Friday, May 25, 2018
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Professor played clarinet for opera, Toledo symphony

Richard M. Webster, 77, a retired University of Toledo music professor who was principal clarinetist with the Toledo Opera orchestra and the Toledo Symphony, died Wednesday in his West Toledo home of lymphoma.

He retired in 2000 after more than 35 years with UT. He'd also been assistant chairman of the music department.

“The department of music would not have functioned nearly as well as it did without him,” said Bernard Sanchez, a retired music professor and a former chairman. “He was highly respected by his students and colleagues.

“He was a first-rate clarinetist, and he had outstanding training at the Eastman School of Music,” Mr. Sanchez said. “As an administrator, he was extremely meticulous with record-keeping, and he had a wonderful relationship with students. He gave each student individual attention.”

He performed with faculty ensembles, and those musicians remained his friends, his wife, Rosalie, said.

“It was the performing and sharing and the creating of music — always wanting to reach for new music,” his wife said. He continued to perform with local ensembles after he retired.

As a teacher, “He was the kind of man who could take very complicated issues and [teach] them in easily accessible ways,” his wife said.

He was principal clarinetist of the Toledo Symphony in the 1960s and of the Toledo Opera orchestra about 40 years, Mr. Sanchez said. He moved to northwest Ohio in 1959, when he was hired as an instructor in music at Bowling Green State University.

Born in Minot, N.D., his family moved to Washington state when he was 2. He grew up on Whidbey Island in Puget Sound and was an Eagle Scout.

He was young when he took piano lessons, but “he just fell in love with the clarinet and stayed with it,” his wife said.

He was interested in astronomy as well and was a pre-astronomy major at Everett, Wash., Junior College and an astronomy major at University of California, Berkeley. He played in the university band and orchestra, but knew he couldn't continue that and his astronomy studies.

“He loved the music so, he just couldn't give it up,” his wife said. “He wanted to teach. He wanted to play. He was a performer.”

He received a bachelor's of music degree from the University of Washington in Seattle.

At the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, N.Y., he received a master's degree and pursued his doctorate. He performed and recorded with the pioneering Eastman Wind Ensemble under Frederick Fennell.

“He was there at such a golden moment,” his wife said.

Mr. Webster was a collector of newspaper comic strip art, which he believed to be a dying art form. He saved and cataloged the comics pages from newspapers. He also started buying and collecting original comic art work, from that of Toledoans Allen and John Saunders, who wrote “Mary Worth” and “Steve Roper,” to Charles Schulz of “Peanuts” fame. He collected editorial cartoons as well.

He donated his collection to Michigan State University. It took a moving van to transport his newspaper comics pages alone.

“My husband was a very generous man in many ways,” his wife said. “One mustn't brag, but I will.”

Surviving are his wife, Rosalie, whom he married July 11, 1971, and sister, Marion Parks.

Visitation will be in the Walker Funeral Home after 4 p.m. today. Services will be at 11 a.m. tomorrow in Epworth United Methodist Church, where the body will be after 10 a.m. The family suggests tributes to Hospice of Northwest Ohio or the Cherry Street Mission.

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