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Curtis Whitfield Tong


1934 - 2017 Obituary Condolences
Curtis Whitfield Tong Obituary
Tong Curtis Whitfield Tong, 82, of Williamstown, Massachusetts, died on Monday, January 16, 2017 at North Adams Commons. A beloved teacher and coach, devoted family man, fiercely competitive athlete, and a lover of the outdoors, woodworking and international travel, Curt dedicated his life to serving others. Curt was the son of American missionaries, Walter and Margaret Tong, and was born in the Philippines in 1934. During World War II, the Tong family lived as prisoners of war in Japanese internment camps in the Philippines. After liberation in 1945, the family returned to the United States and settled in Newton, Massachusetts. Curt's moving account of his family's war experience, Child of War: A Memoir of World War II Internment in the Philippines, was published in 2010 and reflected his views about the power of love and reconciliation. A devoted Boston Red Sox fan, Curt played baseball for Newton High School, and after graduating in 1952, headed west to attend Otterbein College in Westerville, Ohio. At Otterbein, Curt pursued a degree in physical education and led the college's varsity football, baseball and tennis teams, graduating in 1956. Curt spent his college summers working as a counselor at Camp O-AT-KA in Sebago, Maine. Curt met the love of his life, Wavalene "Jinx" Kumler, at Otterbein. Curt and Jinx married in Bexley, Ohio in 1958. Together they raised three children, Karinne, Kyle and Kurt. An ROTC scholar in college, Curt trained as a pilot for the Air Force and served at Ellsworth Air Force Base in South Dakota. In 1959 he returned to Ohio to teach and coach at Bexley High School, and in 1963 he was hired as head basketball coach at his alma mater, where he continued coaching and teaching until 1972. Under Curt's stewardship, Otterbein's basketball teams became a turnaround success story, and his responsibilities expanded to including coaching tennis and chairing the Physical Education Department. Curt received his Ph.D. degree from The Ohio State University in 1968. His doctoral thesis underscored his strong views about the importance of physical education in the overall educational experience. Curt spent the 1972-73 academic year designing a graduate program in physical education at the University of Vermont. From 1973 to 1983, Curt served as men's basketball coach, women's tennis coach and Chairman of the Department of Physical Education at Williams College. Curt shared his work philosophy and some of the life experiences that guided his work as a coach in his book Off the Bench: A Perspective on Athletic Coaching, published in 1991. Curt and Jinx moved to Claremont, California in 1983, where Curt became Athletic Director and Physical Education Department Chair at Pomona College. During these years, Curt was a leader in the Haverford Group, an alliance of academic leaders stressing the importance of athletics in a liberal arts education. After retiring in 1998, Curt and Jinx returned to Williamstown. Curt's early experiences in the Philippines and the guidance of his parents instilled in him a strong sense of global community. In their retirement years, Curt and Jinx traveled all over the world and continued with lives of service. Among other places, they built lasting relationships at International Christian University in Tokyo, Japan, where they taught on several occasions. Curt and Jinx were also active members of the Williamstown community, taking leadership positions in the First Congregational Church and volunteering at Williams College and other local organizations. Curt and his tennis doubles partners maintained national age-group rankings in tennis for many years, while Curt crafted countless wooden treasures in his workshop as gifts for friends and family. Alzheimer's disease steadily diminished Curt's capacities in his final years, but his generous and affectionate spirit continued to shine through to the end. Survivors include his wife, Wavalene; daughter, Karinne; and sons, Kyle and Kurt. He also leaves seven grandchildren, Conor, Emily, Jack, Kurt, Mia, Reia, and Kyle; one great-granddaughter, Martha; and two sisters, Eloise Purdy and Annarae Hunter. FUNERAL NOTICE: A memorial service to celebrate the life of Curt Tong will be held on Saturday, June 17, 2017 at 1 p.m. at the First Congregational Church of Williamstown. Burial will be private. In lieu of flowers, people are encouraged to donate to the First Congregational Church of Williamstown; Camp O-At-Ka; Otterbein University; Williams College; Pomona College; or the Japan-ICU Foundation. To add to the Book of Memories, please visit www.flynndagnolifuneralhomes.com.


Published in The Columbus Dispatch on Jan. 24, 2017
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