Sunday, March 31, 2013

The Influence of a Teacher, Larry Zimmer

This Easter, I'm celebrating the life of a man who changed the lives of so many people, Larry Zimmer. Larry Zimmer was my high school English teacher my junior and senior year in high school. My sisters and I agree he was the best teacher any of us every had. Larry Zimmer died on Thursday, and the world is a little less kind because of his loss.

HURON – Larry J. “Mr. Z” Zimmer, 73, of Huron, died unexpectedly at his residence, Thursday, March 28, 2013, of natural causes.   He was born September 4, 1939 in Tiffin where he was raised.   He graduated from Tiffin Calvert High School and Bowling Green State University.   He was a teacher for Norwalk Schools in 1963 and 64 where he began his teaching career and then moved to Huron and taught American and World Literature retiring in 1988.  He was the Junior Class Advisor for many years; organized the Great Books Forum; was instrumental with starting the community ecumenical teen prayer services throughout Huron; and was a basketball scorekeeper for many years for the Huron Tiger Basketball team.  He was generous to all in need, but especially quietly helping to support students in their higher education.   He was active for many years with the Huron Education Association committee and was a member of the Erie County Retired Teachers Association.  He was a founding member of a teacher investment education group called the MIC, and was a member of St. Peter Catholic Church, Huron.     He traveled extensively throughout the world, especially to Hawaii and Mexico and loved to travel with his parents.   Larry is survived by his sister, Martha (Richard) Gase of Tiffin and numerous nieces and nephews.   He is preceded in death by his parents, Charles and rose (Lehner) Zimmer; sisters, Catherine Schorger and Dorothy Hess; and brother, Raymond Zimmer.   Friends may call Tuesday, April 2, from 6 to 8 p.m. at the Foster Funeral Home & Crematory, 410 Main Street, Huron.  Funeral mass will be Wednesday, April 3, at 10 a.m. at St. Peter Catholic Church, 430 Main Street, Huron, with Rev. Jeffery Sikorski, officiating.   Burial will be in St. Mary’s Cemetery, Tiffin.   Contributions may be made to the Salvation Army, 3333 Columbus Ave, Sandusky, 44870 or to the Donor’s Choice.  

Six years ago, I wrote a blog post called The Wave. It was a tribute to Larry Zimmer, although I had written him a letter at one time to thank him for being a great teacher. When Jim died, Larry sent a beautiful card, but it was the masses that were to be said for Jim that made me cry. We exchanged Christmas cards, and it always made me feel good that he still cared enough about a former student to drop a note, and have some masses said for me.

Larry Zimmer changed my life, and I can think of no better tribute than to re-run the piece I wrote in 2007. It's a thank you to a great teacher.


A Wave

In Robert Fulghum's latest book, What on Earth Have I Done?, he lists questions he calls Conversation Lifeboats. It's an intriguing list that helps to make strangers no longer strangers. His first question is, "Did you ever have a great teacher - in school or out? Tell me."

This blog entry is a departure. It doesn't relate to a book or libraries. It does relate to me, and what helped to make me the person I am today. I already loved books. His class gave me an exposure to literature that is necessary for cultural literacy, for life. This note is about that great teacher in my life.

My sisters would probably say Larry Zimmer was their greatest teacher as well, but I can only speak from my experience. Larry Zimmer was my English teacher in my junior and senior years in High School. He challenged us, taught us more than any other teacher, brought the experiences of our first two years of high school English together. I had outstanding English teachers in those first two years, but it's the lessons I learned in Mr. Zimmer's classes that I remember.

We studied poetry - Frost and Sandburg. We wrote our own poetry, and many of us had it published. In those classes, I first read Hawthorne, Melville, Faulkner. I read my first Eudora Welty short story, and, when I had the chance to meet her when I was in college, I knew who I was meeting. We worked in small groups, and did group presentations. We also had to research and do an individual presentation to the entire class. I pinpoint my love of Readers' Theatre to the day I appeared in front of the class to present the theory that Nero Wolfe was Sherlock Holmes' son. I had been captivated by a book that said that, and, wearing my father's bathrobe, and carrying a pipe, I portrayed the detectives. Mr. Zimmer gave me the confidence to get up in front of the class, and, completely out of character, make that presentation. We read Greek drama, Sophocles and Aristophanes. How many high school students still read Greek drama? Then, we took that drama, researched, and wrote Greek Reviews, major papers that were larger than any paper I ever wrote in college. He took us to Cleveland, to see a professional performance of Hamlet. He gave us phrases, and we had to write creative stories. I still remember one, "She met him over a strawberry ice cube."

I was in the accelerated English classes, but I took a reading class for independent study. Mr. Zimmer brought his class into the reading lab at the time, and, in working with the boys in that class who were not outstanding students, I had the chance to discover how much smarter they were than I was, in some of the more practical aspects of life. I couldn't read a map to save my life, and they could easily pick up that skill. It was a lesson just watching Mr. Zimmer work with them.

I went back to my hometown as library director, and Mr. Zimmer brought his classes to the library, and treated me as a peer. He told me to call him Larry, and we discussed his class assignments.

I never think of Larry Zimmer as Larry. I still admire the teacher I had, who helped me develop writing and reading skills. He expanded my reading world. He was one person who helped me become the person I am today.

I did write Larry Zimmer once, and thank him. I told him he was a wonderful teacher.

So, Robert Fulghum, Larry Zimmer was the great teacher I once had. And, this is a wave of thanks to Robert Fulghum for asking the question, and to Larry Zimmer, for all of the questions.

RIP, Larry Zimmer, and thank you, from me, and from my sisters.


Liz said...

Larry made a big difference to many of the students that went through his class and I am sure that they are better people because of him. Rest in peace, Larry.

Mason Canyon said...

A very moving and loving tribute. Your tribute is also a good reminder that we should acknowledge those who have inspired and helped us in our walk of live before it's too late. Thank you and Happy Easter.

Thoughts in Progress

Lesa said...

Yes, he did, Mom. Thank you.

Lesa said...


If there's anything I'm happy about, it's that I took time to tell him what a wonderful teacher he was, and what a difference he made. I hope people do stop and think about it, and remember someone they should thank.

Karen C said...

Lovely tribute, Lesa. I know you know how lucky you were to have Mr. Zimmer in your life. I wish I had had just one person, teacher or not, like that in mine. Thank you for sharing your experience. Happy Easter.

Lesa said...

I do know, Karen. And, I'm sorry you didn't. I actually had a library director in my hometown who had an influence on my life as well. Thank you, and Happy Easter.

Shiva Polavarapu said...

I don’t know Larry Zimmer. But,I work with Larry’s Niece here in Canton, MI. I wish I had a great English literature teacher like Larry. May his soul rest in Peace. Shiva Polavarapu, Canton, MI

Lesa said...

Thank you, Shiva. He was wonderful.

julie said...

Hi Lesa, I just got the chance to read your tribute to Larry Zimmer. I, too, had the chance to have him as my teacher for two years and I also took Great Books Forum, with Mr. Zimmer helping us to read books I might never have known. When we moved back to Huron in 2001, I sent him a card thanking him for being the most wonderful teacher and for making me want to learn and explore the wide world of literature. There are a million good things I could say about him and thank you for your wonderful written memory of a very good man.

Lesa said...


Aren't you glad you had the chance to let Mr. Z know how he influenced your life? I know I was glad. Thank you!

Jeffrey A. Carver said...

I don't think I was aware that Mr. Z had died, until just now, when I read it on your blog. I was mentally responding to news I'd gotten that former HHS wrestling coach Chris Ford had died, and that led me to other obits, and finally I did a search on Larry Zimmer after I saw that there was a scholarship fund in his name. I could not agree more, that his passing left a little less kindness in the world.

In a science fiction novel I wrote, I had an AI teacher named Mr. Zizmer (or Mr. Z for short). I never kept up with him the way I wish I had, but I was glad to have been able to send him that tribute.


Lesa said...

Jeff, I think Mr. Zimmer would have honored to know he was a teacher in one of your books. In the end, I think all his students, who remember him with so much love and respect our probably the tribute he appreciated the most. I know he changed my life. And, I still remember so much of what he taught us.

Khat Missig said...

Larry Zimmer affected so many people. I was thinking of him today and miss him deeply; I am glad to see you wrote this piece.