RUMFORD – Barry P. Titcomb was remembered as a loving father and teacher who encouraged his family and students and had a zest for life at a memorial service Tuesday afternoon at the Mountain Valley High School Muskie Auditorium.
Titcomb, 62, died unexpectedly of a heart attack on May 11. He taught math at the high school for 16 years and was the department’s chairman. He lived in Weld.
Hundreds of family members, friends, current and former students and colleagues filled the auditorium as recorded music by Simon and Garfunkel, Louis Armstrong and Cat Stevens played and a slide show depicting Titcomb with his family, riding his tractor, Miss Blue, and spending time in the outdoors was shown overhead.
“Dad was known for being late, but he left us early,” said his son, Mark. “He was a spiritual man of integrity and honor. You could take him at his word. He was spontaneous and exuberant. Dad was driven to do his best.”
Many of his students said he had a way of making mathematics exciting, and getting through to those who had difficulty with the subject.
Kristian Martineau, a 2005 graduate of MVHS who now attends the University of Maine at Machias, said she was always a terrible math student, at least until she had Titcomb as a teacher.
“When I had to write an essay on a person who changed my life, Mr. Titcomb’s name came first in my mind. He loved math. He’d explain it and encourage me. He made me love math. Now, I look forward to it,” she said.
He not only offered encouragement to his students, but also to staff.
Chris Decker, the assistant principal at the high school, said Titcomb was supportive of both him and Principal Matt Gilbert, both young administrators.
“He really wanted Matt and me to succeed,” he said.
Pastor Bob Farley of Norridgewock and a 33-year friend of Titcomb, presented the eulogy.
“To many of us, Barry was 10 feet tall and bulletproof, but most of us will remember where we were when we heard (he had died,)” said Farley. “He was funny and fun-loving. He loved life and was full of life.”
“He came to find out what was truth to him. He strongly believed in the gospel of Christ,” Farley continued.
Titcomb’s daughter, Meghan Paulien, said her father was always available to listen.
“I could always take a ride with him, and he’d offer his wisdom. He would tell me God was with me, no matter what. I was so blessed to have such a wonderful dad. I know I will see him again in the clouds of glory,” she said.
Gilbert was one of several staff who attended the memorial service in a blue shirt and khaki pants. This, he said, was the school uniform.
Gilbert said Titcomb brought an intense passion to everything he did, whether it was math, the Red Sox, his family, or his home in Weld.
“He could have been anything he wanted to be, and he made his choice because he knew he could be a good influence on students. I’m grateful for every minute I had,” said Gilbert as his voice cracked.
A group of high school students attended the service dressed in their math team blue T-shirts.
To math team member Ben Hornsby, a senior from Mexico, Titcomb was the most influential person in his life. To Aaron Cayer, a junior from Rumford, he made math easy.
“I was always shy about math. He just played with it, and it helped me so much,” Cayer said.
Another math team member, Bob Heikkinen, a junior from Rumford, said Titcomb was the moral compass for the school.
“When people didn’t know what to do, he did,” Heikkinen said.
Fellow math teacher Marshall Todd said Jesus was Titcomb’s role model.
And he offered some advice.
“If someone has made a difference in your life, let them know it,” he said.
Along with the music of the 1960s, two hymns were sung by Titcomb’s son Mark, and his wife, Karen, who sang “It Is Well With My Soul,” and by Superintendent Jim Hodgkin and Gilbert, who sang “Pass Me Not, O Gentle Savior.”
A Barry P. Titcomb Memorial Scholarship Fund has been set up. Contributions may be sent to Mountain Valley High School, 770 Hancock St., Rumford, ME 04276.
Among Titcomb’s survivors are his wife, Betty, who is an elementary literacy teacher in the district, his son, Mark, and daughter, Meghan.