John Ferone was a teacher of English in White Plains Public Schools until shortly before his much-too-early death in 2003. He loved teaching literature, particularly Washington Irving and William Shakespeare, but most of all, he loved teaching kids. Many former students remember John as a favorite teacher, and most others he taught will remember him for who he was. He was unique, a presence, and though I was his "boss" for ten years, he was also a pal. I miss him, but, luckily, I can still hear his voice, and see him standing in front of his classroom putting his students through their paces. (I can be found at www.alanwalowitz.com)
Out for a Drive and Thinking about John Ferone (1943-2003)
I got to Millbrook twelve years late,
though the horsey set was still sunning itself in the cafes,
their Lexuses polished to a nub
and tied to the decorative posts at the curb.
John had died before he and I could take up golf,
or watch birds with the Audubons
dragging their fancy Wellies through the mud,
or cash in any of his hoped-for lottery winnings--
though plenty well-off already,
a bachelor, who taught the hell out of those kids even in the summer
and drove a bus each afternoon, and never spent much,
as if the Great Depression he’d been taught as a kid
was right around the next curve on Fisher Avenue.
Fridays the dollar tickets were stuffed
in the top pocket of his Dacron shirt,
the same one he’d worn, stained and askew,
since he was a pup, and the principal took a chance on him,
despite the way he dressed and his plentiful unpolished ways:
John was born rumpled and called not so smart from the first--
no one had yet heard him declaim Romeo’s lovesick soliloquies
and make them make sense to thirteen year olds
who had plenty of problems of their own,
or convince the motley kids he taught
why they’d rather tour Sunnyside
than spend and get at the Mickey Ds right off the highway
close in to the old Sleepy Hollow cemetery
where I bet John would have wished to be buried,
though the Babe and Gentleman Jimmy
are now his neighbors up in Hawthorne.
How fitting for an ill-fitting squire from Millbrook.
Still, years later, strangers come up to tell me
he was their perfect teacher,
though I know for a fact John had plenty of faults.
I just can’t think of any right now.
first appeared in Melancholy-Hyperbole November, 2015
© 2017 Alan Walowitz
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