The kindly-earnest, brave, foreseeing man,
Sagacious, patient, dreading praise, not blame ...
Clara Morris, a 19th century writer and actor, wrote the words above as a tribute to President Lincoln.
Those same words can be applied to the character of Bob Sawyer, a highly revered teacher, coach, vocalist and humanitarian who passed away in late August.
To honor his life, a large assembly of people from all walks of life gathered at First Baptist Church in Langley in a heavy downpour and clapping thunder. The inclement weather did not dampen the respect shown this dearly loved man and native son.
His passing leaves a tremendous void in the faculty at Midland Valley High School and sadness among its students.
Mr. Sawyer's love for the Valley was unmatched. His presence will be missed. It is comforting, I know, to his fine family that the love he extended to the Valley was returned to him daily by his students and friends.
Because of the way he lived and the service he gave, the church on that rainy evening was filled beyond capacity.
Mr. Sawyer was an exceptional teacher. To prove it, eloquent letters from current and former students were read at the memorial service.
One student wrote: "Mr. Sawyer, I finally graduated." The pastor paused for a moment for those in attendance to grasp the significance of that phrase. I think everyone surmised that Mr. Sawyer had monitored the academic process of this student and had along the way put aside the lesson on plant life and picked up a lesson that was relevant to the needs of the student at the moment - perhaps, a lesson on perseverance.
Another student wrote: "Mr. Sawyer ... you made learning interesting. ... I hope you will be around to teach my children."
I can appreciate that student's desire. Mr. Sawyer was around to teach both of our girls. He taught them honors biology and anatomy. With tears in her eyes, Lauren shared with me in an emotional voice how Mr. Sawyer used himself in an illustration to explain the physiology of the heart. It was as though she had been in his class that very morning. But it was four years earlier; Lauren is a second-year education student at the University of South Carolina Aiken.
The effective teacher is mortal, but his lessons take on a life that is immortal and lives through generations to come. In a real sense, Mr. Sawyer lives on. His influence on humanity through his children and their progeny and through his students and theirs will outlast time.
FRANK ROBERSON, AN EDUCATOR AND WRITER, IS THE INTERIM SUPERINTENDENT OF EDGEFIELD COUNTY SCHOOLS.