When I was around four or five years old we lived in this really small little town. I don’t remember the population as I was very young, but I would guess there were less than 600 people that lived there. We lived in the church parsonage which ended up being my favorite childhood home (even though I was convinced that there was a witch in my closet and that my ceiling was going to fall in while I was sleeping). To me it was shaped like a barn. There was an awesome split staircase, lots of fun hiding places, and a perfect climbing tree in the back yard.
One of the advantages of being in such a small town is that everybody knows everybody. Next door was an older woman named Opal who became a grandmother-like figure to my sister and I. We spent many afternoons at her house helping in her garden, eating freshly baked bread, and drinking the best chocolate milk ever (which I later discovered was Ovaltine). Each year for our birthdays she would make us a special birthday cake and bring over. I remember one being in the shape of a church and another being in the shape of a lamb.
Across the street was the cat lady. I want to say her name was Verona but I can’t recall for sure. She was the stereotypical cat lady who took in all the strays around town. I only remember going to her house to trick-or-treat and saying hi to her when she was out in the yard, but I always remember that she had a lot of cats around.
Across the street the other way (we lived on a corner) was the church that my dad was the pastor at and next to it was Beverly’s house. Beverly and her husband Lee attended our church and got to be friends with my parents. I recall spending many, many, hours with Bev. I have very fond memories of sitting on her front porch reading together. Bev spent the summer with me teaching me how to read before I started kindergarten.
When I started kindergarten the next fall, I was very excited to find out that Bev would be my teacher. I think it was really hard for both of us not to let me become the "teacher’s pet" of the class since her and I had such a close relationship outside of school. By the end of the year, she had me reading the second grade level books. I loved that I was so advanced in reading and I really loved that she took the time to help me get there.
After kindergarten was over we maintained a close relationship. Bev and her husband moved out to a farm and would invite me and my sister over to ride horses and hang out occasionally. She also gave me my very first television (an old black and white 13 inch) and probably ruined my interest in books for a few years.
After 3rd grade we moved away from that small town. We would hear from Beverly and her husband every once in a while and if I recall correctly I think we even visited them a time or two.
My mom tells me that she last spoke to Beverly about 2 years ago and at that time she was ill. I found out the day I got back from my trip to Portland that she passed away on December 16th.
I never really got the chance to tell her how much of an influence she had on my life. Not only did she teach me about books, school stuff, and how to read, she also taught me a lot about life. She is one of the few teachers I have had throughout my life that actually made a difference. I’m sure I’m not the only one that benefited from her love and caring and I hope that she knew just how much she was appreciated.