The Dearness-Tamblyn connection


Helena Smeenk Pritchard (BA'73)
Friday, March 28, 2003
Dr. John Dearness, circa 1950
Dr. William Tamblyn, circa 1938
It was the early sixties and I was not yet a teenager.

I remember substituting on my brother's paper route in north London where we lived a few blocks from campus. In fact, some of Rob's customers were Western students living in residence at Medway and Sydenham Halls.

One such address was 170 Tamblyn, which I wrongly assumed to be a street. Asking passersby for help, I was directed to Tamblyn Drive in University Heights, not far enough off the route to raise my suspicion. So off I set to find it - just as a horrific thunderstorm hit. Through crashing thunder and monstrous flashes of lightening, I walked up and down Tamblyn Drive. But no house number matched the one in my collection book. Soaked and defeated, I returned home knowing I had missed a regular.

Rob solved the mystery when he explained that 170 Tamblyn referred to a house in Medway Hall. I later learned the house was named after a beloved English professor, William F. Tamblyn, whose portrait hangs today in the foyer of University College. One of Western's early builders, Dr. Tamblyn was chair of the English department from 1901 until his retirement in 1944, after which he taught as a professor emeritus until 1947. Little did I know then I would someday marry his grandson, Wayne Pritchard.

While attending Western, I met Wayne as one of my brother's Fiji fraternity brothers who was studying business. In 1973, my summer job was teaching tennis at The London Hunt & Country Club where Wayne and his brother showed up regularly 'to hit.' Ten years later we were married. Wayne's late mother, Judy Tamblyn, not surprizingly, was also a Western grad (BA'47).

My next connection to the Tamblyns came in 1975. I was selling insurance for London Life, an unconventional career choice at the time for a single, 23-year-old woman, but I loved it. I received a message one day to call a prospective client who insisted a woman serve as her agent. That client was Louise Tamblyn, an English masters graduate who went on to become a staff member at Western. Louise and I hit it off immediately and have been friends ever since.

Another interesting family connection is the fact that Dr. Tamblyn was the son-in-law of Dr. John Dearness, the first Principal of the London Normal School and one of the founding members of Western's medical faculty. Wayne recalls sitting as a 4-year-old on Great Grandpa Dearness' lap at the remarkable age of 102. He was a teacher to the end and took great pleasure in the company of his great grandson's inquisitive mind.

One of Grandpa Tamblyn's sons, Walter, (Louise's father) also fosters fond memories of Western, where he played tennis and was the gold medal winner of his graduating class. In keeping with the love of English that runs in the Tamblyn blood, Walter and his brother Bob continue to take an interest in the many scholarships established at Western in tribute to Grandpa Tamblyn and Great Grandpa Dearness. These funds include the newly created W.F. Tamblyn Memorial Fund (supporting English graduate research through the Ontario Graduate Scholarship program); the W.F. Tamblyn and W.W. Tamblyn Memorial Scholarships in English Language & Literature; the Tamblyn Prize for first-year English students; the John Dearness Memorial Graduate Award Fund (graduate literacy award in Education) and the John Dearness Memorial Pre-Service Award Fund (pre-service literacy award in Education).

It is with awe and a strong feeling of connectedness that I continue to support Western and share the proud history I married into.

-Helena Smeenk Pritchard is a past president of Western's Women's Athletic Alumnae (2000-2002).















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