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A special teacher earns her wings

A week ago today, my husband and I delivered our daughter and son-in-law to the airport for their return to Massachusetts after a lovely week-long Thanksgiving visit with us. On our way back home, we stopped in to a local store to do a little Christmas shopping. While we stood in line to pay, we were greeted by a long-time friend, Elaine Payne, a recently-retired schoolteacher who was on her way for a luncheon with other retired teacher friends. It was obvious that she was looking forward to that gathering. Telling her to have a good time, we added that we would see her again soon. Two days later, her husband called to tell us that Elaine had suffered a massive heart attack. Yesterday, we stood by her bed in the cardiac critical care unit to share in a prayer with her pastor and several dear friends as we bade her a final goodbye. She was 59.

Elaine and her husband, Ken, have been our friends for more than twenty-five years, and we’ve spent many pleasant hours with them, even taking a few nice vacations together. John and Ken are especially good friends, sharing several hobbies and community activities. When our daughter was ill, when John’s dad and my mother passed away, when our house was hit by a tornado — all the difficult times in our lives — Ken and Elaine were the first ones there to offer help and support. A little less than two years ago, they lost their only child, their son, Thomas, and we grieved with them, having watched Thomas grow up along with our own children.

For twenty-eight years, Elaine taught special education in local public schools. She dealt with sometimes very difficult students, but she loved her job and I know she made a difference in very many young lives. If you’ve read my earlier posts, you know how much respect and admiration I have for dedicated teachers, and Elaine was certainly among that elite group. Even after her retirement, Elaine continued to work in the school, spending countless unpaid hours volunteering in the library. She was also very active in her church and other community organizations. She will be missed by many.

During this busy, bustling holiday season, I hope you’ll all take the time to appreciate each fleeting moment with your own family and friends. Thank you for letting me share a few memories of my friend with you here.


Award-winning, best-selling author of women's romance fiction.

3 thoughts on “A special teacher earns her wings

  1. SpEd teachers are a rare breed, Gina. Knowing one that lasted in the field twenty-eight years is a rarity also. Your friend was clearly an amazing woman, much like you.

    I’m sorry for your loss, hon. And I’m sorry for the children who won’t have her for a teacher. But wow, I’m glad you got to know someone like that. And it explains why you were so able to understand my respect and admiration for my mom, a speech pathologist who segued into being a SpEd teacher for developmentally disabled pre-schoolers near the end of her teaching years.


  2. My thoughts are with you, Elaine’s family, and all who knew her. I know she must have been a wonderful, loving woman. I know that she must have made a difference in the lives of many. I’m sure their hearts are breaking as well. It is always an especially sad occasion whenever the world loses someone who has devoted their lives to improving the lives of others the way your dear friend did.

  3. My heart and prayers are with you in your time of loss. Friends are like siblings to be cherished and loved. She sounds like she was a treasure.

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