" be nobody but yourself in a world which is doing its best night and day to make you everybody else,
means to fight the hardest battle which any human can fight; and never stop fighting.” - ee cummings

This old warrior girded up his loins,
            strapped on his armor every morning,
                          and arrived at our schoolhouse gate

               armed to the teeth with integrity.
         So very un-nineties was he. Tom got crazier
              just by standing still. In the 60’s,
        normal, bizarre like everyone else, the 70’s-a bit
eccentric, the 80’s-slightly worrisome
              oddball, 90’s-full blown nut. Imagine, he still

bellowed when in the throes of some passion,
          or in the vise of an injustice, or when defending
kids he thought were getting the shaft. You never had to say, “I hear
                      you” to Tom. This guy could

frighten people, even his silences were boulders
                         that could flatten you. Suffering fools was
               not his specialty, though his heart
                              flowed like lava for his students,
    those many who’ll now miss their beloved
                              “Mista Hoopa.”
            In modern parlance, he tended

               “to act out,” so when he got tired one day
          of picking up dirty dishes in the cafe,
                        he chose to implement a different
               lesson plan, and hurled
a plate of spaghetti with spicy marinara against
                      a white wall,
        and every teacher was horrified, and secretly
                          cheered, and a cafeteria’s worth of jaws
dropped, and somewhere in America
               200 citizens are still clearing their tables,

         and teaching their own kids to.  Whether
he was fishing in some stream or in
         a classroom, casting out or exploding that
great laugh which could
                   shake whole foundations,
        no difference. He stood inside
himself, and was for us, every minute, who

      he was, lover of books, poet, champion of the
                     neglected, advocate of the scorned, difficult,
              cantankerous, outspoken, caring,
        committed, never letting us off the hook,

reminding always that what’s professed
                 must be lived, and what’s learned
      must be applied,
           and he leaves us now, the old guard
changing, a quieter school,
             a less difficult place,
                     taking with him the
    “unspeakable vision of
                            the individual,”
and the presence of a man
             no renovation
can ever replace.

On the occasion of his retirement from
L-S after 33  years.

June 2000

All written material © Bill Schechter, 2016
Contact Bill Schechter