Mr. McCourt (1930-2009)

Frank McCourt, the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Angela’s Ashes, has died at the age of 78.

Like thousands of other people, I remember him as Mr. McCourt, the high-school creative-writing teacher who used to entertain me and my classmates with darkly funny stories about his childhood in Ireland. Most of what I learned from him I learned by example, watching him tell, and refine, those tales. I was glad that he eventually wrote them down, and totally unsurprised that he became famous once he did — but I’m fortunate that his fame came later, so that I was able to know him as a teacher first.

I last saw him in 2006, when he came to Seattle to give a lecture at Benaroya Hall. The audience that night was about a hundred times bigger than what you’d find in our classroom, but other than that it was just like fourth-period English at Stuyvesant: same old teacher, telling funny stories.

So long, Mr. McCourt. Thanks for the lessons.

(Photo with caption from the 1983 Stuyvesant yearbook.)