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FROM READERS: Former students let Spanish teacher know she made a difference

Wednesday, December 11, 2013 | 1:45 p.m. CST; updated 9:33 a.m. CST, Friday, December 13, 2013
Alice Delmez and Sue Dobbs with a copy of The Cresset from 1973.

Nancy Rogers, is Alice Delmez’ goddaughter. Alice and her husband, Albert Delmez, chairman of the foreign language department at Stephens College, traveled the world, bringing Nancy gifts from India, France, Spain, Mexico and Egypt. Nancy majored in French and worked at the American Embassies in Paris, Tokyo and London. She can be contacted at nancyr0201@hotmail.com.

Alice Delmez taught Spanish at Hickman High School from 1956–1976.

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When Sue saw the photograph on Facebook she gasped. “Ohhhh, it’s Mrs. Delmez!"

What a happy feeling to see her teacher whom she admired and respected from long ago. Sue had wondered about her and was delighted to see that she was still living in Columbia.

A week later, Sue Dobbs pulled out of the parking lot of Truman Medical Center Lakewood in Kansas City where she worked as a staff dentist. She turned east on Interstate 70 towards Columbia.

Sue found her teacher’s house and knocked on the door. She was ushered into a sunny room where a diminutive lady of 65 pounds clad in a pink nightgown, pink robe and pink booties sat on the couch.

“Mrs. Delmez, I’m Sue Dobbs.”

The older lady looked quizzically at the visitor.

“Sue Dobbs….”

“Oh my, Sue Dobbs! Yes, of course. How are you dear?”

They hugged each other and cried. It was the first time they had seen each other in 40 years.

“I was so excited to read the article about you. I had to find you. So many of your students majored in Spanish in college and went on to teach Spanish. Do you remember Lynette Hess? She taught Spanish in Stockton and Farmington, Mo. and then moved to Dallas where she used her Spanish as a school counselor. Marjorie Smith also taught Spanish to high school students. Marise Duff Stewart majored in Spanish at William Jewell College and became a lawyer. Her son studied Spanish in college and in Spain.

“A few weeks ago I attended a meeting on Obamacare in Lee’s Summit. I bumped into one of your former student teachers, Jane Rowland. She taught Spanish in Odessa, Missouri, where she won a teacher of the year award in 1986.

"Do you remember Ann Coe and Betsy Ross; Rosemary Smith and Charlie Blackmore?"

“I remember all of you,” Alice smiled. “And what about you, Sue?”

“I work as a staff dentist at Truman Medical Center Lakewood in Kansas City. I never dreamed back in high school my Spanish would be so important. I use it every day with my Spanish speaking patients." Sue said.  My life is richer because of the things I learned from you, the friendships I made with Spanish speaking classmates in dental school and even career opportunities that came my way because I had studied Spanish years earlier. I did not realize at the time how it would benefit me later in life. What I thought was long forgotten became part of who I am today. I am so grateful to you, Mrs. Delmez.”

“Thank you, dear, you are too kind and please, call me Alice."

A week later a woman showed up at the teacher’s door.

She was ushered into a sunny room where a diminutive lady of 65 pounds, clad in a pink nightgown, pink robe and pink booties sat on the couch.

“Mrs. Delmez, I’m Linda Keown.”

The teacher looked up at the face .

“It can’t be true. Is that really you, Linda?”

The two women embraced and sat quietly for a moment.

“Linda, tell me about yourself. It’s been so long.”

“I retired last year as an assistant teaching professor of Spanish at the University of Missouri here in Columbia. I taught there for six and a half years. I also taught at Central Methodist for four years. Perhaps you remember I went to Mount Holyoke College? I majored in Spanish, of course! I started teaching Spanish at Hickman in 1978, shortly after you retired. I taught there for 24 years. They gave me your old classroom. I found some of my old textbooks and papers in the cupboard. It felt like you were still there.

“I remember tertulia at your home. We spoke only Spanish; no English. We listened to the music of Segovia, looked at paintings by Velazquez, Goya, El Greco. I remember reading a play by Garcia Lorca, “La Casa de Bernarda Alba.” "But the best part of tertulia was eating tapas!

"You inspired me, Mrs. Delmez."

“Please dear, call me Alice," Alice said. “You inspired me, Linda. You and I could communicate. Our minds ran in the same channel. It is gratifying when students are interested and it makes a little difference in their lives to know Spanish."

Alice’s passion and devotion to excellence created lively, compelling classes that were irresistible to her students. Now they are mothers and grandmothers, fathers and grandfathers, teachers, doctors, lawyers and artists. But the art of El Greco, the poetry of Lorca, and the sweet sounds of Segovia’s guitar still echo in their souls.

At 100 years old it must be gratifying to know that your life made a difference.

I wonder who is going to show up at Alice’s door next?

This story is part of a section of the Missourian called From Readers, which is dedicated to your voices and your stories. We hope you’ll consider sharing. Here’s how. Supervising editor is Joy Mayer.


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