Many of the people who inspired me went to my church, the Fairfield Church of Christ. They include Elmer Power for his servant heart, John Gibson for his wisdom and Judy Muehring for her beautiful spirit.
Solano College creative writing teacher Nan Wishner taught me to get my feelings out of my head and onto paper and view things from a different perspective.
Other local residents shared tributes to inspirational people:
Kate Svoboda-Spanbock: Mrs. Blackwell treated us with great respect. She was very demanding of us intellectually and with regard to how we treated one another. Her classes were always hard work, but also a lot of fun.
Joyce Nagel Jackson: Ray Lindsey, director of the Armijo Super Band, was the person who inspired me the most in high school. Although considered a “band geek” by other students, he taught me to be proud, not ashamed, of the fact that I was one. He taught me all about respect, hard work, sportsmanship, good musicianship and teamwork.
Paula Lindsey: I had Gary Vaughn at Armijo my freshman year in 1963-64. Johnny Walker, another freshman, was killed riding his bicycle on Highway 12 during Easter vacation. When we came back to school, Mr. Vaughn took the time to explain to a bunch of confused kids what happened. I can see him sitting on the corner of his desk – one foot on the floor and the other leg draped over the corner. He didn’t play the macho card. He spoke from his heart and wasn’t afraid to let the tears fall. That simple act helped us process Johnny’s death.
Jena Hubbard: Mrs. Blackmon, vice principal at Grange Middle School and then later at Fairfield High. In 1979, I was new – straight from Nebraska starting the eighth grade and three popular cheerleaders bullied me from day one. I spent every day in the office and her talks to them and their parents didn’t help. So one day she told me that I would have to fight them. I had to wait until they touched me first, though. After school one day, the smallest of the three ran up behind me and tapped me on the shoulder while calling me a name – she didn’t know what hit her! While the whole school congregated around us, we fought until we couldn’t fight any more. None of us was punished and those bullies never picked on me again.
Doug Rodgers: When I was a senior, I took scuba diving with Jim Healy, the swimming instructor/diving coach at Armijo. My goal was to beat that old man in a race in the pool. He was almost three times my age and could swim circles around all of us. The man was part fish. He encouraged me to stay with scuba and try to beat him. He worked us hard, but was fair and made sure we all passed and became certified. A few months later, the movie “Jaws” came out and I wanted to throw my certification card away. I dived for 15 years before hanging it up.
Sarah Lytton Rinelli: I had Mr. Fred Oren for math at Charles Sullivan Middle School. Learning everything else came without effort in school, but I had to work to keep up in math. I remember dreading when my mother went to a parent-teacher conference to meet Mr. Oren. They chatted pleasantly, as I tried to melt into the floor. Later, my mother delivered the surprise of my life when she shared with me a pearl of wisdom from Mr. Oren: The only reason that I was not doing well in math was because I did not like it. The next day, Mr. Oren paused at my desk and said softly, “I know that you could be great at math if you make friends with it.” His confidence in me made an immediate difference. My grades improved so much that I was even his teacher’s assistant for the pre-algebra class second semester. Now, 35 years later, I am a first-grade teacher on a mission to help young learners “make friends with math.” I hope he had a wonderful life, because he sure had a big impact on mine.
Reach Fairfield writer Tony Wade at email@example.com.