Class is in for a sentimental sunroom journey

At least two Fort Dodge women didn’t need the annual Teacher Appreciation Day last Tuesday to look back at what a former teacher had meant to them.

Joyce Heddinger said she recently stopped at Tompkins Center of Friendship Haven to check on a friend, Freda Mailander, who had fallen on ice and broken her arm, among other problems.

“She mentioned to me one day that there was another client there who was 102 years old,” Heddinger said. “When she mentioned this lady’s name, I knew immediately that she was a teacher of both Freda’s and mine in 1945, ’46 and ’47. She taught art and was always lively and fun.”

Heddinger said she knew she had to go back to meet the former teacher, Eloise Welch, who also was on a temporary stay at the health center.

“I could picture her face as a young woman,” Heddinger said. “She was pretty. She had short curly hair. I remembered her just as plain as day.”

This was one reunion that had to take place.

“I went to lunch with Freda one noon and sure enough, Mrs. Welch still was just as pretty and sweet as years ago. At her advanced age, she still has on her makeup, hair all done up, and lovely clothes and pretty earrings.”

The get-together had to happen at noon, she said, because Welch had both breakfast and dinner in her room. She went to the sun room only for her noon meal.

You get the feeling Heddinger would have gone at midnight if that was the only time she could see her teacher.

“She didn’t remember us personally,” Heddinger said. But, “she remembered several of the teachers we mentioned, and was a great conversationalist.”

Think about it, though. After 66 years, it would almost impossible for a teacher to look at women in their 80s and peg them as her junior high students all those years ago. Heddinger and Mailander graduated in 1950.

But they never forgot their art teacher. And to this day, they call her Mrs. Welch. It just isn’t right calling her Eloise.

“Mrs. Welch told us that her husband was in the service way back then and his allotment to her was only $50 per month. She was hired as a teacher at the junior high for $10 a week.”

And today’s teachers say they don’t get paid enough.

“It is not often that people past 80 years of age, which both Freda and I are, can revisit the past with a teacher we both loved,” Heddinger said. “I won’t soon forget that day that we talked. I so wish if I live to that age, I’m still as vibrant as she is.”

That’s something we can all wish for.

And there’s always a chance to talk with former teachers. You don’t have to wait until one of them is 102 years old to make that connection. Teacher Appreciation Day can be every day. It should be every day. After all, teachers are part of our lives.

So long friends, until the next time when we’re together.

Sandy Mickelson, former lifestyle editor of The Messenger, may be reached at