Lloyd Walworth, a beloved retired high school choir teacher and founder of a community choir, died last Friday, Dec. 7, after a several-month battle with brain cancer. He was 72.
“He’s a larger than life person,” said his widow, Diane Walworth.
“If you look at his Facebook page right now, it is astounding. Hundreds — and I’m not exaggerating — hundreds of former students have posted how he changed their life.”
They said things like “you made me a better person,” “you were always the encourager,” “you were everybody’s cheerleader.” Many said he was the most inspirational teacher they ever had.
She said, “That’s an incredible legacy.”
He taught music — mostly choir, but also band — at The Dalles Middle School and high school for 40 years. He founded the Cascade Singers community choir in 1979 and took the group on several tours abroad.
In retirement, he founded the Walworth Music Foundation, which raises money for music lessons for children.
Karl Vercouteren joined the Cascade Singers the year after it formed. “He was kind of the original inquiring mind,” he said of Walworth.
“He loved to explore, to experience new things.” He went to international choral conferences and came back with new friends and new ideas for music. “He was always reaching out and meeting new people and getting new ideas,” Vercouteren said. “He was just an inspiration, very enthusiastic about music.”
He encouraged people to aspire to higher quality and greater performances. “He could be demanding, but not in a heavy-handed way. He inspired creativity in a lot of the rest of us.”
He saw the power of music to bring people together and to create something beautiful.
Walworth consistently had award-winning high school choirs, and was a judge at choir competitions.
Past students of his or past members of the Cascade Singers are invited to come to a practice Dec. 13 and Dec. 20 at 7 p.m. at the First United Methodist Church in preparation for Walworth’s Dec. 22 memorial service, set for 1 p.m. at The Dalles High School auditorium. A final rehearsal/walkthrough at the high school will begin at 11:30 a.m. prior to the service. The songs he asked to be performed at his service are “Sing me to Heaven,” “Who’ll be a Witness,” and “Alleluia.”
A reception will follow at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, where he was the longtime choir director. He was also a soloist at The Dalles Christian Science Church for 35 years.
Over the years, Vercouteren has seen former students who moved away, and then came back home, and ended up joining the Cascade Singers.
Dennis Catmull was one of Walworth’s students in the late 1970s, and lived with the Walworths for his junior and senior years at the request of his mom, who was transferred to another city for her work and knew Dennis wanted to finish high school in The Dalles.
Known as the Walworth’s “non-biological son,” he shared every medical event with Walworth as well as enjoying traveling with the family. An important step was creating the Walworth Music Foundation in his retirement.
“He loved life, he loved people; music was just the conduit that allowed him to experience his amazing life that he shared with others, Catmull said.”
Catmull said when he reflects about “who I became as a man, as a father and as a humanitarian towards others, I knew that I had a great teacher that shaped me.”
Past students have written about how their life direction was based on early impacts Walworth made on them, he said.
“You’ll hear students talk about how they were nobodies in school back then, and Lloyd sought them out and made them believe and know that they were somebody very special,” he said.
One commenter wrote that the gift of music was one that is shared for life, and past students have gone out in the world and shared their own love of music in their own way, “because of him!”
“The truth is there’s not enough paper to print all the good things that this man was to so many people, to this amazing little community, and his family,” Catmull said.
“We are all better human beings because of him. I will miss him deeply, but I’m proud and honored and blessed to have been in his life,” he said.
Walworth had surgery for his brain cancer and had diminished cognitive ability after that, Mrs. Walworth said. “So for the last five months it’s been really a struggle, but the last thing that he wrote, consciously, was that ‘The foundation of gratitude is LOVE.’ And that’s the way he lived his life, he lived his life with joy and gratitude and a sense of really loving people. And truly, he was everyone’s cheerleader. That’s what our daughters say about him, ‘Dad, you were always our Number One cheerleader.’”
In fact, his daughters are both eulogizing him at his memorial service, and they both read them to him at Thanksgiving. Daughter, Jennifer “wanted to do that because she knew that what she wanted to do when she finished reading was say, ‘Well? What do you think of that?’”
“And of course, he said, ‘That was great,’ like he always did.”