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Dwight Townsend 1933-2016
Dwight Hall Townsend was born on January 4, 1933 in Paris, France to Lyle Stackpole and Frank Nelson Townsend. They fled France in the spring of 1939, expecting to return but ultimately settling in New York City. His father passed when he was 11, leaving Dwight in the care of his eccentric, theatrical mother. He attended prep school at Hotchkiss and Trinity-Pawling where he excelled at sports, before matriculating to Yale where music became his focus. He sang there with the Yale Glee Club, the Augmented Seven, and for his senior year—the group where he met many of the men who would become lifelong friends—the Whiffenpoofs. It was during this stage of life that he became known by the sobriquet, "Froggy,” an affectionate nod to his French origins.
After Yale, he attended the American Academy of Theatrics and began a long and storied career in the dramatic arts—earning roles on and off Broadway, in cabaret, and summer stock productions. A move to Los Angeles brought golden years with roles in TV and film, a rollicking Hollywood lifestyle, and many a celebrity tennis match. He went on to earn a teaching degree from USC and taught in secondary and elementary schools in southern California for a brief stint before following the call of the arts, back to New York City. In 1976, he met his first wife, Charlene Gallit there. They moved to Fort Worth, Texas and had a daughter, Lesley Brooke Townsend (now Duval) in 1979. After becoming a father, his career turned to talent management, production, and theatrical design. Charlene and Dwight divorced amicably in 1991 and remained close friends until the very end.
In 1995, Dwight pursued another of his true passions: creating and recording his own original music. Without a day of formal training, he was—and has always been—a truly gifted pianist and vocalist. He began to record albums, which he worked on until his absolute final days.
Dwight met Carmen Sommers, his second wife and the love of his life, on a blind date set up by a mutual friend on August 14, 1993 (which happened to be the birthdate of his one and only granddaughter, Violet Brooke Duval, born twenty years to the day later in 2013). They fell in love instantly and married four years later in Bermuda, on Carmen's birthday. That fall, they moved to Vero Beach, Florida and have spent the better part of the past two decades living as lovebirds, surrounded by friends and family, their home filled with happiness and the constant sounds of his beautiful music.
Dwight and Carmen celebrated their 19th wedding anniversary during his final days in the ICU (and he kicked himself for not getting her anything). His daughter, Lesley, is now expecting Dwight's first grandson, and she was able to share the wonderful news with him in his final moments.
He passed peacefully while in hospice care, with his wife, daughter, and stepdaughter Carmencita by his side, after a two-month battle with pneumonia and cascading complications. He fought bravely until the doctors told him it was time to throw in the towel, at which point he accepted his fate with peace and dignity and said his loving final goodbyes. He leaves behind more adoring friends and extended family members than most people are lucky enough to meet in a lifetime. Husband, father, grandfather, friend, didactic defender of the sesquipedalian and devout extirpator of solecisms and catachreses, we will miss our dear Froggy so much.
A private gathering will be held in celebration of his life. In lieu of flowers, please consider a donation to VNA Hospice of Vero Beach; or, simply pop in one of his CDs and hum along with him.
Dwight Townsend's music can be heard on Sirius and XM satellite radio or purchased directly thru CD Baby.