JOE PYNCHON / 1926-2008
La Pietra founder held high hopes for students
Joe Pynchon, who helped start La Pietra-Hawaii School for Girls and was its first leader, died early Wednesday morning in a nursing home in Boise, Idaho, his son, Joseph Pynchon Jr., said yesterday. He was 81.
"He did a wonderful job and was a wonderful dad," he said. "He was a guy who loved life, loved kids. Seeing kids become real contributing members of society was his first and foremost goal."
Ruth Tschumy, a former teacher and academic dean at La Pietra, said Pynchon had a good sense of humor, "was warm, sincere and, above all, kind."
"He brought out the best in children because he always treated them with respect and believed in their abilities," she recalled.
Before La Pietra, Pynchon taught English and chaired the English Department at Iolani School for two years, said David Coon, former director of studies at Iolani.
"He was a fantastic English teacher. He was well read," he said. "His students became very involved in whatever novel or whatever he assigned to them. They loved everything he had to say."
Coon, now a retired Big Island resident, remembers speaking with Pynchon daily through a hole in the wall between bathrooms in an apartment complex they lived in.
"You couldn't really see each other. We would joke, and that's the way our morning started," he said.
Pynchon helped found La Pietra, originally under the name Hawaii School for Girls, with Lorraine Cook and philanthropist Barbara Cox Anthony. The school opened its doors to 90 girls in September 1964 and enrolls 250 students today in grades 6 through 12. He also served as head of school.
In the 1969-70 school year, Pynchon held meetings with other independent school leaders who went on to form the Hawaii Association of Independent Schools, said Robert Witt, the association's executive director.
Pynchon, known as "Papa Joe" among school alumni, was instrumental in rallying parents and the community to move the campus to a Diamond Head home named La Pietra in the mid-'70s, said Alice Guild, chairwoman of the school's board of trustees.
"That was a major move, converting a private home into a functional school setting," Guild said. "The location was so beautiful and so inspiring."
Born in Boston, Pynchon is survived by wife Barbara; sons David Lewis, Joseph Jr. and William; daughter Anne Savage; nine grandchildren; and four great-grandchildren. Donations to La Pietra in memory of Pynchon can be mailed to 2933 Poni Moi Road, Honolulu, HI 96815.
Services are pending.