In Memory

Lee Allen (English Teacher)


Author(s); Tom Long, Globe Staff Date: July 8, 1997 Page: B7 Section: Obituary

Lee Allen of Newton, a polio survivor, poet, and chairman of the English department at Needham High School, died of a cerebral hemorrhage Thursday in Newton-Wellesley Hospital. He was 60.

Mr. Allen was born in Norwood. After graduating from Needham High School in 1955, he was a counselor at a summer camp on Cape Cod. When a camper came down with the symptoms of polio, Mr. Allen accompanied him on the ambulance trip to Boston, where more advanced health-care facilities were available. Two days later, Mr. Allen began staggering. Shortly thereafter, his family doctor informed him that he, too, had polio He spent most of the following year in Children's Hospital in Boston, almost paralyzed. "The last thing I could move was my little toe." lie said in story published in the Globe on Oct. 18, 1958.

"Such a little hug and it did so much damage," said the former Needham High School track star, who lost 50 pounds during his one-year hospital stay.

After missing a year of studies he enrolled at Brown University, where he made his way to classes with the aid of crutches and 15 pounds of steel braces on his legs.

But Mr. Allen told the Globe he was thankful that he had contracted the disease because it made him a more serious student. "I'd probably have organized 99 percent of the parties down here and I'd have gone out for three sports. It wouldn't have been an intellectual life." he said.

But there were grim days in the hospital. "I'd think that I could not dance or run again," he said. "I was crippled and on crutches.

"Then the next day I'd know I was pretty lucky to be alive -- that I could earn my living. I could marry and have children. I could do the things that were important."

He said he had learned that "it isn't my physical condition that is most important."

Mr. Allen received a bachelor's degree at Brown, a master's degree in education at Harvard University, and a doctorate in education at Boston College.

In addition to teaching at Needham High School, he was a founder and former president of the Massachusetts Council of Teachers of English. He edited the association's journal, The Leaflet.

He published articles and poems and led workshops on creativity at Lesley and Salem State colleges. In 1992 and 1993, he was a visiting professor of English at Brown.

In a story published in the Needham Tab on the day he died, he spoke of integrating various dialects into classroom studies. "We need to emphasize that people are communicating, just in a different way," he said. "English is not our language, American is our language."

He leaves his partner, Susan Wadsworth; two daughters, Deborah Toto of Natick and Anna Wadsworth of Newton; his mother, Helen Dodd of Danvers and Florida; a sister Judith Allen Ferretti of Waltham; and a granddaughter.

A memorial service will be held in the fall

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