Thank You, Mrs. Fagerberg

How an unexpected kindness altered my life

I have been fortunate to enjoy the holidays in the company of family and friends in Central Florida. Not only was it fabulous to get out of Salt Lake City’s cold temperatures and horribly polluted air, it was a wonderful opportunity to “recharge”, de-stress, and renew some of the most meaningful relationships in my life.

I am blessed with a friendship that was born in 1977 when a high school biology teacher at the school I had just started in a new town took note of my interest in carnivorous plants. She encouraged me to introduce myself to another student who shared my interest. I learned it would be easy to find him, as he happened to spend the lunch break most every day in her classroom. Although this latter fact sounded every nerd alarm my mind could concoct (somehow I failed to see spending every day with a camera around my neck as being nerdy…!), I was intrigued enough want to meet another sophomore who shared my fascination with and cultivation of flesh eating plants. And thus it came about that I met John.

Mrs. Fagerberg - Thanks! Your influence extended far beyond the classroom and will last a lifetime!

I seriously doubt Mrs. Fagerberg had any idea of the impact her introduction would have on the two lives it involved. How could she have known she had just kindled the most enduring, heartfelt and sincere friendship I would treasure from that moment forward? Did she even imagine that she would spark a friendship that would become instrumental in the growth, development and coming to terms with difficult realities in the lives of two young men? Or could it have simply been “Fate” that directed her to suggest our introduction? Our birthdays even turned out to be exactly 1 week apart!

The interest John and I shared in carnivorous plants resulted in a number of expeditions into the swamplands in and around Gainesville to collect the species that at that time were prolific in the area. Sarracenia minor and several varieties of Drosera could be found with relative ease. We even became rather industrious, shipping specimens to other collectors in exchange for non-native varieties to add to our terrariums.

As our friendship and immediate circle of friends grew, so did our discovery of ourselves and who we were. When, at the end of our senior year I was selected to be a foreign exchange student to Austria, the potential of losing touch or growing distant from John was frightening. Yet, upon my return, this fear proved to have been completely unwarranted. I shall never forget the moment John re-entered my life, and exactly how it occurred — but that is another story for another time! Suffice to say that John and I were pretty much inseparable and, even after he moved to Daytona Beach and I to Orlando, there were very few weekends we did not spend together, especially after John moved into what I fondly began to refer to as the “Amityville House”.

As we both succumbed to the demands of adulthood and the obligations it brings, distance began to separate us again when I moved to Los Angeles in 1984. Yet even so, the friendship we shared continued to blossom and grow. I returned to Florida (Orlando) in 1990, and was delighted to discover that where John and I were concerned, it was as though I had never been away.

It has now been almost 35 years since Mrs. Fagerberg introduced me to John. And although I now live in Utah and he is still in the Daytona Beach area, the depth and steadfastness of our friendship remains. I now typically get to spend time with John only once a year, when I travel to Florida to spend Christmas with family. And to my continued delight, he and I are always in step; able to resume our friendship as though another year hasn’t passed with us being so far apart.

John, the biology and botany nerd... but at least he didn't have a pen in his pocket! He did, however, forge new ground with 80's hair post-graduation.

If I could, I’d love to tell Mrs. Fagerberg how her suggestion and introduction set the foundation for a lifetime friendship. I’d like to be able to thank her for being such a wonderfully observant teacher and facilitator of things that have affected and altered my life far more than anything I was to have learned in biology! I suppose it is correct to say that she is the teacher that had the biggest impact on my life, and for that I salute her and all the teachers out there who aren’t afraid to step out of the box, look beyond the textbooks and chalk, and dare to truly make a lasting difference in the lives of their students.

“I salute all the teachers out there who aren’t afraid to step out of the box, look beyond the textbooks and chalk, and dare to truly make a lasting difference in the lives of their students…”

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