I don’t know what it has been but the thought of my childhood and the many souls that blessed me have been deeply on my mind these past few months. There’s been such a profound stirring & sense of gratitude that has been somewhat overwhelming at times. Is this what happens when you start to get old? The elders always told me “Keep on living!”
Quite often now, I’m just minding my own business and then out of nowhere I recall some bright shadow, somewhat vague but still holding a sacred place in my heart; perhaps for showing some small act of kindness from more than 40+ years ago.
Today started off early with a deep sense of sadness. My brother reached out to me with this inbox & it moved me.
P.S. 309 was a special place for so many of us growing up in Bed Stuy. Don't get me wrong, "the hood" was rough but the teachers made it fun & safe. I can't remember them all but on the surface alone I remember Mrs. Martin, Mrs. Rizzo, Principle Richardson, Mr. Gersten, Mr. Kurtis, Mr. Singer & of course Mr. William Wagner to name a few.
To be honest, I don’t particularly remember any specific moments with Mr. Wagner. My mind has long since lost those types of details in a fog. Sometimes I can barely remember the 3 items I went to the store to get. I wish it was different but its not. Yet, there has always been a distant memory filled with gratitude surrounding Mr. Wagner. Ever since 6th grade, I’ve kept a sense of appreciation and thankfulness whenever I heard his name that can only be attributed to one thing.
I may long have forgotten the words someone spoke when I was with them but I tend to remember how I felt when I was around them. When I think of Mr. Wagner, I think of feelings like respected, noticed, cared for, believed in & seen. Those feelings don’t just happen. They are based on human interactions that don’t necessarily require words. At least, none that I can remember.
Mr. Wagner & I never spoke after my elementary school graduation in 1979 ever again but over the decades, he and a few special others, have never been forgotten. They may not remember me but I for certain remember them.
Clearly this wonderful soul & educator made a profound impact in my life. That’s why I had to write something today. I couldn’t get away from it. I had to. Firstly I had to write something in tribute to our dear, sweet Mr. Wagner but then too I had to write something in tribute to teachers everywhere who do whatever it takes to make kids like I once was feel respected, noticed, cared for, believe in and seen.
We honor you today as we honor one of your own. He indeed was one of the best & I pray indeed that you will continue following along on that same path of greatness.
After going through a few FB groups connected to my elementary school I ran across a post from Mrs. Martha Wagner Huebert. I had no knowledge of her but found out she was one of Mr. Wagner’s two sisters.
She had posted this in regards to her baby brother.
“My dearest friend described life like this: "Life is like a day at school. You learn a lot. You meet some wonderful people. You enjoy most of it, but there are also some difficult moments. Then the bell rings and you go home." The bell rang for him today, my brother, William Frank Wagner, died today at the age of 74. He is home.”
After sending Mrs. Martha a FB request & reaching out to her to express my personal condolences, she accepted it right away. She chatted back sharing with me how “loving kids ran in her family” and that she too had been an elementary school teacher in Harlem, The Bronx And Queens.
Then she gave me the best news that cheered my soul to the fullest extent:
“The day before his death Bill told me "I am ready to go home, to God." "He's with God right now.”
Mrs. Martha shared a bit more back & forth and then it dawned on me that even though I was saying farewell to a role model & teacher I was also saying hello to a new aunt. So I decided to give it a shot and I mentioned that to her that I would call her Aunt Martha.
Her reply was swift, simple & sweet in what I believe is probably pure, Wagner style I’m sure;
“Bye for now, Nephew!”
Please be in prayer with all of the Wagner family & for teachers, past, present & future.
Nephew Mel signing out.