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Appreciation: Tom Glennon

For decades, students at North Canaan Elementary School had Mr. Glennon for seventh-grade science, including me.

My daughter had him as a substitute and she would often come home with Mr. Glennon stories and quips, reminiscent of my own days in his class. I would find myself smiling with fond remembrance.

To say he was unique would be an understatement.

The highlight of seventh-grade science, during his tenure, were the gardens.

At the beginning of the year, students teamed up, each team assigned a garden. We spent the fall preparing the beds for spring. In winter we sowed our seeds. In the spring we planted. It was not unusual for kids to meet up with him at the school on a Saturday morning or during vacation to work the gardens. Truth is, we couldn’t wait.

Hauling soil and mulch, working with others, having a goal, giving back to your community — all the while learning the earth sciences. Extraordinary!

I was in the seventh grade the year my dad died. Mr. Glennon wrote me a personal note assuring me that everything would be OK. He helped my classmates understand my loss.

I was now in a single-parent home, unusual for those days, and not knowing how to react (most of us only 11 or 12), my friends and classmates held me at a distance. Mr. Glennon helped us all get through it, not by ignoring it, but by talking about it, through science, the cycle of life. Brilliant.

His reassuring words of support and his acts of kindness made me feel safe at a very tough time in my young life. After all these years, I still have his note.

If I were to describe him in one word, I guess it would have to be “jolly.” He was stout and round, smelled of cigars, was louder than most; he loved to sing; he walked with a shuffle; he had a prose like no other, always the advocate for kids and education. He made learning fun and we, his students, adored him.

When I learned of his passing, and while attending a special tree planting ceremony at the school this past week in his honor (undertaken by the five North Canaan boys he took cross-country to Alaska in 1962), I could not help but recall the words of Ralph Waldo Emerson:

“To laugh often and much;

To win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children;

To earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends;

To appreciate beauty;

To find the best in others;

To leave the world a bit better whether by a:

Healthy child, a garden patch or a redeemed social condition;

To know that even one life has breathed easier because you have lived

This is to have succeeded.”

— Susie Fracaro Clayton, North Canaan Elementary School Class of 1967