As a family we are writing to honor the life of Walter H. Tappan, a father, grandfather, brother, and son--he was many things to different people, but most of all to everyone that knew him, he was a teacher. Whether that lesson came in the form of a English class, a ski day with his daughters at Jay, or merely a thought provoking conversation with a loved one, there’s no doubt in every aspect of his life he imparted knowledge. He was known as an excellent writer, and it’s only fitting that as a family we both have the privilege and challenge of fulfilling his last writing assignment, this one.
Walter House Tappan II was born in 1934 in Newton, Massachusetts to his loving parents; Herrick Ogden Tappan and Eugenie Brown Tappan. Walter died at 86 in the loving arms of his wife, Jo-Ann Potter on December 29th, 2020.
Walter grew up in Newton, Massachusetts and summered in North Hero, Vermont every summer of his life. North Hero is his favorite spot on earth, where he became an avid tennis player, passionate golfer and fabulous waterskier. He was a beautiful athlete; graceful, strong and competitive.
As a boy he had an entrepreneurial business in his basement in Newton, Massachusetts. He had a printing press and offered these services for a fee, creating flyers and pamphlets, as requested. Walter met his first wife, Sandra Hazen Rogow, who was from Brooklyn, as she summered with her grandparents in North Hero. Walter and Sandra enjoyed an adventurous, loving marriage for over 30 years and they had two beautiful daughters, Suzanne and Heidi. Walter taught his daughters to think critically, play tennis, waterski, downhill ski and passed on his love of nature. Walter loved all animals, especially birds. He would walk home every day from work, during lunch to refill his 20+ bird feeders and replenish the squirrels food as well.
Walter went to Williams College and majored in geology and English. After graduation he taught at Haverford College in Pennsylvania. He and Sandra bought a cow barn and 500 acres in Enosburg, Vermont and moved their young family to Vermont in 1966. He renovated the cow barn and built a beautiful home for his family there. In 1968, they moved to St Albans where he would spend the next 30+ years, teaching English at BFA, focusing on Poetry and Philosophy. His daughter, Heidi had him as a teacher her senior year and says without a doubt, he was the best teacher she has ever had.
The impact that Walter made on his students was immeasurable and he was an inspiration to almost everyone he engaged with. Through his unique style of teaching and his ability to engage the minds of his students, he developed a huge number of student fans, who claimed that he changed the course of their lives, even among his peers. As one peer documented and many said over the years, “You have a genius for needling the thin skins...all of our thin skins...and provoking some self-questioning at all levels.” He was well known for his quick wit and dry humor that would entertain all. He loved to engage in intelligent conversation and especially debate at length; while continually opening minds to new possibilities through his deep questioning.
In 2006 he remarried Jo-Ann Potter, who was a retired grade school teacher and they were often referred to as ‘The Lovebirds’. They lived happily together in Colchester and enjoyed time with their children, 11 grandchildren and 2 great-grandchildren. They loved to go on beautiful B&B trips, chat about their teaching careers, be in nature and simply spend time together.
Walter leaves his loving wife, Jo-Ann Potter, his daughters, Suzanne Butterfield and Heidi Tappan. Their spouses Grant Butterfield and Doug Nedde. His step-children, David Potter and Lisetta Wiese-Hansen and Lisa Potter. His grandchildren Herrick and Dina O’Connor, Brittany DuPont, Quinn and Brecken Butterfield, Jaeger and Hans Nedde. His step-grandchildren; Gregory, Mark and Sarah Potter, Erik Hansen, Megan and Jared Bromley and his great grandchildren, Scarlett and Saoirse O’Connor. His sister, Eugenie Tappan Fluke and nephew Chuck Fluke and many nieces, nephews and cousins.
Walter will be deeply missed by his family and friends, while continually celebrated in remembrance of his sparkling eyes, quick wit, engaging conversation, beautiful athleticism and deep love of nature.
The family thanks Mable Ridge Memory Care and BAYADA hospice for their compassionate and loving care and support.
Services will be private and at the convenience of the family.
Memorial contributions can be made in Walter’s name to The National Audubon Society ATTN: Donations, 225 Varick Street, 7th floor, New York, NY 10014
The family also invites you to share memories by visiting www.awrfh.com.