Beloved teacher, husband and father
William “Bill” Charles Rasmussen, a longtime Claremont resident, died unexpectedly on Monday, July 22, 2013 at Kaiser Hospital in Fontana after emergency surgery, with his entire family by his side. He was 63.
Mr. Rasmussen was born in Ames, Iowa in 1949 to William Sr. and Alba Rasmussen. His sister, Linda, was born 4 years later. The family moved to southern California when he was 6. Mr. Rasmussen was always a good student and an accomplished athlete. He was also a devoted big brother, interviewing and evaluating many of his sister’s prospective suitors.
After graduating from Claremont High School in 1967, Mr. Rasmussen attended the University of California, Santa Barbara, where he met his future wife, Diana “Dinny” Weaver, at freshmen orientation. He was a member of Phi Delta Theta and was active in school politics.
Mr. Rasmussen and Dinny were married in September of 1970, at the start of their senior year. This September would have marked their 43rd anniversary. After graduating from UCSB with degrees in history, the Rasmussens attended graduate school at San Jose State. Once they completed their master’s degrees, they returned to Claremont. Ms. Rasmussen taught at Claremont High School and Mr. Rasmussen enrolled in a PhD program at the Claremont Graduate School, where he focused on 20th century American history.
In 1974, Mr. Rasmussen earned a teaching credential at the University of La Verne, and then he and his wife joined the Peace Corps. Both worked as teachers of English in the Central African Republic. They began their work at a rural lycee in Bouar before moving to the capital city of Bangui in 1975, where Mr. Rasmussen taught English literature at l’Université de Bokassa. Bright-eyed and eager for adventure, they braved giant ant attacks, dive-bombing bats and many a bowl of “mystery meat.”
Mr. Rasmussen narrowly survived an intestinal infection and a harrowing jeep ride to the capital, 400 kilometers away. They completed their tour of duty and returned to the States in 1978.
Mr. Rasmussen was hired as a teacher at the Calverton School in southern Maryland, where he taught subjects ranging from psychology to business law, served as college advisor and coached basketball, baseball and soccer. For most of his tenure at the Calverton School, he was also the assistant headmaster. During their time in Maryland, the Rasmussens welcomed 2 sons, Tony and Dan.
In 1988, homesick for California, the family returned to Claremont so that they could be close to Mr. Rasmussen’s parents and to his sister Linda’s family, including her husband, Dan Ridd, and daughters, Cameron and Maurgan. In 1991, Mr. and Ms. Rasmussen were blessed with a third son, David.
In Claremont, Mr. Rasmussen taught at Sycamore Elementary for 2 years and then at his alma mater, Claremont High School. At CHS, he taught English literature and Advanced Placement US history and was head of the history department. Mr. Rasmussen helped organize and was the teacher advisor for the Black Student Union, the Asian Pacific Student Organization and the speech and debate team, to name a few. Mr. Rasmussen involved himself enthusiastically in the lives of his students, providing guidance and help to any student in need.
For Mr. Rasmussen, teaching was more than a job. It was a calling that continued even when he was out of the classroom, teaching catechism and coaching Little League for all 3 of his sons. With his teaching partner Lowell Rice and middle son Daniel, Mr. Rasmussen regularly provided color commentary for the local cable broadcasts of school sporting events.
From 2005 until July 22, Mr. Rasmussen taught at Fontana High School. He was deep into preparation for the upcoming fall term, bringing a stack of research material with him to the hospital on Monday.
“Bill honored his students with his earnestness, consistency and openness, and he cherished each and every one of them,” his family shared. “He let them know that he believed in them and thought them imaginative, capable and unique, and he struggled every day to let them know that they were each pearls without price. His students returned this love in kind, immortalizing their ‘Mr. Raz’ in affectionate cartoons, ceramics and song. It was a mushy ol’ love affair. Bill made us all more than we are.”
Mr. Rasmussen is survived by his wife Dinny and his 3 sons, Tony, Dan and David; by his daughters-in-law, Deborah and Nicole; by his sister, Linda; and by “a host of wonderful souls.”
Services for Mr. Rasmussen will be held on Monday, July 29 at 10 a.m. at Our Lady of the Assumption Catholic Church, followed by interment at Oak Park Cemetery.
Donations may be made to the William Charles Rasmussen Scholarship Fund; proceeds will go to Fontana High School graduating seniors. For details, please email the Rasmussen family at email@example.com.