Last December, I paid tribute to Ted, a former teacher of mine:
Ted was my English teacher in 1971-1972, my junior year in high school. And he was one of four teachers who, over the years, had a profound effect on my life.
A high school classmate told me two days ago that Ted had lung cancer and I called him yesterday for the first time in years.
This post is dedicated to offering a well-deserved tribute to Ted, to highlighting what made him such a special teacher.
It was in his class where I first read many of the great works of American literature. Prior to his class, my general attitude had been that reading literature was an utter waste of time. In particular, he introduced me to and I fell in love with Hemingway’s writings.
But what changed my life forever was Ted’s famous red ink “bleeding” all over our papers. As a straight A student, I was unaccustomed to receiving many critical comments on my school work. I still remember the shock when I received my first marked-up papers back from him.
Ted reminded me yesterday that he “bled” that red ink because he felt that he owed every student a thoughtful response to their hard work. As our school year together unfolded, I developed a deep appreciation for the advice contained in his written comments as he deconstructed my often pedestrian writing. The picture of our year together, however, would be incomplete if I failed to mention his simultaneous offering of verbal encouragement.
Ted is 81 years old now, having retired in 2005 after achieving the milestone of teaching for 50 years. Think of how many students’ lives he was able to touch!
Ted was truly a remarkable teacher and I am only one of many former students who will always owe him a significant debt of gratitude. So, for all the guidance he thoughtfully offered in both red ink and the spoken word some 35 years ago, I thank him from the bottom of my heart.
Today I received this beautiful email from his wife:
I don’t know if you heard, but Ted died on Monday, November 26. He had been hanging on to see our grandson, who was born on October 12. [Our grandson] and his father (our son) and mother arrived on November 18. He was baptized on November 20, what Ted was waiting to see. He was just thrilled. That evening I helped him to bed and said that he had done all that he was sent to do – taught for 50 years, been a wonderful husband for 45 years, raised a great son who was now a great dad himself. His work was done and as a good, faithful servant, he could go home.
Ted never really awoke after that. He lingered in a semi-conscious state and finally peacefully died with all of us sitting around his bed, telling him that he was loved, praying and singing while [the baby] nursed. It was a beautiful death.
On November 30, we had a memorial mass…It was a time full of love, laughter and memories as we celebrated Ted’s birth in heaven.
Ted’s legacy lives on inside the many people whose lives he touched.
RIP, my dear friend.