Remembering Dr Willsher

Posted 1 August 2019 2:34pm

Following the passing of Dr Willsher, students, staff and community members shared their reflections about Dr Willsher, many wrote letters to his wife, Jenny and son, Joshua. Some just wanted to remember how he had positively affected their lives. We have chosen to share some below, along with a gallery of photos, highlighting the breadth of Dr Willsher’s reach and the faces of those who had the opportunity to listen to his wise, authentic words.

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First a teacher. He, more than most, lived our values and infused us with passion and joy.

Mrs Anna Owen, Principal, addressing the students on 23 July 2019.

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He helped us see the wonder of the universe!

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Dr Willsher was one of the most warm and caring teachers in our school. He would make me laugh as he sometimes would tell me if I was reading in chapel, “Lettuces don’t pray so talk slowly and clearly.” When my parents and I where at an Open Day, or something like it, Dr Willsher came in and started having a deep conversation with my dad and me. I was always fascinated on how he could do these fantastic bird sounds that sounded like the real thing. And don’t get me started about Leo the monkey because really he was the funniest thing. He put his heart and soul into chapel and was always having a good time. Dr Willsher will always stay in the bottom of my heart. As an anonymous person said: Those who we love don’t go away, they walk beside us everyday, unseen unheard but always near, still loved, still missed and very dear.

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From the way he talked about his numerous hobbies, his experiences in places like Fiji and just about “…something [he] read the other day,” you could see that Dr Willsher was a man who lived his life to the fullest. He had never stopped learning, never stopped thinking and never stopped dreaming. This is what added to his depth of character and made him so interesting and valuable to talk to.

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When I heard the news, I shed so many tears over it. But one phrase kept repeating in my head; “He wept, Jesus wept,” and so I decided to turn to my bible and rather than weep and sit still, I chose to pray and did so for 15 minutes. Dr Willsher helped me in my journey in rediscovering my faith and in that moment his impact really shone through. He taught me so much, whether it was about patience, love or even meerkats.

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Last year my friends and I were in a committee with Dr Willsher as one of our committee teachers. I remember the awesome conversations we all had. One time during a meeting, he talked about living on after death and that you are dying as well as living, until death, when you finally live forever. Dr Willsher had this whole speech about it and it left my friends and I shook. It was really cool.

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He was my Year 8 History teacher. I walked into the first lesson dreading a semester of stressful History assignments, and I walked out feeling happy, joyful, and excited. Dr Willsher had planted a smile on my face that I would wear out of every History lesson that year. I never knew I loved History so much until I had Dr Willsher as a teacher. Now I want to study History at university and become a Historian when I’m older.

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The last conversation I had with him is what I will forever remember about him. I was having the worst day, I can't even remember why, and I ran into him. He stopped me and asked, “You know what I love about this school? I always seem to run into you! That's what I love!” At first, I thought it was silly. I was just another student and he was just another teacher. I couldn't make that much of a difference to him. It's only now I notice how I sit in the assembly and look for him. How I walk to the canteen expecting to see him chatting to the year nines. How I keep waiting to run into him and have another wonderfully weird conversation about chocolate or a riddle he'd given me.

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In Year 11, Dr Willsher helped with my English Assignment, which was to conduct an interview with a person that has an amazing life experience. I invited him because I always love his stories in class. And that interview indeed was great and I learned a lot from it as well. He talked about his teaching experiences beyond Australia, and he seemed so passionate about everything. He is a person that loved his life and enjoyed it. I felt like he was radiating happiness to me during that interview.

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He was able to make anybody feel relaxed and happy just by talking or making a funny joke. His passion for storytelling and constant happiness would make us forget about everything else in the world. Dr Willsher was a happy man. Coming to Chapel first thing in the morning was something I always looked forward to, knowing that there would be a bright smile greeting me at the door.

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I always marvelled at his patience with dealing with a room of rowdy teenage girls. However, as I reflect upon it, I realise that unlike most people Dr Willsher would match our rowdiness, often teaching us a new bird call or showing off his Pokemon hat or a new joke/story he had found interesting; and somehow, unbeknownst to us, we would leave the classroom with not only smiles on our faces but information carefully placed in our head. Dr Willsher could control a classroom by throwing in more disorder, his passion to teach pushing through it all. He was a teacher we could be comfortable around, and he would always make time to have a conversation with us.

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From the moment that Reverend Dr Willsher joined our school two years ago, we knew he wasn’t just like any other ordinary school chaplain; one that we saw once a fortnight in chapel or weekly in assembly, rather, he was a charming presence across the wider school community- perhaps, this is what made him different. His twinkling eyes and radiant smile, his quick wit and humour was ever present. Whether it be a conversation before and after assembly, or a “Hello,” around school, his positive presence was uplifting. He wasn’t just a regular chaplain, instead he was a teacher on many lessons; he led and taught by example, his kindness and generosity shone through in everything that he did- he has truly left a void. The school and our students have lost an irreplaceable presence.

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I could tell he loved teaching for the sake of spreading knowledge, to get our minds churning about a topic beyond base level of thinking, to inquire everything and to think beyond our perceptions, and it worked. In his classes I was a very passionate student, and I found the whole class was equally as passionate too, because that’s simply the effect he had as a teacher.

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David was an amazing man, the world has lost a good one.

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He was a superb colleague and a generous and collaborative professional.  It was an honour to work with David. I will do my utmost to uphold the ideals of kindness and compassion that he exemplified daily.

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Canberra Girls Grammar School memorial service for The Reverend Dr David Willsher will be held at the Chapel of the Annunciation on Wednesday, 7th August, 2019 at 5.30pm.

This is an opportunity for our community to celebrate Reverend Dr David’s lasting contribution to Canberra Girls Grammar School.

Light refreshments will be served. Please register your intention to attend here.

Photo above: Dr Willsher (centre) at the Final Year 11-12 Chapel in 2018.

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