Lesson Learned (Jan. 21)

A Remarkable Lady

Helen G. Reger

May 13, 1921 - January 12, 2021

A Great Teacher might be how Helen G. Reger will be remembered by many folk. After all, she was designated as the West Virginia Teacher of the Year in 1976.

To her many students she will be the teacher who remembers their name. Teacher Reger told me until late into her 80s she remembered the names of all her students.

My son Roncevert, when he heard of Teacher Reger’s peaceful passing January 12, 2021, at the ripe age of 99 plus, exclaimed: “I recall her very fondly as my kindergarten teacher. One of my first teachers and one of my best! She held me accountable to the rules, Dad, like that time I brought a toy car, a ‘Hot Wheel,’ to class, when I shouldn’t have,” he explained. “She made honesty a principle worth pursuing, not a burden to be avoided.” It also helped that she called his Mom, Araceli. And Buckhannon, being the special place it is, Ronce recalled that Helen Reger continued to teach him through the years, through warm words of encouragement, a knowing smile, and a firm embrace after service at First United Methodist Church.

I recall as well, about a decade ago, when Helen embraced me after our church service at FUMC when she heard that I was planning to run for the vacant position on the Upshur County Schools Board of Education following the untimely death of Aubrey Wilson, who had just won election to the school board at age 79. I will always remember her feisty finger wagging and sparkling eyes winking at me as she proclaimed, “Stir ’Em Up!” At that moment she gave me marching orders, which I have done my best to follow.

The five Almond children born of Harold and Lois Flanagan Almond always knew that sister Ruthie’s claim to fame was that she was the first child in West Virginia to graduate from public kindergarten. For you see, she was in Helen Reger’s first kindergarten class in 1958. And her last name began with an “A.” And girls go first.

In the middle of the campus of Alderson-Broaddus University is a one-room school house that honors Teacher Helen Reger. She was a schoolteacher, earning a Standard Normal from Alderson-Broaddus College, which qualified her as a public schoolteacher. She began her teaching career in Barbour County, where she taught 1st grade through 8th grade in one-room schools, which included Campbell School, Audra School, and Boulder School. I believe the preserved school is actually her community childhood school building. At our Board of Education meeting the other evening, Dr. Sara Stankus remembered fondly how kind Teacher Reger was when our West Virginia Teacher of the Year for 2021, the second from Upshur County, wanted to meet the great teacher Helen Reger. My my, Teacher Erin Anderson and Superintendent Stankus were treated like royalty when they went calling at her Florida Street home.

But Helen Reger certainly is much more than a great teacher. She is my inspiration for being a late blooming author. I turned to her when I needed mentoring for a book addressing the way my parents raised us. Dad and Mom and John and Helen were lifelong friends. They were cut from the same cloth of the Great Depression and World War II—the Greatest Generation. I am grateful to “Editor Reger’s” guidance and example, that can-do optimism.

Indeed, I respected Helen so much, I knew she would provide the right “voice” for the Foreword of my book “STORIES OF A WEST VIRGINIA DOCTOR’S SON.”  In it she noted, “Children are immersed in a wealth of experiences, filled with fun and laughter, while parents capture teachable moments for history, geography, and science.”

She urged that we should install in children an “appreciation for truth, justice, and respect for all, regardless of their walk of life. It is attributes such as these that parents, teachers, and all who serve as role models can instill in children’s lives through their daily walk with them.”

Indeed, she was a teacher, a role model, and a leader. Her memories, like her students, are many. We mourn her loss, but celebrate her rich life and legacy.

A special thanks to Margaret, John and Jacob, along with your extended family, for this opportunity to reflect on the beautiful life, well lived by Helen G. Reger, a Remarkable Lady.

Greenbrier Almond, MD



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