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Neil's Story

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AMESBURY, MA - On February 11, 2018, after a 13-year-long battle with leukemia, Neil Emerson Stilphen died gazing at his beloved wife of 46 years, in their home, surrounded by love and books and warmth. Neil was a wondrously complex and multifaceted man of many talents, interests, and abilities. Born in Coral Gables, Fla., in 1944, he was raised in Coconut Grove, Fla.; Ipanema, Brazil; and Long Island, N.Y., before settling with his family in Massachusetts. Neil graduated Cum Laude with a B.A. in Psychology from Springfield College and was a doctoral student in Human Development at UMass Amherst. In 1985, Neil moved to Amesbury, Mass., which would remain his home for the next 33 years.
Neil, a consummate educator, began his teaching career in Boston's inner-city Youth Corp, moved to an innovative, public elementary-school program in Hartford, Conn., and later became director of a Living and Learning School in Springfield and then Methuen, Mass. Mid-career, he worked for the Department of Social Services and Children's Protective Services in Lawrence, Mass., and, as an LCSW, he did court investigations for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. In 1994 he returned to the field of education, serving with great pride as Math Chair and Science teacher at Sparhawk School in Amesbury, Mass., until 2005 when he was diagnosed with cancer. Guiding the development of Sparhawk, founded in 1994 by his wife, Louise, brought great joy to Neil's life. Together, they honed a mission and philosophy, trained teachers and taught students in progressive education methods. Neil developed the math and science programs at Sparhawk and oversaw their growth until his teaching retirement. He retained his love, input, and commitment to Sparhawk all of his days through his continued role as Executive Vice President.
Neil was a life-long learner. A man often found with a book or a story to tell, Neil left everyone who met him inspired. Teaching for him was not a vocation, but an avocation. He consumed knowledge like others drink water. And he was generous with his ideas, and generous with his excitement about the ideas of his colleagues and students. He was also a life-long athlete: captain of his football team at Springfield Technical High School; New England Champion wrestler in college; powerlifter and boxer after college, and in later years, a bodybuilder and hockey player until he was 73 years old. He was both a strong physical and mental presence in life. Passionate, deeply caring and philosophical, Neil, even in his last weeks, continued to derive pleasure from contemplation of the abstract.
Neil leaves behind the love of his life, his wife, Louise Stilphen of Amesbury, Mass.; his three children, Raine Carey of Belchertown, Mass., Lauren Rand Stilphen of Salem, Ore., Raymond Curtis Stilphen of Amesbury, Mass.; and his son-in-law, Marco Robles; his three brothers, Eric (Janet), Harry (Betty) of Deland, Fla., and Paul Stilphen of Suffield, Conn.; two grandchildren, Jacob and Joshua Carey; and many nieces and nephews. He was predeceased by his parents, Edith (Lavalette) Stilphen Cole (d. 2016) and Paul Leslie Stilphen (d. 1952).
There will be a Celebration of Life to honor Neil in the late spring. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the Sparhawk School PTO in Neil's memory.
Published on February 27, 2018
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