Dawn Reader

Dawn Reader
from Open Door Coffee Co.; Hudson, OH; Oct. 26, 2016

Saturday, May 27, 2017

The Wonder of a Teacher ... 4

Adams Elementary School
Enid, Oklahoma
Last time, I wrote about my discovery that my own fourth grade teacher (1953-54), Mrs. Stella Rockwell, had edited the massive two-volume history of Garfield County (Enid is the county seat), volumes I'd consulted a number of times during the research for my e-book Turning Pages: A Memoir of Books and Libraries and Loss (Kindle Direct, 2012).

And the volumes are massive--as the photo shows you--more than 1100 total pages, full of photographs and information about the history of the region, the stories of the schools and churches, the stories of families who'd been there a while.

In the volumes is the story of the Rockwells, as well. In Vol. 2 is a picture of her with her husband, Glenn, during their college years at Phillips University (RIP) in Enid, the school where my grandfather taught, where my parents met, where my father would teach.

She was born as Stella Mae Campbell on Feb. 10, 1914 (about a year younger than my father), in Olive Township in Garfield County--just a little east of Enid, where her family moved when she was about a year old. The article says that she had herself attended Adams School (as my mother would a bit later), then Longfellow JHS (as my older brother did for a year before we moved to Hiram, Ohio, in the summer of 1956), and Enid HS. She played first violin in the Enid HS orchestra, then played for the Enid-Phillips Symphony Orchestra.

In some online research I discovered that when we were living in Enid at 1706 E. Elm Ave. (we were there when I was in fourth grade), the Rockwells lived at 805 E. Oklahoma Ave., about a mile southwest of us. She died on June, 10, 1993, and is buried in Enid Cemetery, which lies north of the city, but near Independence Ave., the street where once stood the old Carnegie Library, the razed (1972) shrine that I'd been researching, that had brought me back to Enid in the first place.

The current Enid Library was kind enough to send me her obituary from the Enid News and Eagle, June 13, 1963. I learn from it that she had four children, that she left the classroom to be a principal, then a curriculum coordinator, then, finally, Director of Elementary Education in Enid. She retired in 1978--the year I left the middle school classroom (I thought forever) and headed off  with Joyce to teach at Lake Forest College north of Chicago. (I was wrong: I went back to the middle school for fifteen more years: loved it, didn't leave it until retirement).

What was I doing on June 10, 1993, when she died? Initially, I cursed myself: I did not begin a regular journal until January 1997. But where was I in the late spring of 1993? I was teaching at Harmon Middle School in Aurora, Ohio--only I wasn't, I remembered. I was on sabbatical that 1992-1993 academic year. I had won a Teacher-Scholar Award from the National Endowment for the Humanities and was spending the year studying, traveling--all related to Jack London. And during that year, I kept a diary. And here's some of what I wrote that Thursday she died. We were living in Aurora at the time.

JUNE 10, 1993 (Thurs.): Worked in the morning on adding material to cards from Smoke Bellew. [a Jack London novel].  Lunch at Harmon [School, where I taught] (teachers' work day).  Drove to Hudson to mail Steve's financial aid forms [for college; he was about to start his senior year] ... then to Solon for oil change + new sandals.  Koenig's has good camping gear--so I'll probably be buying stuff there for my Chilkoot hike [in August I would hike the Chilkoot Trail, 33 miles from the coast of southeastern Alaska into the Yukon, a trail of great prominence in The Call of the Wild].  In the mail: Two letters from Russ [Kingman, a Jack London guru] ... Will drop him a note, asking for photocopies of a couple of things.

So ... I realize as I look at this now that Mrs. Rockwell's silent influence had remained. I was a teacher; I was deeply involved in historical research (as she had been); I was pursuing the things I love. And something else, as I think about it: I loved reading aloud to my students--practically from Day One.

Mrs. Rockwell's funeral was at University Place Christian Church in Enid--our church, the church where my grandfather had once served as pastor, the church where he baptized me on April 18, Easter Sunday, 1954. The year I was in fourth grade. The year the spectacular Mrs. Stella Rockwell was my teacher. She would have been in the congregation that day; she would have witnessed it.

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