Friday, October 25, 2013

The Loss of a Mentor

Today I attended the funeral of probably  my most favorite teacher of all time, Mr. Steve Paun.   I have been blessed to have had many good teachers in my educational career.   I can remember the teachers who really made an impact on my life......Sister Beatrice Ann, Sister Georgina Marie, Sister Ann Patrice from Loretto, Mr. Turner, Mrs. Herner, Mr. Rehurek, and Mr. Paun from DHS.   Sadly, I can't remember a teacher in my undergraduate studies who really meant a lot to me.  When I was working on my Master's Degree at ASU, I had Dr. Kay Hunnicutt, who will always be one of my  favorites.  I know there were others and I can't remember ever having a teacher who I truly didn't like, and that is amazing!

But Mr. Paun was special.   As I look back on his influence on my life, I believe that he was not only a wonderful teacher, but he was truly a mentor to me.  I didn't take a class from him until my senior year and it was speech.  However, he was the teacher adviser for three clubs that I was president of during my sophomore, junior and senior years of high school and he was my first mentor.  I didn't realize it at the time, but he truly influenced who I am today.   It is one thing to have a favorite teacher, but another thing to understand the influence that person had.   He always encouraged my leadership skills and supported me in so many ways.  My respect and admiration for him continues to this day.   He was truly one of the kindest, most empathetic human beings that I have ever known.

I didn't really keep in touch with him through the years, but would sometimes see him when we spent time in Douglas during the summers.   He got out of teaching after he got married to his beautiful (inside and outside) wife, Victoria.   He went to work selling insurance so that he could provide more for his family.  I remember thinking how sad that was to lose such an incredible teacher,  but understood his wanting to have more to support his family.

Several years ago, I found out that Mr. Paun had been diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer's.  I remember how sad I was to hear that this vibrant, fun loving, intelligent family man could be struck by this horrible disease.  I knew that he had to be in a care facility because of this.  Today his son said that he was diagnosed at 57 and he died this month at 71.

Since I have been back in Douglas, I have gotten to know his son, Richard.  Richard teaches art at DHS and his wonderful wife is a kindergarten teacher.  Richard is so much like his father. He is an amazing human and teacher.   I have also had the opportunity to see his wife, Victoria.  Unfortunately, she has Parkinson's and her health is not good.   And she is truly one of the good people in the world.

His son talked about his love of family and of the stories he told to his kids as they were growing up.  He talked about his great sense of humor and his kindness.   He talked about his love of poetry and different poets.  I, too, love poetry and never connected that my love of poetry and poets probably came from Mr. Paun's class.

Today one of the priests talked about doubting his faith.  He said that sometimes he did when things happened to people like Mr. Paun and the Alzheimer's that came on so young.  I, too, wonder about that.  I know that there is a reason for everything, but I also wonder why people like Mr. Paun who are so good are taken so young. 

A few weeks before Mr. Paun died, I received a card from Richard thanking me for some things that had happened.  His last sentence said that he knew his dad would be very proud of me.  I think he would, but I hope that he knows that he contributed greatly to who I am today.

Thank you, Mr. Paun, for being such a strong influence in my life and thank you for being my mentor.  You were such a strong and positive influence  and I never was able to say thank you to you.  I hope that I have been able to do that a little bit through your wonderful son, Richard.  The world needs more people like Steve Paun and I feel blessed to have had him in my life!!!!

3 remarks:

NP said...

What a beautiful tribute! I'm sure his family really appreciates your kind words.

Linda Kleck said...

A wonderful tribute about a wonderful man!

Anonymous said...

Thank you so much for honoring my Dad in such a beautiful way. Hearing how he touched the lives of others over the years really adds to the blessings he brought every chance he could. I appreciate your thoughtfulness.


David Paun