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Curtis William Caldwell(1931 - 2014)

Curtis William Caldwell
Sept 8, 1931 - Mar 8, 2014
Resident of Santa Cruz
Curtis W. "Bill" Caldwell passed away on March 8, 2014, at 82 years of age, surrounded by family and friends, as was his final wish. The immediate cause of death was respiratory failure, after a long battle with Parkinson's Disease. Bill was a world traveler, linguist and bon vivant who dedicated himself to a career in language teaching, cultural understanding and human rights. He possessed a remarkable curiosity which drove a lifelong study of history, culture, neuroscience and literature. Born into a life of relative privilege, Bill was never an elitist, but rather a true humanitarian who believed in the dignity and value of all life. He was the embodiment of compassion and grace, a man who devoted himself to his family and the many friends with whom he shared a passion for intellectual dialogue and adventure. Ever the life of the party, Bill had a great love for music, the arts, dancing, exploring the outdoors, traveling, meeting new people, cooking, eating and drinking with revelry, and rooting for his favorite sports teams.

Born in Mexico City to Chester and Barbara Caldwell, he was brought to the United States as a young boy, the first of many times he would cross the U.S.-Mexico border to live, study and work. He was descended from the Williams and White families, two of the original 300 families who accompanied Stephen F. Austin to settle Texas in 1820. A graduate of St. Christopher's School in Richmond, Virginia, he interrupted his studies at Princeton University to enlist in the US Army during the Korean War, where he earned three bronze stars. Following his tour of Korea and Japan he returned to his native Mexico City where he completed his BA at the University of the Americas (formerly Mexico City College) on the GI Bill. There he met and married his first wife, Patricia Lee. He later received his MA at UC Berkeley and entered a doctoral program at NYU. During that time he was awarded a Fulbright Scholarship to Buenos Aires to study contemporary Argentine literature. Later he spent several years living and traveling in Europe, and trying his hand at film production.

Bill returned to California to teach Spanish at UC Santa Barbara. In 1969 he was recruited to join the inaugural Merrill College faculty at UC Santa Cruz where he helped develop the Latin American Core Course. There he met his future wife and lifelong companion, Laura. He became the director of an experimental education program for Latino prisoners at San Quentin State Prison until he and Laura moved to San Cristobal de Las Casas, Chiapas, Mexico, where they opened CIELO, a school devoted to his goal of language learning and cross-cultural understanding.

By the late 1970's Bill and Laura settled in Santa Cruz, but continued to operate a summer session in Mexico, at CIELO. Bill taught Spanish at Watsonville High School where he inspired a generation of underserved youth to pursue higher education, including several who attended Princeton and other top universities. He was also an early pioneer of technology-assisted learning and use of the Internet. After retirement, he served on the board of CASA to advocate for foster youth, dedicated himself to environmental stewardship as a docent at Rancho del Oso Nature Center and taught Spanish at Cabrillo College as a member of the adjunct faculty.

Always a lover of the outdoors, Bill enjoyed many winter ski trips to the family cabin in Big Trees, California, and summer camping trips throughout the West. His love of travel continued throughout his life, including memorable trips to Europe, Mexico, Maui, Costa Rica and Cuba, as well as many a Wednesday afternoon spent sailing the Monterey Bay with local friends. He also opened his home to international travelers and delighted in meeting new friends during his travels abroad.

Throughout his life and even in spite of his long battle with Parkinson's Disease, Bill possessed a positive spirit and was a bright light of hope, inspiration and joy. He had a remarkable disposition and was a source of compassion and wisdom to so many who had the good fortune of knowing him. His great legacy has been evident in the extensive outpouring of testimonials and expressions of love following his death.

Bill is survived by his wife, Laura, his daughters, Sarah Caldwell (Laji Kattungal) and Lucy Donovan (Jeff), and his son, Andy Caldwell. He also leaves behind his beloved grandchildren Rosie Morales, and Alex and Julia Donovan. His ability to remain active and a vibrant member of the community during his illness was due to the incredible support, care and devotion provided by his beloved wife, Laura. Bill was also deeply loved by his dear friends and benefited from the wonderful support of members of Cabrillo College Stroke Center, Valley Convalescent Hospital and Hospice of Santa Cruz.

A memorial celebration of Bill's life will be held on Sunday, April 13, at 2:00 pm, at Oakwood Chapel, 3301 Paul Sweet Road, Santa Cruz, with a reception immediately following at Chaminade. Private burial will take place at a later time. In lieu of flowers, the family suggests contributions in Bill's name to the Cabrillo College Stroke Center or Hospice of Santa Cruz County. If you would like offer condolences to Bill's family, share your memories and light a candle in his honor please visit www.scmemorial.com

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Funeral Home

Santa Cruz Memorial Oakwood Chapel
3301 Paul Sweet Rd Santa Cruz, CA 95065
(831) 475-2464

Published in Santa Cruz Sentinel on Apr. 5, 2014
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