Former Safety and Security officer Teddy Willey remembered as being ‘full of life’
Willey died in West Virginia on Feb. 9, after a long career that included 20 years as a coal miner before his arrival at Dartmouth in 2000.
Teddy Willey — a former Department of Safety and Security officer who died on Feb. 9 — was a devoted volunteer and friend, remembered for his generosity. Those who knew him described him as the type of man who would give someone in need the clothes off his back and the shoes off his feet.
Willey worked as a Safety and Security officer for 20 years — from Sept. 10, 2000 to April 23, 2020 — before retiring and moving back to his home state of West Virginia to take care of his mother, Patricia A. Johnson. The Dartmouth connected with Willey during his final year at the College in 2020 for a ride-along and Q&A story.
Prior to his role at the College, Willey worked as an underground coal miner for 20 years — developing Black Lung Disease as a result, according to Safety and Security director Keiselim Montás. However, medical issues never deterred Willey from serving his community.
Willey died in his mother’s home in West Virginia due to health complications related to Lyme disease, according to Montás.
Willey was born on March 2, 1959, to Johnson and late father Teddy K. Willey Sr., according to an obituary from Ronald Meadows funeral home. He is survived by his mother, daughter Jessica Willey, sister Evelyn Willey Walker and long-time best friend and former partner Lesia Vorachak.
“It’s a loss of a human being who was sensitive, and he was cared for and loved by many,” Montás said. “That’s always painful.”
Safety and Security officer Stephen Samson said Willey was the first officer he met when he first arrived at the College about 15 years ago. He said Willey took him “under his wing.”
“He was a great guy,” Samson said. “He got along with everybody. There wasn’t a person on campus, as far as faculty and staff [go], that didn’t know Teddy.”
Montás added that Willey was “exemplary” both as an officer and union representative because “he really understood and practiced compassion.”
Service Employees International Union Local 560 president Christopher Peck said the union grew to include Safety and Security employees around 2000, which was about the time he met Willey. Due to Willey’s involvement in a union while he was working in the coal mines, Peck added that Willey wanted to be involved in union organizing at the College as well. Over time, Peck said, Willey rose in the ranks of the union — becoming secretary by 2008, and eventually Ombudsman.
“He was just the type of person that was infectious, just a good person,” Peck said. “He talked the talk, and he walked it. He offered himself to everybody at no charge, and that’s a rare trait nowadays.”
Willey, a devoted volunteer and member of the Lebanon Outing Club’s board of directors, was recognized for his service when he was selected as the Lebanon Recreation and Parks Commission’s 2012 Volunteer of the Year for his work at Storrs Hill, according to Montás.
Director of recreation and parks for the City of Lebanon Paul Coats wrote in an email statement that Willey “was the type of person whose impact will be remembered for many years beyond his time with us.”
In addition to his job at the College, Willey worked about 30 hours per week at Storrs Hill — operated by the LOC — to ensure the ski area remained open. According to Valley News, he ran the lift, made snow, patrolled the parking lot, assisted at ski jump meets and organized the other volunteers.
Montás laughingly recalled that, ironically, Willey “didn’t ski.”
According to the funeral home obituary, Willey “loved to ride his motorcycle all over God’s beautiful country, from the mountains to the beaches and everything in between.” Vorachak added that Willey had explored Nova Scotia and other parts of the American countryside on his motorcycle.
Lebanon Outing Club president Cory Grant wrote in an email statement that the LOC will be installing a plaque with a picture of Willey at the bottom of the lift shack at Storrs Hill on June 10 to commemorate Willey’s volunteer work — an occasion the community can attend.
“Known for his friendly, encouraging and welcoming personality and his fantastic hats, there are countless kids in the UV who loved coming to the hill to see Teddy,” Grant wrote. “His enthusiasm was contagious and, after he left the UV, we cherished his return visits to the hill. Someone like Teddy doesn’t come along often.”
Former LOC member Todd Caruso wrote in an email statement that Willey would “cook breakfast” for the snowmakers at Storrs Hill following overnight shifts at Dartmouth.
“All in all, he did this without pay, and not for recognition,” Caruso wrote. “He gave so much of himself for the smiles and joy that he created all around him.”
As well as being a generous volunteer and co-worker, Willey was a beloved friend.
“He was so humble, kind and caring and would help anybody — always,” Vorachak said. “He didn’t care if he knew you [because] by the time he would start talking to you, you were his friend.”
Safety and Security communications officer Chrismas Converse recounted when she became critically ill for 16 months. In an email statement, she wrote that Willey would visit her house and assist the visiting nurses and physical therapist every Friday, in addition to bringing over “healthy treats.”
“You could always count on a hug and a ‘we got this’ at the end of the day,” Converse wrote. “Words can’t [describe] how he was one of a kind, true, genuine and full of life.”
Willey’s funeral took place on Feb. 14 at the Ramp Holiness Church in Sandstone, West Virginia, where Willey was a member.
Correction appended Feb. 23 at 10:30 a.m.: A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that Chrismas Converse was a man and an officer with the Department of Safety and Security. The article has been updated to reflect her role as DoSS communications officer.