Thanks to Old School Master

Scott Monty did me the kindness of tagging me with a meme of giving thanks to those in our past and present. It started with Kami Huyse and Rob Lagasse and has included Kyle Flaherty and Geoff Livingston.

I took the photo above yesterday during my walk along the Charles River. It says gratitude to me, somehow. When I look out my window here, I see a bed of yellow leaves in the park, and then the still water of the river. I’m grateful to my parents for helping us establish this place in Cambridge where we can be close to my family, and still maintain our home in Denver.

The person outside my family who gave me the biggest boost forward was Sumner Scherer, my fifth grade homeroom teacher at Claypit Hill School in Wayland, Mass. He was a tall, quirky fellow with a resonant tenor voice and big brown eyes, a bit out of step with the other teachers and principal. He taught us the decimal system before we were supposed to know it, and at the end of each class he read to us the story of Jean Valjean in Hugo’s Les Miserables. Mr. Scherer spotted my love of writing, and he made me think I could be a writer. Twenty years later he and I corresponded when I was living in Casper, Wyoming, and I’ve saved all his letters. I couldn’t figure out how to address him at first. Mr. Scherer seemed too formal, and Sumner too informat. “How about Old School Master,” he proposed, and he delighted in signing all his letters “OSM.” They are beautifully written, playful masterpieces, full of encouragement for what I was doing in my creative endeavors. One day I received a brief note from his wife, Marilyn, saying he had passed on, a sudden and untimely loss.

My present life is largely about gratitude for my family. In Cambridge I’m within walking distance of my parents, my daughters and grandson, and my sister. That’s a big difference from being two time zones away, even with video chat. I love being able to walk down the street to Harvard Square for my weekly lunch with Dad, and if Mom has Mac trouble, I can walk over to see what the matter is. We’ve got the Cambridge home pretty well established, with my wife’s quilting studio well lit and equipped, and my podcasting/Internet/writing studio upstairs looking good with a dark blue rug and a wooden file cabinet from Staples that I assembled last night.

I’m not sure he will want to work this meme into his brilliant blog focused on his painting, but I’d like to tap my Alaska friend Kes Woodward to add to this thread, if he’s game. Kes’s friendship has been another bit of amazing luck for me, because of his wise and caring counsel and his inspiring model of a life well lived on so many dimensions.

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4 Responses to Thanks to Old School Master

  1. MarkWB says:

    It seems the older I get, the more I am grateful. I mean really sincerely grateful.Is it that the passage of time has allowed us to see others and ourselves for who we are and appreciate that uniqueness?

    Anyways Len, I am grateful for a number of people and areas in my life. I really appreciate your post as I think we all can relate to that one mentor or supporter that means a lot to us. I have coached football and I am always amazed how much I hear directly or indirectly how much I am appreciated. That does feel good and complete. Life is good!

  2. chuck eckerline says:


    I ran across your blogs searching for something else, and recognized the name. I lived at 25 Three Ponds Rd., and along with the Norcrosses, parked my bike at your house every grade school day for the short cut through the woods to Claypit Hill.

    I also remember Mr. Scherer, and wrote to him once, many years ago, telling him that he was responsible for my interest in medicine, (I won a prize at the fifth grade science fair), and a big part of why I became a doctor.

    We left Wayland in late 1962, and eventually settled in Lexington, KY, where I still practice Emergency Medicine.

    Brings back a lot of memories when I read your post.

    • len says:

      Thanks, Chuck! Your comment brought me down Memory Lane (and Three Ponds Road) with a big smile. Much appreciated!

  3. sarah says:

    I had a dream last night about Sumner Scherer – he was my favorite teacher ever – and now that I am a teacher myself, I have even more respect for what he did with us. I didn’t correspond with him, but I thought about him often. Oddly, for a brief period, he taught at the Junior High, and I had him again. What worked so beautifully in 5th grade fell flat in 7th – his powers were at their fullest with elementary school children.
    Thank you for writing about him.

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