A fond farewell to a blast from the past!

There’s one certainty in this life; we will all lose someone that we care about. Most of us have already lost several people. Unfortunately, some of these people leave this earth way too soon. 53 years. That just doesn’t seem like enough time to spend among the living. 53 years old? That’s only 12 years older than I am now. Wow! That’s amazing to think about. Recently, we said farewell to my High School Drama Teacher. Don’t teachers always seem so old to you when you are a kid? Adulthood seems so far away, that in our heads, they must be at least 50! But he was only 12 years older than me. I’m still shaking me head at this one.

My memory is not great-it’s actually pretty horrible! But, I do remember this…I hated High School! Just about everything about High School made me uncomfortable. I was always a big girl, and that did not make school easy at all. People made fun of everyone who was different. I also had a last name that people made fun of; “Cox”. I know, people are so immature! I heard it all, believe me (none of it worth repeating on my blog)!  I guess these are some of the reasons why I was so shy and reserved back then. I was quiet & pretty much kept to myself, until my Junior year. This is when I was introduced to drama & to JR.

Raise of hands…how many of you who have been out of HS for over twenty years have kept in touch with a teacher? Not many, I’m sure. Although back then he seemed so much older than all of us, he was only 12-14 years older. That probably explains why so many of us felt like we had a friend in him. JR had a way about him that was different than any teacher I have ever met, to this day. It wasn’t that he was a sappy, sweet as honey kind of guy; quite the contrary. JR really gave it to you straight-especially if you messed up your lines. At hi memorial service, a student of his shared a story about when he sat down in JR’s class & he told them all that they would either receive an A or that they would fail miserably because there was no room for mediocrity in his class. He would often yell “F!!!” at you when you forgot your lines. If you didn’t know him, you might think he were a grump. But we knew better.

There was something about him so real and honest that brought out the true person from inside of you. He helped me, as well as many others, find myself and jump right out from under that shell that I had been hiding under. I finally found my voice-and boy did I know how to use it! My family will attest to this fact as it was difficult to shut me up after I found it! It wasn’t just the getting up on stage in front of an audience, or even being assistant director to JR for Anything Goes. It was his passion for Ethel Merman, Broadway Musicals, and Cole Porter. It was his stories about going back to live with his dad. It was his adventures of working at Disneyland that seemed to come to life. It was his love for all things Christmas. It was him using a green pen instead of red when correcting our work (come to find out he used it for everything-even Christmas cards).  It was the fact that my teacher saw something in me; in all of us, and he pushed us to explore it.

He truly went out of his way to help each of us and to show us that he truly cared. In fact, he’s the only teacher that I can say that made such a huge impact on my life-even 24 years later! I guess I wanted JR to be a permanent fixture in my life because at one point, I tried to set him up with my mom (don’t worry, she was single at the time).  Can you imagine JR as your step-dad? You didn’t do the dishes “F!” Go run your lines…again! But every Christmas would be amazing and trips to Disneyland would be the greatest thing ever! Well, I made a plan to introduce the two of them at the cast party that was held at our house. Turned out that JR would rather sit and chat with my Grandmother than flirt with my mom. Such a JR thing to do.

I kept in touch with JR for a few years after I graduated in ’92. I even went back to see his version of Grease, which I believe was a dream of his to direct. But as time and distance grew, I soon lost touch with him. Three years ago, I did the happy dance when I found him on Facebook! (Isn’t social media amazing?!) We caught up a bit, swapped stories, and several times we tried to meet up but unfortunately failed to do so. Before I knew it, he had moved to Iowa and we lost touch shortly after.

My heart ached when I heard of his sudden passing on January 3rd. The world became just a bit less bright, just knowing he was no longer in it. His memorial service was truly a beautiful and inspirational tribute to the man that he was. From songs that he cherished, to stories of his missionary work overseas. From his best friend giving his eulogy and bringing every one of us to tears, to the pastor sharing how his last days were spent giving to others. I was moved during this service, so much so that I felt a nudging to go up on stage and share a funny story about him. I didn’t want to speak; I hadn’t prepared anything, but I knew that I had to share. I totally fumbled over my words, but I know that it was the right thing to do. I absolutely lost my composure when Erin sang “When you wish upon a star” and my husband, never meeting JR, even became emotional when the bagpipes played.

I know that there are many other stories about this wonderful man, and if you knew him, please feel free to share your stories in the comments below. But this was just a small testament to him and to what he meant to me. I only hope that he knew what a huge difference he made to so many people. His legacy will live on in our lives and the memories of him in our hearts. Thank you JR, for all that you did for so many of us. Your footprint has been left here for good. We love you. “F!”

These photos are mostly just horribly grainy screenshots of JR or newspaper clippings from our HS plays, but memories just the same:

JR, back in the day…

“Don’t drink the Water”- Curtain call, then my crazy chef character…

Newspaper clipping and our Drama Club photo…

A more recent photo of JR & the photo from his memorial service…