north. Those ancestral ghosts stay with us, and while I did not really know I did feel in those early years that Bill encompassed everything that was good about the South. I had then the slightest recognition in Bill of something very personal I would come later to know and try to understand.
Finally, there has always been an almost tangible quality to how much the son meant to the father and how much the father meant to the son. True of many father-son relationships, this one stands out because, all along, as his son journeyed away to new places, with a leaving at quite a young age, it was his father who understood the journey and sent him . This truth can always be heard in the stories the son tells of his father, how he speaks of him, how he relays his words. The father is still seen in the son.
Rest easy, Mr. Matheny. You were a gift.
Lil Funny Face
Dear Dmitri, On Facebook there is a Green Fields Alum group. Join it and see many wonderful comments about your dad from alumni who were his students.
He was a wonderful teacher and mentor. My deepest condolences to his family. May you find peace and solace.
I had many good years with Bill at Green Fields Country Day School (1980-89). Speaking Russian, he was the perfect teacher to lead the first exchange of 6-12th grade students between the USA and the USSR. I am still in touch with the administration at Kiev School #155 and they remember Bill fondly, as do so many of his students at Green Fields. I last saw Bill when he lived in Safford and we had lunch and talked about his book on birds in Graham Co. He was wonderful faculty member and great teacher. I will miss him. Phineas Anderson
2003, Mt Graham, Arizona, USA
Bill camping on Mt. Graham with Kate Reeve
Your father sounds like he was quite a wonderful person and no doubt a great dad. I am so sorry to hear of his passing and wish you comfort in your memories of him and from the love expressed by those who knew him.
Nancy Isaacs (Rachel Stevens' mom)