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October 3, 1995

I see by this newspaper that Fern McCormick is getting ready to celebrate her 91st birthday on October 22. This gentle lady was the object of my first schoolboy crush and I've been in love with her ever since the third grade when she let me clean the chalk dust off her erasers by pounding them against the brick walls of the school building.

That goes back to the time when some of the elementary grades were being taught in the old high school which used to stand on the real estate where our present PHS auditorium is located. When I was promoted to another grade in another building after a year in Fern's class, I always made it a point to go by her room on the way home every afternoon just to see her. Now I have to go by her room at the Green Valley Nursing home to see her, but she is just as vivacious and pretty as she was 'way back then.

Her name was Fern Folger when I sat in her class, but then one day she married Myrl McCormick and broke the hearts of a lot of schoolboys here. We all lived through that crisis, and today I still have the same great affection for her. Myrl and Laura both know all about this, and it's OK with them.

When Fern finally consented to retire from teaching, she began a career as substitute teacher and also did private tutoring. By so doing, hundreds more Perry youngsters had the privilege of learning under her and I'm sure she inspired every one of them. She had a way of making students feel that school work was fun, not drudgery, and that finding out about new things was a great experience. She introduced an untold number of surprised pupils to the joys of learning. It's a feeling many of them took with them into adulthood.

She made every one of us believe that she cared about us, because she truly did. We were all individuals to her. I knew she liked other kids besides me, but I didn't mind. It was a genuine pleasure just being around her. Through the years she inspired a legion of young laggards and motivated them to reach for heights they previously thought unattainable. All of this was done with a sweet smile, a pleasant voice and a prodding so gentle as to be almost imperceptible.

She has been a loyal and faithful member of the Methodist church for many years, and even though she can no longer attend worship services there it remains a focal point of her interest. She was one of the hardest working, most dedicated members of the board of directors of the Noble County Historical Society for many years, and she single-handedly sold dozens of copies of "The First Generation" a few years back. All proceeds from the sale of that book go to the Historical Society.

As one who benefitted from her genius and her endearing manner, I plan to join in whatever kind of birthday celebration is planned for Fern, and to wish her many, many more. She's still my girl.