Reblogs, Reflections

Mr. Helmly Found

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Originally posted Monday, August 13, 2012

I didn’t need to open the letter. I could recognize that messy yet particular scribble as easily as I could the handwriting of my parents.

I knew I had found Mr. Helmly.

Nearly a year and a half ago, while I was still living in Montana, I posted about the search for Mr. Helmly, my favorite teacher from my San Diego elementary school who had made such a profound impact on my life.

I last saw him nearly a decade ago in October 2002, and for many years afterwards I tried to find him and thank him for his years of service shaping young minds. I called the school he taught at, reached out to other former students, and asked teachers who still worked at the school, all to no avail. When I finally turned to the blogosphere, my post resulted in a few possible leads, but mostly messages from other former students telling me they also wanted to reach Mr. Helmly to thank him. And so for a little while I continued trying.

But life always finds its way to divert you. I left my position in Montana to hit the streets of Chicago, then went overseas to live in France and travel throughout Europe and Africa. I returned to the States to finish up my degree and then went abroad again to bring a longtime interest into a full-fledged reporting project. It was only once I returned to the U.S. again that the search for Mr. Helmly began again. Finally armed with post-graduation free time, and with the help of a nifty little database, I was able to narrow down the possible Richard Helmlys based on approximate age and past addresses. And away went a little note card I penned in a handwriting not much neater than Mr. Helmly’s.

Since I received his reply, Mr. Helmly and I have been corresponding via email. I’m happy to say that he’s living a happy and active life in retirement. I have his explicit permission to share his contact information with other former students, so if you would like to get back in contact with Mr. Helmly, tell me your story and I’ll connect you with him. And while you’re at it, wish him a splendid 70th.

Happy birthday, Mr. Helmly.

This is a reblog from the original A Nomad on the Loose blog. I’m migrating favorite old posts to this new website.

I’m reposting this series during these holiday weeks as I’m currently off the grid. (To find out where I am and what I’m doing, make sure to subscribe to this blog and like my Facebook page to get the latest updates! It’ll be interesting, I promise.) Moreover, these posts on Mr. Helmly have helped dozens of his former students reconnect with him, so I wanted to make sure they have a new permanent home before I shut down my old blog completely.

4 thoughts on “Mr. Helmly Found

  1. My name is Ginette Barry. I too want to reconnect with Richard Helmley.
    My daughter was also in his 4th grade at Doyle Elementary. Since she was an avid reader, he told me that in his then 14 years of teaching that grade, she was the first student to have exhausted his library and that he needed to buy new books. I also helped him, by reading the books and making a series of questions about the story. So, when a student would borrow a book, the following week the child would be handed the questionnaire. That was his way of making sure the child had read the book.
    We then went to live overseas and I lost contact with him. Yesterday, my youngest daughter and her family were in La Jolla and we were going down memory lane. We ate at a restaurant which Richard introduced to us and souvenirs flooded.
    I would be very indebted to you if you would let me know how to contact him. I would love to surprise him. My daughter who was in his class is now 46 and I am sure she too would live to hear of his whereabouts. She has homeschooled 4 children and is writing a book among a plethora of other accomplishments.
    Sincerely, Ginette

  2. What a small small world. I literally thought hmmm what ever happened to Mr. Helmly and then I found your blog on my first search!

    While he was probably my toughest teacher, he also did such a service in being tough. I mean if he could teach me long division…..

    Thanks for your post!

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