Saturday, March 29, 1997
Former student takes teachers to lunch
By JAN WOODWARD
Unforgettable teachers were honored by a student they'll never
forget Friday in a local version of "Mr. Holland's Opus."
Ed Elmore, a 1970 graduate of Cooper High School, gathered
as many of his former teachers from Crockett Elementary, Jefferson
Middle School and Cooper as he could and treated them to lunch
at Luby's Cafeteria in the Mall of Abilene.
The idea for the endeavor was born years before the recent
movie was released. In the flick, Mr. Opus was treated to a surprise
party by many of his former students.
In planning for the 20th reunion of the class, Elmore approached
several of his classmates about thanking high school teachers
in a way to pay the special educators back for all their hard
"What a good idea!," the friends all thought, but
pinning each one down to a specific time and date to hold the
event was difficult. Years passed. The movie "Mr. Holland's
Opus" was released and after seeing it, Ed decided it was
time to take his own action to single out his unique set of teachers
and honor them for what they had meant to him.
He searched his scrapbooks and old report cards for names of
his teachers, beginning with the first grade when he attended
Crockett Elementary. The task of locating names and addresses
was not easy as some teachers were now deceased and some had moved
away and could not be located.
An invitation was issued to those he could locate.
Nineteen of those honored guests and a few spouses and friends
were able to attend the lunch. Reminiscing was the order of the
Tables were decorated with appropriate school colors and memorabilia.
Aspecial "Reserved" seat was designated at each table,
the spot Elmore would occupy as he tablehopped to visit with all
present. (The Cooper table complained that he had spent more time
at the Jefferson and Crockett tables.)
Attending from Crockett were Pat Soladay Sims, Helen Patterson
Anthony, Wayne Tiner, Elmon Higgs and Gerri Shaw Weatherby.
Jefferson teachers present were Jewel Harris, Wanda Spence,
Bill Voss, Nell Payne and Althea Stanaland.
Rose Williams, Jo Caldwell, Ronna Austin Harrell, Merrill Green,
C.A. Potter, Gerald Lambert, Bill Overton, Robert Holladay and
J.M. Anthony had all taught Elmore at Cooper.
Not to single out favorites but to list representative influences,
Elmore remembers Helen Patterson from his elementary school days
as "the epitome of a Southern gentlewoman." Her refined
nature and appearance made an indelible impression on the young
"Jewel Harris from Jefferson was the first person I had
known that was a political activist. She encouraged me to become
politically active and sparked my interest in the profession in
which I now serve." Elmore remembers that Harris was president
of the Texas State Teachers Association when he was in her class
and her involvement left its mark.
"Bill Overton opened my eyes to the wonder of the theatre
and this influence continues even today." Elmore and Overton
often confer about what's "hot" in the way of musicals
Some memories were more clear than others but it was agreed
by all that Elmore had indeed impacted their lives as well.
Gerri Shaw Weatherby remembered vividly that Elmore had been
in her music class at the moment she learned of the death of JFK.
Helen Patterson remembered him as always seeking perfection. Creative,
determined, committed, loyal, fun to teach and his special sense
of humor and characteristic grin are what these teachers found
unforgettable about Elmore.
It was Elmore's aim that this favor be repeated in showing
appreciation for special teachers. It is his hope that by seeing
the photo of these teachers, former students may get in touch
to personally thank them as well.
Elmore graduated from the University of Texas and the UT Law
School. He is an attorney in Bryan and teaches part-time at Texas
A&M University. He is married to the former Donnella Colvin
of Abilene and they have two teenage sons.
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