Former Science Department Chair, Oli Crichton, Passes Away

Oliver Windthorp Crichton (1918 - 2013)

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Oliver Windthorp Crichton

Age 94, died unexpectedly on Friday, January 25, 2013 from natural causes. He lived at Cokesbury Village in Hockessin, DE for the past 15 years and was preceded in death by his wife of 65 years, Katherine Peevey, in January 2011.

Oli was a distinguished biology teacher at Tower Hill School in Wilmington from 1951 until his retirement in 1983, and served as chair of the Science Department. The Crichton Science Award, given to the most promising science student each year at Tower Hill, was named in his honor. In 1978 the National Association of Science Teachers presented him with their "Outstanding Biology Teacher Award". Oli was awarded several National Science Foundation grants for botanical research, and studied marsh crabs and the wetlands ecosystem at the University of Delaware Bayside Laboratory in Lewes. He later became an expert lichenologist, studying the ways lichens indicate environmental stress. His extensive collection of lichen specimens is housed at Delaware State University in Dover.

Born in Canaan, CT, son of artist Edith Oliver Crichton and Episcopalian minister Arthur Crichton, Oli grew up in church rectories in Vergennes and Newport, Vermont. He attended Bishops College School in Quebec, Canada, received his B.S. in Biology from Harvard University in 1941, and an M.A. in Botany from Syracuse University in 1946.

Oli was stationed at the Army Air Force Base in Marfa, Texas 1943-1945 where he taught navigation and instrument flying. There he met his wife, Katherine Ellen Peevey, who was a secretary at the Air Base. At the end of the war, they returned to live in Manlius, NY, where daughters Edith G. and Jo Ellen were born. In 1951 the family moved to Wilmington, DE where Oli started teaching math and science at Tower Hill. In 1954 the family expanded dramatically with the birth of triplet sons Oliver Jr., David, and Thomas. In his spare time Oli made furniture, gardened, and was active in the Delaware Association of Retarded Citizens. In retirement, Oli continued his work in botany, and also carved abstract wood sculptures. At Cokesbury Village, he expanded his art practice to include watercolors, creating many paintings of local landscapes and architecture up until his death. His water colors and sculptures have been exhibited at Cokesbury and The Center for Creative Arts in Yorklyn, PA.

Oli is survived by all five of his children, as well as by 2nd cousins Sharon Crichton, Sheila Sjoberg, Heather Gilley, Bonnie Tauwala, and Jim Crichton. He will be remembered with love and affection by Cokesbury residents and staff, colleagues from Tower Hill School, and many former students. 

A memorial celebrating his life will be held at 2 pm on February 23, at Cokesbury Village in Hockessin, DE. In lieu of flowers, the family asks that donations be made to the In lieu of flowers, the family asks that donations be made to The ARC of Delaware, 2 S. Augustine St., Wilmington, DE 19804.

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Published in The News Journal from February 10 to February 11, 2013