Catalina Island News

Robert T. Rockwell, Jr.


February 14, 1947 - January 7, 2007
The island community was saddened with the passing of Avalon's beloved high school science teacher Mr. Rockwell. An estimated 750 people attended a celebration of life service on January 14 at Descanso Beach. The following eulogy was read at his service:

Robert T. Rockwell Jr. was born in Pasco, Washington on Valentine's Day in 1947. It is reported that he never missed a day of school growing up. Robert earned multiple degrees in the field of science. After moving to Seattle and working for Boeing Aircraft as a draftsman and renderer he moved to Carlsbad, New Mexico where he went back to school and received his teaching credential. Recruited by Long Beach Unified School District he began teaching in Avalon in the Fall of 1977. In the early years, Robert taught typing as well as science and was instrumental in the creation of Avalon's first computer lab. Robert's Avalon career stretched over 30 years, 8 principals, and 5 class sponsorships and their proms. In recent years, Robert became a National Board Certified Teacher and was responsible for Avalon receiving two BP Energy $10,000 grants.

Robert had a special connection to each person he met. He has been described as one who was unselfish and shared himself without judgment. He was considered truly a remarkable man, intelligent, gentle, honest, caring, so hard working and very accomplished. Robert and his teaching became legend as each new generation faced his classes. He stood as one of the pillars to our school's foundation and an icon in the community of Avalon.

His compassion was evident as remembered by Jani Hall when her house burned and Robert and Anita instantly offered their home for as long as they needed. He offered help on multiple levels, anytime at school, to both students and to needy teachers". Jani and Karen Hall share they became better people and teachers for knowing him.

He took joy in breaking from his routine and long hours at work to join in the celebrations that were most valuable to students' lives. He attended quinceaneras, school plays, student art shows, sporting events, musical performances, and graduations. It was heartwarming to Robert when he reconnected with alumni and they shared their achievements and how they came to value their high school experiences and the role it has played in their life today. In their home, there is a large sweatshirt collection sent to him by students from various colleges, thinking him for being fair, consistent and believing in them.

One of Robert's mantras was "either you are teaching or you are learning" and "teaching reinforces your learning". Because his expectations were high and not just for himself but certainly for his students, he believed those he taught could reach their potential by learning, achieving through hard work which he knew would give them that sense of a job well done. His science projects reflected both a learning and teaching experience.

Students wanted to fulfill those expectations and through experiences such as student presentations and projects, the students took ownership of their learning and in their own right became teachers to one another and to him, demonstrating to others what they learned.

Robert's firm belief "never cease to challenge oneself" was reflected whether he was at school as a teacher, engaged in kung fu, or flying. His commitment to the martial arts awarded him a black belt in one discipline and a green belt in his latest effort.

His love for his family was unselfish and compassionate. His father passed away some years ago. Robert phoned his mother, Doris Louise every Sunday at 9 pm, 10 pm her time in Twin Falls, Idaho. He stayed connected to family by sharing the joys of the family's births, birthdays, road trips and gatherings. He took pride in their accomplishments, dreams, and memorable antics. His brother, Richard and his son, Trae were the treasures of his soul.

He loved his wife unconditionally and gave freedom to her passions. They supported each other's independence and yet, they were the best of companions.

Robert kept high standards and will remain an inspiration for us all.

Donations may be made to:

Robert Rockwell Scholarship Fund
Avalon Shcool
PO Box 557
Avalon, CA 90704.