School to plant a tree in teacher's memory

Stohler, also an actor, to be remembered June 4 at Dasher Green

April 18, 2002|By Heather Tepe | Heather Tepe,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

Dasher Green Elementary School will plant a tree in memory of Rick Stohler, a teacher and star of numerous dinner theater productions throughout the region, who died April 10.

The tree will be dedicated at the school June 4. Toby's Dinner Theatre, where Stohler starred in several productions, is planning an event sometime in June to celebrate his life.

Stohler, who died from complications of renal cancer at his Columbia home, taught third grade at Dasher Green Elementary School in Columbia from 1997 until he was forced to stop teaching because of his illness.

Friends and co-workers said that through the end, Stohler continued to teach important life lessons. Diane Martin, assistant principal at Dasher Green, described Stohler as a mentor, a motivator and an inspiration to his pupils and co-workers.

"We'll miss him as an instructional leader as well as a caring teacher who loved children and showed that every day," Martin said.

Vicki Smalley, whose children Josh, 14, and Kara, 10, were pupils of Stohler's, said, "It's not just a loss for the kids who had him, it's a loss to the community because he really added to the quality of life for all of us. The world was a better place because he was in it."

Toby Orenstein, owner and artistic director of Toby's Dinner Theatre in Columbia, said Stohler was a versatile actor who was committed to his craft. He starred in more than 20 productions at Toby's in lead roles such as Sky Masterson in Guys and Dolls (1996), Julian Marsh in 42nd Street (1988), Juan Peron in Evita (1985 and 2000) and Captain Von Trapp in The Sound of Music (1996).

"I've known and worked with Rick for 15 years," Orenstein said. "Sometimes we can choose the paths in our life. Other times we can't. He walked his path with courage, humility and even a sense of humor."

Fellow actor Terry Sweeney met him 19 years ago during a production of Camelot at the Lazy Susan Dinner Theater in Woodbridge, Va. "The courage, grace and gentle strength Rick showed throughout the last few years was a lesson for us all," Sweeney said.

"Right up until the end, he was teaching us life lessons," Sweeney said.

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