Adiós y adiósWritten by Michael Miller | Editor in Chief | firstname.lastname@example.org
Marsha Dunaway and Albert Flores were both born in 1948. They both taught at Libbey High School for more than 35 years, influencing thousands of students, including those in my 1985 graduating class. They both devoted much of their lives to community service. They both died last week, within two days of each other.
It is dangerous to wax nostalgic about one’s high school teachers, three decades after daily interaction has ended; time has a way of smoothing rough edges. The gauze of sentimentality wraps itself around mundane recollections, muting the complexities that color every student-teacher relationship. Death is an additional scrubbing agent, transforming sinners into saints and saints into supersaints.
Flores was my Spanish language teacher, but he was much more than that. He was the first teacher I remember who wasn’t afraid to pull back the curtain on the education process, to reveal its flaws and limitations. I will always remember how, whenever a student would blow off an assignment or question the importance of a lesson, Flores would lustily sing the anthem from Pink Floyd’s “Another Brick in the Wall, (Part 2)”: “We don’t need no education,” he would mock. “All in all you’re just another brick in the wall,” he would grin, and then redouble his efforts to teach the lessons.
I was a middling Spanish student; I loved the vocabulary, never fully grasped verb conjugation. But Flores, who seemed so wise and worldly to me, drilled the lessons again and again and taught me well enough to get me through my the foreign language requirements I later faced at the University of Toledo.
More importantly, Flores encouraged the questioning of authority, a revelatory philosophy that set me on the path to my life’s great interest in journalism.
I won’t raise Flores any higher than that, as I tend to glorify my intellectual inspirations and heroes, but there is this, from his obituary: “Albert A. Flores, 63, of Toledo … attended Heidelberg College where he graduated with degrees in Sociology and Spanish. Later, he obtained his Master’s degree in Gifted and Talented Education from Bowling Green State University. He served as a Spanish teacher for 36 years at Libbey High School. In 2008, he was awarded the Diamanté award for his leadership in the Hispanic community. He sat on the board of the University of Toledo EXCEL program as well as other community services. He is survived by his loving wife of 34 years, Mary; sons, Antolin (Emily Flores) and Benjamin (Lisa Yearsin Flores), and daughter, Sarah Berlanga. Also surviving are his grandchildren, Hannah Berlanga and Cristian Flores; his sister, Gladys M. Flores, as well as many nieces and nephews.”
Dunaway taught American and world history at Libbey, with methodology far removed from Flores’ jabbing challenges. Reserved but not demure, she brought great context to her lessons, as a gifted storyteller who knew which elements of a tale would most appeal to her audience. That approach was another early puzzle piece in my eventual career choice; there were other teachers who added to the recipe, but they are alive and well and I am superstitious about linking them to a eulogy.
From Dunaway’s obituary: “Marsha graduated from Bowsher High School in 1966 and from the University of Toledo in 1970 with a Bachelor’s in Education. Marsha received her Master’s in Education in 1979. She was an American and world history teacher for 35 years at Libbey High School. Before retiring in 2005, Marsha helped to lead the Small Schools Initiative through the Bill Gates Foundation at Libbey. With her passion for history, Marsha made it her goal to travel throughout the world, with her most recent trips being to Northern Europe and Italy. Marsha was an active member of Olivet Lutheran Church;
participating in the choir, Bookworms Group and Women’s Bible Study. Left to cherish her memory is her loving husband of 42 years, Gerald; children, Brian (Heather), Julie (Jason) Eaton; brother, Todd (Kathy) Rogers; grandchildren, Katherine and McKenna Eaton; step-mother, Rosie Rogers; mother-in-law, Hilda Dunaway; and many other family members and friends.”
They are not the first of my Libbey teachers to pass away. Fred Wesolowski and Debbie Wilhelms left us long ago, and there are undoubtedly others I would be saddened to learn have died.
Dunaway and Flores’ lives were intertwined by birthdates, careers and dates of passing. And while their influence and memories will long live in the hearts and deeds of Libbey graduates, it is another painful reminder that the building in which they and so many others spent much of their lives has been reduced to rubble, nothing more than bricks ground to dust.
That does not diminish the strength of the many foundations Dunaway and Flores helped build. Their places in the wall are now empty, but they left thousands strong bricks to continue the long, fruitful construction.
Michael S. Miller is editor in chief of Toledo Free Press and Toledo Free Press Star. Contact him at email@example.com.