RIP: Hattie Phillips

closePlease note: This post was published over a year ago, so please be aware that its content may not be quite so accurate anymore. Also, the format of the site has changed since it was published, so please excuse any formatting issues.

“Auntie” Hattie Phillips, my third grade teacher, passed away on July 13th, but it wasn’t until today that I finally mourned.

You may be wondering why my third grade teacher gets special mention. The reason is that she was a special woman. She touched the lives of thousands of students over the years, and 20 years ago I was lucky enough to be in her class. Let me put into perspective the odds against me: Our graduating class was over 400 students strong. Of the many possible teachers into whose classes I could have been placed, I ended up in hers.

Auntie Hattie was a wonderful, caring teacher, and a woman in whom life was unbelievably abundant. She had an infectious smile, a joyous laugh, and I honestly can’t remember a time when she was upset (even when I accidentally pulled a chair out from under her just as she was sitting down).

I don’t remember the last time I saw her before I moved away from Hawaii, but I’ll never forget the last time I saw her. It was at my 10 year high school reunion, and when I saw her, I nearly ran up to her. As I approached, she saw me coming, dramatically held up a hand, and covered her eyes. “Don’t tell me!” she shouted. After a few seconds she pointed at me and said, “Tommy!” I was shocked. Of the thousands of students she taught before and after me, mine was a name and face she never forgot.

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