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My 'kid' didn't get to meet my friend

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By Ray Willis

Jim will not be meeting the “Kid from Tifton” after all.

My old friend and teaching team partner from South Carolina Jim Rogers and I were not able to reunite after 9 years.  Jim was going to spend Christmas with his family in Tifton, Ga., and then, hopefully, drive down to Havana and spend a couple of days with my wife Judy and me.

I call our 2-year-old Yorkie Nick the “Kid from Tifton” because he was born in Tifton and is on his way to becoming a fine shortstop.  Not many ground balls or line drives tossed with his yellow rubber ball get by him.

We had just settled down to relax after entertaining Judy’s mother for most of Christmas day when the phone rang at about 7:15.  It was Bobby, Jim Rogers’ sister in Tifton.  She informed me that Jim was getting ready to contact his old buddy, Ray, to discuss being together on the 26th, when he died suddenly on Christmas Eve.

It was a gray day as I walked along Twin Ponds Road. So many memories came to mind of our teaching association for over 20 years.  I had looked forward very much to reuniting with Jim, here in the South, his own turf, for a long time.

Jim Rogers and I had taught on the same teaching team at Haddam-Killingworth Middle School, in Higganum, Conn.  He taught social studies and I taught English to one of the seventh grade teams. We had collaborated so many times during a typical school year.

I know it wasn’t always easy for Jim to teach.  He had a very thick Southern drawl, which never really abated, due to what I believe was a hearing defect.  However, he always gave his very best in the classroom.

When not in his classroom one could usually find Jim in our “copying room” running off enough copies of whatever it was he would be using to supplement his teaching lesson.  Of course, there were times we could have killed him when one of us also wanted to used the single machine.

Mr. Rogers was a true Southern gentleman and well liked by the staff at our school. Most often he tended to remain in the background and was rather a quiet man.

Many times I had wondered why he stayed in the North to teach.  However, he had married a woman from New England who had a career there and his two adopted children were enrolled in school.

Jim Rogers was responsible for organizing several special projects at our school. One popular one was when his students baked or cooked special dishes or delicacies from whatever area they happened to be studying at the time. Teachers and family members could come in on a certain day to sample the special preparations of food.

Jim also organized a trip to historic Boston and Quincy Market which was always enjoyed by our classes.

In the mid 90s our teaching team of five went to the University of Southern Maine in Portland for a 3-day seminar on team teaching.  We had been allowed to attend this special workshop because we were required to keep up our continuing education units.

Jim and I roomed together for the time we were in Maine. I can’t say that I really got to know Jim much better than I had.  However, we did have some worthwhile dialogue, and we had much respect for one another.

Jim had given me a couple of books over the years because he knew of my interest in the South.  I just found one of them, “The Return of the Gray Man,” and I will be rereading it soon.

Jim Rogers will be missed dearly by his friends, family and colleagues.

I hope that your New Year will be prosperous and happy.  Be kind to your loved ones and never forget that at any moment we may take our last breath. God bless you.