David Edward Westphal

Mount Desert

Friends, former students, colleagues and the extended and loving family of David Edward Westphal (March 19, 1929 – December 7, 2020) wish him Godspeed. He died peacefully, at rest in the heart of his home, holding the hand of his wife and partner of over thirty years.

We could list what he did in life: his many awards and accomplishments as a documentary filmmaker, cinematographer and editor. To honor him, however, we choose to speak of who he was and how he touched us all.

His children remember:

Sarah: With his first loving wife Ruth, Dad raised a family of six children. Dad and Mom had a knack for choosing places and spaces where kids can roam free, first on a farm in Minnesota and eventually on Great Cranberry Island, Maine. Dad was the kind of father who bundled the kids up on a winter’s night in sub-freezing temperatures to tromp the snow-packed fields. Seeing the glittering stars in the cold night air and learning about the constellations is a cherished memory. His enthusiasm for and enjoyment of life, and his great spirit remain within all of us. We honor him with our love for each other.

Gretchen: Dad taught me many invaluable skills and was always there to help me work through my problems.

Michael: One of the things Dad shared with me was the love for fixing and making things. Whether it was restoring an old Willys Jeep, working on boat repairs, or making a custom mahogany toolbox, he brought out the curiosity in me as to how things worked and taught me the value in doing things right. He was a fine craftsman and shared those skills with his sons and daughters.

Joan: Dad instilled in me a sense of adventure and love for the outdoors and nature.

James: True to his artistic mind, Dad caught the essence of an event with the lens of his camera. High School Cross-Country State Meet pictures came back with Class C girls’ feet running past a pond, an old guy inspecting his stopwatch, a single runner passing an old building on campus, etc. By the time Rolf and I were competing in cross-country we knew to give specific instructions at the state meets. “We want pictures of ourselves and our teammates, MDI Cross-Country.” Had many good laughs about that!

Rolf: Dad was always there to teach me how to do things, whether it was painting for the first time, or fixing my bike. I will miss times we spent sailing (his passion), hiking, cross-country skiing, and shooting hoops in NEH. He always had an open mind to whatever I wanted to do in life and was always empathetic to others.

His second family remembers his loving presence in our daily lives, how he listened and spoke from his heart. It is a testimony to his great spirit and example that his large, mixed families all love and support each other.

 Lucy: David was a second father to me and my sisters, teaching us everything from driving standard to boatbuilding and film editing. He showed me, by example, that it is possible to combine family life with an artist’s career, an inspiration I am grateful for every day. For the past ten years, he has been the beloved Grandpa to my daughters, Anaïs and Phyllis. He crossed the ocean to be there at both their births. There are pictures of Anaïs, less than a week old, taking a nap on his chest. Fierce little Phyllis came out with her fist raised. He loved that.

Martin: I was fortunate to find a true friend in my stepfather-in-law. He showed me an example of a man whose authority was based on personality and the power of his mind and soul. He followed his bliss and inspiration, producing his art with the work ethics of a craftsman. He never seemed like he was aging, he just seemed to be weathering, because his mind stayed young and curious.

Susan: David was a lifelong learner and problem solver who taught me so much: how to build tables and bookshelves and even a canoe; how to organize a spice cupboard; how to grow the best tomatoes; how to move through the world with grace, empathy, and an uncompromising vision. I will treasure all my memories of David, and most especially the bond he shared with my daughter Willow. The first thing she ever reached out for was Grandpa’s beard.

Alice: David had a rare gift for teaching. I have learned so many different things from him, and I cannot remember a time when he insisted his way of doing something was the right way or the only way. I am grateful for his generous, empathic spirit and will always be inspired by his open heart and open mind.

Friends remember his thoughtful kindness and generosity, how he truly listened, how he took young people seriously, how he worked for justice and equality, how he walked his talk.

Former Brandeis students remember that he had the rare gift to see the light in the world and reflect it in his nature and his work. Colleagues and fellow photographers remember his eye, his special insight, his contemplative and mindful way, and work.

True to his lively and curious nature, he used this strange pandemic time on the steep slope of the learning curve. He was fascinated by and intrigued with everything from the latest in solar power and electric cars to the splendid virtual concerts of the Berlin Philharmonic and Willie Nelson’s latest work.

Predeceased by so many, he leaves us all behind, missing him, but profoundly comforted by his passionate spirit and abiding love. We look forward to celebrating his remarkable life with all who hold him dear when the pandemic subsides, and we can hold each other close again.

Those wishing to make a charitable contribution in his memory may consider Northern Light Hospice and Home Care, The Michael J. Fox Foundation, The Maine Chapter of Veterans for Peace and the ACLU of Maine.

Condolences may be expressed at www.jordanfernald.com


Know when to pay your respects.