“Have you ever really had a teacher? One who saw you as a raw but precious thing, a jewel that, with wisdom, could be polished to a proud shine?” ~ Mitch Albom

Last week, I was saddened to learn of the passing of a most cherished teacher, mentor and friend, Mr. Elsesser - “Harry” as he signed the yearly Christmas cards we exchanged. They say that some people leave footprints on your heart… this was most certainly true of the man who took me under his wing way back in 4th grade, and helped me to soar to new heights I never thought possible.

Up to that point, I had been a fairly good student, conscientious enough in the academic department, but lacking a bit of the “plays well with others” skills that tend to come with time. Seeing this unfulfilled potential, Mr. Elsesser made it his mission to ensure that I would flourish under his watchful eye. 

His class was one of those that you find yourself reflecting upon from time to time with a smile, recalling anecdotes and amusing instances, such as when he would entertain us with stories of his travels - to Africa, the Galapagos Islands, Japan, and beyond. Occasionally, there would be touches of Swahili thrown into the vocabulary lesson for good measure. 

As I entered fifth grade a better all-around student and person, Mr. E. decided to retire after 30 years of teaching in the Lindenhurst school district. Saddened to see him go, and promising to keep in touch, my mother - who had also been a student in the district when Mr. Elsesser began his tenure there - started a yearly correspondence, exchanging Christmas cards and keeping each other updated on the happenings in our respective lives. 

Years later, I took over this tradition and began sending my own correspondence, filling Mr. E. In on the comings and goings of college and, eventually, my blossoming career. How proud he was to learn that I was utilizing my love of writing and had become a weekly columnist for my old hometown paper. 

Often, he would call my desk at the office and would greet me with, Is this Miss Jamie Lynn Ryan, the reporter?? We would chat about how work was going, the family, had I seen any of my old classmates lately, what I had for lunch… and always, without fail, as we were getting ready to hang up, he would say, Send hugs and kisses to your parents, and of course to you too.

What a wonderful man, and what a treasured friendship, one sustained for over a quarter of a century. How lucky I was that our paths crossed in life, and how blessed I am to have so many fond memories to reflect upon, and remember with a smile.

May you rest in peace, Mr. E… love and kisses, Jamie


{Published: October 18th, 2017}

Jamie Lynn RyanComment