Referred current students to colossal exam failure from 1985. Thinking about how the students from that time and how they must be in their 40s now. Then realizing I was off by 10 years: most must be in their 50s now. Wonder if they think about that time and place, on occasion.
Occurring to me that, in being fortunate to be 62. some of those taught have already predeceased me. One being Herb St. John, whom I taught during the first year of teaching, 1984-1985. He and his close friend and classmate, Jason McFarlane, helped me and my then wife, and only wife, move into our first family home, and only family home. I had been teaching them since September, 1984, and they offered to assist in the November move. This being a time when relationships with students could be more personal, and where one learned about a student’s background without it being regarded as an unwarranted invasion of privacy. These days, and for over a decade, haven’t had regular office hours for students, instead communicating by email almost exclusively. Barriers of the time and attitude.
So I learned about Herb St. John. He was at the time in his late 20s, having returned to university later in life. He was from Cardinal, Ontario. He was a backhoe operator, which was how he financed his education. He was a brilliant student–one of the best in the class–and with a maturity, sense of humour and sense of personal loyalty and integrity that caused him to stand apart. With a quiet smile. A person who genuinely believed in advancement through education, and wanted to pay for it as he progressed.
I knew that he later became a Chartered Accountant (now Chartered Professional Accountant), as did his friend Jason. Didn’t follow Herb’s career, but suspected that he would be an excellent professional accountant, given his own business experience, intelligence and personality.
A few years ago, thought about him and did a search to find out what he was up to.
He was dead.
As I learned from the obituary, still online:
Herbert (Herb) St. John
St. JOHN, Herbert (Herb) Peacefully, at his residence with his family by his side, on Thursday August 16, 2007. Herbert (Herb) Allen St. John of Maitland, age 49 years. Beloved husband of Jennifer Ann St. John nee Appleby. Loving father of Elizabeth, Rachel, Paul and Hannah. Dear son of Bruce and Noreen St. John of Cardinal. Brother of Gail Barton and her husband Wayne of Spencerville, Amy Arthurs and her husband Scott of Maitland. Also survived by his paternal grandmother Irene St. John of Prescott, as well as several aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews and cousins. Friends may call at the Barclay Funeral Home, 137 Pearl St. East, Brockville on Sunday from 2-4 & 7-9 p.m. The Funeral Service will be held in the Chapel on Monday August 20, 2007 at 11 a.m. Interment will follow at Roselawn Memorial Gardens. In memoriams to the Canadian Cancer Society or St. John’s Anglican Church, Prescott Building Fund would be gratefully acknowledged by the family. Messages of condolence may be sent online at: http://www.barclayfuneralhome.com 613-342-2792.
Barclay Funeral Home
137 Pearl Street East Brockville, ON K6V 1R2
Published in The Ottawa Citizen on Aug. 20, 2007
Eight years ago. And five years younger than I.
None of it seems random, when little of it seems possible…
Postscript, October 14, 2015: I mentioned this story to my ex-wife, who reminded me that it was Herb and Jason who spent a particular time setting up our young daughter’s crib, while we dealt with other moving chaos. We had moved into the house on our daughter’s first birthday.