Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Saying Goodbye to My Dear Friend, Pat O.

I received a dreaded phone call as I was coming home tonight.   I knew that I would receive this phone call any day now.  Last week, Pat's wonderful daughter, Kerry, sent me an email telling me that her mom was in the final stages of her life.  I received her email while I was at a conference and it took me quite a bit of time to respond because of the tears.

Many years ago, when I went to teach at Patterson Elementary in Gilbert, I met Pat.  She was hired as an instructional assistant and she was assigned to my grade level.  There began a friendship that has lasted for many years.  

Pat became an integral part of my classroom community.  She was loved by the children and respected by the teachers.  Over the years, I feel that I grew as a teacher.  However, that growth would not have happened without Pat O. in my professional life.  But even more than that, was Pat in my personal life.  Pat was always opinionated and you could count on her telling you what she thought.  However, this was always done in a very respectful way.

Through my years of teaching at Patterson, Pat was always the one to help me get my classroom ready for the first day.  She kept me on track with my lesson plans.  She worked with individual students and groups.  She ran off all of the papers that were needed for the students. She took care of their problems on the playground.  And every year when I took my students on the Bisbee/Tombstone trip, Pat was right there with us.  The children and the parents loved her!!!  And so did I!  I know that I was a good teacher and will always carry those years with me with pride.   However, my being a good teacher was also because of Pat's dedication and friendship to me.  I will always value what she did for me and for the children I taught.  She truly loved them and I know she loved me.

After many years at Patterson, several of the teachers decided to move to Houston Elementary when it opened.   Pat moved with us.  After one year at Houston, I went to the District and then the next year to Gilbert El.  Pat then came to Gilbert El with me for a few years before she retired.  

Through the years we have remained friends.  As with many friendships, time goes by without seeing each other.  I was busy being a principal and Pat was busy being retired.  So we didn't see a lot of each  other.  

Last March, her daughter, Kerry, let me know that she had cancer.   The day her email came brought tears to my eyes.  It was so hard to hear this news.  So many of those wonderful friends from Patterson have passed and I didn't want to hear this about my dear friend, Pat.

I was able to visit with her over the course of the next few months when I went up to the valley.  She was the same Pat O.  I know that she was proud of me being a superintendent.  

Probably my favorite Pat O. story has to do with the cemetery plots that her husband, Chuck, bought many years ago.  He purchased two plots at the Catholic cemetery on Baseline in Mesa.  A few years after that purchase, the Gilbert District purchased land from the Diocese of Phoenix to build a new school for the District.  I will never forget Pat's comment, "I am going to be on playground duty for eternity."   When I was talking to Kerry tonight, she said that they were putting a whistle in her casket.

In August when I was in the valley, I was able to spend some time with her.  I was able to tell her how much she meant to me and to tell her that I loved her.  That doesn't always happen in life.  I will always feel at peace that I was able to have that conversation with her.

Kerry said that Pat died the way she lived. That was with her family surrounding her.  I know that she and her beloved, Chuck, are reunited tonight.  And I know how much her children and grandchildren meant to her.  She talked about them often and how proud she was of them.  When I visited with her over the last few months, her children and grandchildren were surrounding her.   What a legacy she and Chuck left!!!

Pat Ofenloch was a dear friend and I will always cherish that friendship.  Tonight when I got home from work I got the phone call from Kerry as I was getting out of the car.  After our conversation, I came into the house and reflected on the many years that Pat has been in my life.  There is a saying that making a difference in the life of a child is of the utmost importance in life.  I can truly say that Pat made a difference in the life of many children in her years as an IA.

"Those we love our never really gone as long as their stories are told."  Thank you, Pat, for all that you have done for me over the years.  I will always cherish the stories and your friendship.

I hope to get up to Gilbert for the funeral, but I may not make it.  If I don't, her stories will always be in my heart.  So my dear friend, Pat,

May the road rise up to meet you.
May the wind be always at your back.
May the sun shine warm upon your face;
The rains fall soft upon your fields
And until we meet again,
May God hold you in the palm of His hand.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Doesn't Seem Possible!

It was nine years ago today that my mom died.  There has not been a day that has gone by that I haven't missed her.  My being back here in Douglas with Teresa would have made her so proud.  It has done my heart good to hear so often from people who loved her.  She was a remarkable person and I am proud to have been her daughter.  

She would have been 94 years old on Saturday.  Wow!!  

Last year we didn't have our family dinner together to remember the good times and the fun times.  We will all be together next week, so I am hoping we can get together to tell stories, especially for Cameron.  It is so important for him to remember her.  In the words of my favorite author, Carmen Agra Deedy, "Those we love are never really gone, as long as their stories are told."  And there are so many stories to tell about Margaret Shannon!