Obituary: David W. Bedell

Grandfather, teacher, coach, adventurer, traveler

David Bedell, 79, died of sudden heart failure on Friday, January 12.

“David W. Bedell lived a life of kindness, humor, action, and adventure,” his family shared. His wife Donna said, “David would consider it the best way to go out. It was the perfect last week of his life. Tuesday was bridge. Wednesday was 18 holes of golf. Thursday was tennis, and that night he officially greeted new residents for the opening of the Cedars.” The Cedars is the new residential building at Mt. San Antonio Gardens, where the Bedells have lived since 2018.

His love of challenge extended to his 34 year career teaching English and coaching cross country, tennis, and golf at Glendora High School. At his retirement in 2001, the school newspaper published a tribute ending with these words: “Because Bedell sets the bar higher, just a little out of reach, students are forced to work harder, to learn. Former students … agree; he gave them a unique appreciation and respect for not only English literature but education. He taught them to love a challenge.”

“But leavening the challenge was David’s sense of humor,” his family said. “One of his seniors wrote, ‘I had so much fun in Bedell’s class. He taught me how to write better and made English fun through his corny jokes and playing devil’s advocate during class discussions.’”

He loved hiking and was proud of climbing Mount Whitney. His favorite place in the world was the Sierra Nevada, where he backpacked with family and friends. His love of the great outdoors, and locally the Claremont Hills Wilderness Park, led to his active memberships in the Pomona Valley Audubon Society and on the board of Claremont Wildlands Conservancy.

The couple were passionate travelers, visiting 52 countries. Their most adventurous trips were with Earthwatch, where they helped scientists do field work for research projects. They made 19 Earthwatch trips, some extremely challenging, to remote corners of the planet. They tracked orangutans in the jungles of Borneo, collected katydids in the Amazon for the Smithsonian, searched for golden eagles on Scotland’s Island of Mull, and surveyed coral reefs in the remote Togian Islands of Indonesia.

This life of action, exploration, and adventure began in Detroit, where he was born in 1944. After his father died young, his mother moved herself and her five children to Cedar Falls, Iowa, near her family. In 1967 he graduated from the University of Northern Iowa and married Donna. When he accepted the Glendora teaching job, they moved to California, where they raised their children, Scott and Melanie.

While he was teaching, he earned a master’s degree in English at the University of La Verne. “David’s tough, active, no-nonsense exterior and offbeat sense of humor could not disguise his gentle, warm, and generous heart,” his family said. The couple were well known for welcoming newcomers. Over the years they hosted more than 100 Claremont Colleges international students in their home, and for two years, he was president of the volunteer support group Community Friends of International Students. His wife provided an example of his relationship with international students: “When a young woman from Myanmar knocked on their door to introduce her new boyfriend, they encountered David’s frown. His first words were, ‘You’re late.’ Then came the sly smile and the twinkle in his eyes as he opened the door. She regarded David as her substitute father and still keeps in touch.”

Charlene Martin, a close friend of the Bedells for many years and former director of International Place at the Claremont Colleges, said, “David would fix students’ bicycles and furniture and was on call for the duration of their stays. At the annual International Festival, David always arrived at 6 a.m. to set up a drinks booth and stayed at his post until clean-up was over at 7 p.m. Friends like David don’t grow on trees.”

“And that’s the kind of friend he was to many of his fellow residents at Mt. San Antonio Gardens,” his family added. “He would fix a bike, unplug a sink, and invite you to join him and Donna for dinner.”

He is survived by his wife Donna; son Scott Bedell; daughter Melanie Vandenberg (Ron); grandsons Alan Bedell and Jack Vandenberg; brothers Lee and Dan Bedell; and sister Toni Butler.

He was predeceased by his sister Deb Tope.

Donations in his memory may be made to Pomona Valley Audubon Society at, or to California Botanic Garden at


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