For generations, this teacher touched lives

June 24, 2007|by MARLO BARNHART

Editor's note: Each Sunday, The Herald-Mail publishes "A Life Remembered." This continuing series takes a look back - through the eyes of family, friends, co-workers and others - at a member of the community who died recently. Today's "A Life Remembered" is about Louise Troxell Gearhart-Lynch, who died June 15 at the age of 88. Her obituary appeared in the June 17 edition of The Herald-Mail.

Back in 1998, one of Louise Gearhart-Lynch's students wrote a four-page evaluation of her English professor at Hagerstown Community College for an assignment.

Discovered recently by Louise's daughters as they combed through their late mother's cherished mementos, the essay took the form of a letter and contained very personal observations of Louise's strengths and humanity as a person as well as a teacher.

Despite the laudatory context, the essay also included Louise's customary corrections of the writer's grammar, capitalization and word choices. But at the end was a note that Louise obviously wrote from her heart.


"This is the nicest thing I have ever gotten - I hope I can continue to measure up," the handwritten note read.

She was 79 and still teaching then. By all accounts, Louise was and had been measuring up all her life, according to her daughters and many of her former students who echoed that sentiment in their comments, notes and e-mails to Louise's family after her death on June 15 at the age of 88.

Louise retired four years ago, when she was 84, after 30 years on the HCC faculty. But her longevity didn't surprise anyone who knew her.

Known to line up her dolls and teach them when she was a child, Louise later expanded her "audience" when she was a nursery school director, then as part of a team of teachers launching the Head Start program in Washington County.

"Mom was bigger than life," daughter Bonnie White said.

Hundreds of letters surfaced attesting to her influence.

A resident of Somerford Assisted Living in Hagerstown toward the end of her life, Louise was cared for by several former students, her daughters said.

About a month ago, Louise received a surprise visit from the HCC humanities staff with whom she had worked for many years.

"It made her life," Bonnie said.

Carl Galligan, who retired as HCC dean of students four years ago, offered his own heartfelt words at Louise's funeral.

"He spoke of how mom taught students about living life and being on time as well as about grammar," daughter Karen Kaylor-Shanahan said.

A real stickler for being on time, Louise once told Karen that for her 9 a.m. class, she would lock the door at 9 and admit no late arrivers.

"Those who came late were never late twice," Karen said.

The day before Louise died, her daughters said she had a lone visitor at Somerford - a former student.

"She said to mom that she would be so proud of her," Karen said. "She said, 'I had my interview and I did what you told me to do.'"

Family members were out in the hall, listening and crying.

"Mom couldn't talk or see, but she could indicate her understanding," Karen said.

It was like that all their lives - seeing the impact their mother had through other people's eyes as well as their own, Bonnie said.

It was a great joy that Louise's children, then her grandchildren, got to experience her influence, too.

"It's been great for our children," Bonnie said.

Karen said her mother's gift was giving love, but she often had trouble accepting it. When she died, her family was all around her.

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