GLENDORA >> When Van Windham graduated Glendora High, he had one career goal: become a foreign diplomat. So he moved to Washington, D.C., studied international relations at American University, then joined a new government program that was sending young people abroad, the Peace Corps. It was 1967.
“The Peace Corps transformed him,” Windham’s daughter Colleen Windham-Hughes said. He spent two years in the countryside outside Sao Paolo, Brazil, delivering milk to children, she said. “So when he came back, he wanted to be a teacher and serve children.”
For more than 40 years, Windham followed through with his mission, eventually becoming a bilingual teacher, counselor, elementary school principal and church choir director. The longtime Glendoran died early Sunday, his family said. He was 68.
Van Windham was born on Dec. 31, 1945, in Lake Charles, Louisiana, the youngest of Allene and Ray Windham’s four children. The family moved to Glendora when Windham was a baby, joining the Glendora United Methodist Church and becoming active in the community. Windham became a drum major at Glendora High, graduating in 1963, and graduated from American University in 1967. He became fluent in Portuguese during his time in Brazil, Windham-Hughes said, and earned his teaching credential and master’s in education upon his return from the Peace Corps.
In 1971, while he was teaching in a small, two-school district, Windham served on an interview panel for a new teacher they were hiring.
“There were three people on the panel when I went for my interview: the superintendent, the bilingual director and Van,” Julie Windham remembered. “And after the interview he told them, ‘I’m going to marry her.’ ”
After teaching next door to each other for the school year, the couple got married in December 1972 and had their first child two years later. In 1976, the growing family moved back to Glendora and took over operations at Windham School, a preschool Van’s parents had started in 1965.
Windham started working for the Rowland Unified School District as a principal at Northam Elementary in 1979, then moved over to Hurley Elementary as the principal there in 1990. He retired in 2011, four years after he was diagnosed with cancer. Click HERE for entire story.
A celebration of life will be held at 2 p.m. Saturday at Glendora UMC, 201 E. Bennett Ave., Glendora. In lieu of flowers, donations can be sent to Rowland Unified School District for the Van Windham Memorial, or to Glendora UMC for the organ restoration project.