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Anson Thacher; Ex-Headmaster of Venerable Ojai Prep School

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Anson S. Thacher, former headmaster of the venerable Ojai prep school founded by his father, the oldest private boarding school west of the Mississippi, has died at his home in Ojai. He was 89.

Thacher died last Wednesday after a brief illness, the family announced Monday.

Born on the campus of the Thacher School five miles outside of Ojai, Thacher was a student there and taught there from 1931 until his retirement in 1970. He served as headmaster from 1936 to 1949.

His father, Yale-educated attorney Sherman Thacher, founded the boarding school for boys in 1889 with the unusual requirement that each student must care for a horse. “There’s something about the outside of a horse,” the founder espoused, “that’s good for the inside of a boy.”

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Although horses are no longer needed as transportation, first year students (which now include girls) still must tend horses and clean stables before going to class.

“The principles that my father believed in . . . a kind of puritanism, hard work, self-denial have not changed,” Anson Thacher told The Times at the school’s centennial observance in 1989. “They may be old-fashioned, but they’re sound.

“Fundamentally what it comes down to,” he said, “is that you can’t control a horse unless you first control yourself.”

Anson Thacher earned his college degree at Yale and taught at the Massachusetts prep school, Groton, and the Catalina Island School before returning home to Thacher School.

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An active civic leader, Thacher served as president of the Ojai Civic Assn., the Ojai Chamber of Commerce and for more than 30 years of both the Senior Canyon Mutual Water Co. and the Ojai Valley School District Board of Trustees.

In 1989, Thacher and his wife, Margaret, were honored as grand marshals of Ojai’s Independence Day parade.

In addition to his wife, Thacher is survived by three children, Anne T. Adami of Walnut Creek, Calif., Anson B. Thacher of Ojai and Nicholas S. Thacher of New Canaan, Conn.; one brother, two sisters and six grandchildren.

A memorial service at Thacher School has been planned for 10 a.m. Sunday, Oct. 9. The family has asked that memorial donations be made to the Ojai Valley Museum or to the Thacher School.

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