Richard V. Upjohn, 82


Southborough – Richard Vassall Upjohn, 82, passed away suddenly Wednesday, Jan. 4, 2012 while working at Fay School in Southborough.

He will be greatly missed by his wife of over 55 years, Sabra (Gilcreast) Upjohn; his daughter, Emily Leist Vatis and her husband Chris; his sons, Richard and his wife Susan McNally and Stephen; his three grandchildren, Kate, Chris and Erin Leist; numerous friends and colleagues; and countless former students.

The son of Columbia University Fine Arts Professor Everard Upjohn and his wife Florence, he was raised in Minneapolis, New York City and Rindge, N.H., where the family maintained a summer home. He attended Kent School in Kent, Conn., before being graduated cum laude from Harvard University in 1951 with a degree in American History.

He supplemented his education with a lifetime of voracious reading, typically juggling several works of non-fiction and classic literature at any one time. He was a frequent patron of the area's public libraries.
Mr. Upjohn fulfilled his childhood dream of becoming an elementary and middle school teacher, first being hired by York Country Day School in York, Penn. In 1960, he accepted a position at Fay School, where he served in various capacities, including history teacher, athletic coach and administrator, and many years as the chairman of the History Department.

He officially retired from teaching duties in 1997. However, mentoring students was too much a part of Mr. Upjohn's essence, and he could not remain apart from the life he knew and loved. So, he continued to assist Fay in its operations and join in athletic activities with students. He loved being active, playing basketball, and to the end could be seen bicycling to work year-round, regardless of weather conditions.

An avid birdwatcher and hiker, he spent much of each summer during his adult life in Keene Valley, N.Y., in the heart of the high peaks region of the Adirondack Mountains. There for much of the 1950s to 1970s, he was the manager of Putnam Camp, a small, seasonal, rustic resort, often putting in a full day of physical labor before taking off in the late afternoon for a quick climb up one of the region's many mountains. It was at Putnam Camp where he met his eventual wife, Sabra, and after retiring from his managerial duties he continued to summer and hike in the region for the rest of his life.

He also led a popular trip for Fay School students up Mount Monadnock in New Hampshire every year, and was a regular participant in Southborough's annual foot race.

A lifelong environmentalist, Mr. Upjohn was instrumental in getting a recycling program started at Fay School long before such activities were fashionable, and became a member of the Southborough Conservation Commission, serving as its chairman for a number of years and continuing on as a member up until his death. Many town residents may recall seeing him happily rambling about the town's woodlands and wetlands as he performed his many inspections for the Commission.

He enjoyed music a great deal and was thrilled to be able to make music for others to enjoy as a dedicated member of the Bell Choir at Pilgrim Church for the past decade.

He was passionate about the outdoors. He maintained a small vegetable garden for much of his life, and could often be seen working barefoot in the backyard, painting the house, shoveling snow off the driveway, and otherwise performing a myriad of physical chores around his home.

Above all Dick Upjohn will be remembered as a loving husband, father, and grandfather and for his steadfast honesty and integrity, his tireless work ethic, as well as his love for birding, gardening, teaching, athletics, and especially hiking.

Memorial services will be held this Sunday, Jan. 8, at 2 p.m., in Pilgrim Congregational Church, Common Street in Southborough. The Morris Funeral Home of Southborough is assisting with arrangements.

In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be made to the Sierra Club or the
Massachusetts Audubon Society.

To send words of condolence to the family, please visit

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