Valjean Philip Foubert
was born on May 29, 1924 in
He died at age 82, in the early morning of Friday, March
9, 2007, at home in
family hospice care in Federal Way, Washington. He
sailed off peacefully one early morning, having folded
his own arms across his chest in a voluntary gesture of
Family and friends,
including former students from fifty years ago,
celebrated his life at a
in Issaquah, Washington, before
his burial at Sunset
Hills Cemetery in Bellevue, on March 13, 2007. A
military Honor Guard saluted his
U.S. Army service in World War II
with traditional burial honors, including the
presentation of the U.S. Flag, and the
playing of 'Taps.' There were no dry eyes:
'Taps' can do that to you --
its long sorrowful
notes of farewell evoke the unspeakable, summoning us to
inescapable final goodbye.
This website offers a
place of remembrance for those who knew and loved
Val Foubert: to honor his memory, to celebrate qualities
of his inimitable character, and to share stories about
the distinctive person that he was. Though
'departed,' he remains vivid in your and my interior
space, a compelling presence in lasting memory.
This is Val Foubert's flash music player of his all-time
Press to hear 'Fern Hill'
about Dylan Thomas
Get Adobe Reader 8.1.2
Teacher, Soldier, Musician
marked the first anniversary of his death. On that date, we began to
Val Foubert 'on the internet' with a modest buffet of
humanities appetizers -- words, images, music
and videos -- to remind us of geographic and conceptual spaces Val
experienced and enjoyed
as part of his personal and professional
journey. He has gone, we can only re-imagine.
Provided that you encourage this process, we will soon complete our review
of his remaining
papers, then deliver the main course of this digital
banquet -- the publication of
A Life Remembered. We promise an 'illustrated
that you will soon be able
to download as a printable e-book from
Sign up here
for an email notification
Meantime, we remember and celebrate Val Foubert, observing this first year
since his passing:
Listen to Hemingway's brief 1954 Nobel Prize acceptance speech.
View text here
by displaying photo Slide Images
that symbolize important periods or touchstones
in his life, work,
and passionate enthusiasms. We will soon present additional
was a teacher for more than 50 years. He received his
Teaching Certificate from Seattle University in 1951, and then
taught high school for one year each at small schools in Morton and
Puyallup, both in Washington, and for one year at Pomona High School,
California, before establishing himself as a
of Humanities, Chair of the English Department, and
winning Speech & Debate Coach
at Mercer Island High School,
Washington, for the period 1955-60.
Mercer High School, Val Foubert
and colleague Jim Wichterman
generated regular parental thunderstorms by teaching their students to
challenge societal norms and question all manner of authority.
'Foubert, who died recently, taught English.
His texts were cutting edge: Atlas
The Hidden Persuaders,
and the acerbic writings of H.L.
-- Tim Jones,
Chicago Tribune article on Stanley Dunham |
see the video story
Mercer Island Student Pat Noonan
For 7 years, Val commuted from Seattle across
confers with Mr.
Val Foubert in 1958
the 'Lake Washington Floating Bridge' to Mercer Island
Evidence of Val's teaching influence
available at left by clicking the image of Val's faculty
colleague at Mercer Island High School, Jim Wichterman.
Val and Jim both had Stanley Dunham as one of their
at Mercer Island HS. She was the mother of
current U.S. presidential
candidate, Barack Obama.
In outlining their impact on her, the video by Tim Jones
explains the edgy teaching methods Val and Jim used to challenge
their students to think for themselves -- often to the dismay of parents
Val moved to Sammamish High School at its founding in 1960.
taught and coached there for
22 years, from
1960-1982, before retiring, at age 58, from 30 years of secondary school
But he soon discovered another community of
students -- senior adults committed to life-long
learning, at the
TELOS Program of Bellevue Community College.
Humanities courses at Bellevue Community College
teaching career for another 20 years, bringing
great satisfaction to
him and to his TELOS students, enabling
many new friendships. There
he met poet Agnes Thompson, his
late life soul-mate; they spent
sixteen happy years together.
Val was unstinting as principal care
provider during her final several
years of decline with Alzheimer's
Disease. Following her death in 1998, Val edited and published a
volume of her poetry and papers,
The Girl from Spenser Street.
For Whom The Bell Tolls
by Ernest Hemingway was a leading favorite on Val's personal
list of great novels.
Overview of the novel
story chronicles the experiences of American college professor Robert
Jordan, a volunteer fighting in the International Brigade for the
Loyalist cause in the Spanish Civil War. His idealism is tempered by the
complex realities of his experience of war. Yet his courage enables him
to remain devoted to the cause even as he faces death. The novel was
published in 1940 to resounding critical and popular acclaim. A film
adaptation was released in 1943 starring Gary Cooper and Ingrid Bergman.
original movie trailer
won the Nobel Prize for Literature in
1954 'for his powerful, style-forming mastery
art of modern narrative, and for the influence that he has exerted on
Val often assigned Hemingway in his Humanities
classes. One summer, he took an advanced
graduate course in English Literature at the University of Washington in
which Hemingway's work
featured prominently. Maxwell
Perkins, a famous editor at Scribner's, wrote that 'If the function of a
is to reveal reality, no one has
ever so completely performed it. For Whom The Bell Tolls
as one of the best war novels of all time.'
cherished the powerful themes in the novel: loyalty and courage,
love and defeat. The book also spoke to his own experience
young soldier in World War II, surviving the ordeal of the Allied
Invasion of Normandy on D-Day, June 6, 1944. Robert Jordan, the
central character in the novel, embodied
what Val long held as a basic truth:
that with strength,
perseverance, and creativity, even while threatened
meaninglessness of the universe, the individual is ultimately
responsible for determining the meaning of his own existence. Val
existentialist writers, especially Camus, Sartre, and Dostoevsky.
Finally -- in the joint context of Nobel Prize acceptance speeches and
literary recommendations -- another great writer's speech deserves
won the 1949 Nobel Prize in Literature for 'his powerful and
contribution to the modern American novel.'
Val discussed the content of Faulkner's Nobel Prize
Acceptance Speech on many
occasions, in various contexts.
The passage on which he focused most often was this:
I believe that man will not merely endure: he will prevail. He is
immortal, not because he alone among creatures has an inexhaustible
voice, but because he has a soul, a spirit capable of compassion and
sacrifice and endurance. The poet's, the writer's, duty is to write
about these things. It is his privilege to help man endure by
lifting his heart, by reminding him of the courage and honor and
hope and pride and compassion and pity and sacrifice which have been
the glory of his past.
In reflecting on Faulkner's eloquent statement in the context of Val Foubert's
in reading and teaching literature, it seems clear that Val succeeded --
precisely as a
over many years -- in fulfilling Faulkner's mandate: to 'remind'
students of the
capacities of the human spirit, exhibited in the great literary works he took
in helping students at any time of life to discover for themselves.
In reviewing Faulkner's speech today, it is yet another passage which
surprises us by its
stunning relevance, though written 58 years ago:
Our tragedy today is a general and universal physical fear so long
sustained by now that we can even bear it. There are no longer problems
of the spirit. There is only the question: When will I be blown up?
Because of this, the young man or woman writing today has forgotten the
problems of the human heart in conflict with itself which alone can make
good writing because only that is worth writing about, worth the agony
and the sweat.
Listen to the rest of Faulkner's short 1949
Nobel Prize acceptance speech. View
[please allow a few seconds]
by playing Music Selections
that he identified as his Top Tunes -- many were
explicitly specified on a 'List of Favorites' he wrote down at age 77,
which surfaced in his
remaining private papers.
'Playlist' at upper left, then, is very much Val's own. There
few major surprises, as the music marked his generation.
Val was 14 in 1938 when Benny Goodman played the Carnegie
Hall Concert that lit the bonfire of the 'Big Band Swing Era' in
He loved big band drumming, learned to play in high school,
and then 'played on' professionally as a second career
years, finally working his last big band job with the
Orchestra on 'Big Band Saturday Night
Dance' at the Seattle Center
in December 1992, at age 67.
the Controls top left to start, stop or pause
songs; to play a
different selection, click on the title and it will play.
by exhibiting a small set of web Video
Selections from films that Val liked very much:
you can sample
the video clips from
Val's favorite movies here.
He liked 'classics,' often based on novels of established quality
[for example, To Kill
a Mockingbird by Harper Lee],
but whether or not these films satisfy your
Val would be ready to argue that you
should appreciate them as much as he did!
click on movie poster to visit video samples
- by bringing Dylan Thomas back to perform his
own incomparable rendition of one
of Val's very favorite poems,
[along with 'Ode to a Nightingale'
by John Keats,
which we will soon present here as an audio
We provide the text of the poem to accompany the Audio
Performance, available using
the control at left
[below the photo of Dylan Thomas]. The poem renders in an
appropriate way Val's own expressed sentiment on
his boyhood, youth -- and time itself.
He recalled running his 'heedless ways'
as 'prince of the apple towns' from the Wenatchee
apple valley and
the creek in Cashmere, to the forested green shores of Lake Sammamish
pastoral road amid the farms and lumber mills, on the way to
school in Issaquah.
Time. 'Time let me play, but little did I
know.' Val often compared
the existential immediacy of childhood
and youth to the suffering
brought by later cares and the vexing
decline into old age. In this,
he was entirely 'human.'
In the words of the poem, 'Time held him green and
he sang in his chains like the
sea.' Characteristically, Val was known
to punctuate his response to
mortality using blunt expressions somewhat
less poetic in nature. If
you can feel the power of 'Fern Hill,'
through its audio performance, you will have an empathic sense of
Val felt especially during the final decade of his life.
by publishing a brief selection of
from family members and friends,
students from long ago, on whom the imprint of his demanding teaching
and supportive coaching has remained engraved. Scores of students
found lessons of
lasting value in the content and manner of his
teaching and coaching.