A person changes in 66 years. At the very least, they’ll look different.
So, when Robert Terrell, 96, and Margaret (Peggy) Burley, 75, ran into each other at Bonney Lake’s Cedar Ridge assisted living facility last August, neither of them at first remembered they had met before – at an elementary school, where he was a fourth-grade teacher, and she was a part of the first class he ever taught.
“It was one of the most pleasant surprises I’ve ever had,” Bob recalled.
Bob, a five-year resident of Cedar Ridge, and Peggy, who had moved into the facility just four months previous to their meeting, only ran into each other because they were walking their dogs at the time.
His Maltese, Gracie, isn’t always the friendliest to other dogs, so as they were pulling his Gracie and her toy poodle, Buster, apart, they started talking.
The two don’t recall exactly what they said, but Peggy guesses she most likely mentioned her son’s wife was a teacher, to which Bob probably responded that, hey, he’d been a teacher, too. From there, realizing that they’d both been at Pacific Elementary School in 1951 — with Bob as her teacher and Peggy as his student — the memories started flooding back.
Peggy’s class at Pacific Elementary was Bob’s first. He wasn’t entirely sure at the time that he wanted to be a teacher, he said, but after meeting Peggy and her 29 fellow students, he never looked back.
“That first year with Peggy and those other kids, that was my best year of teaching because it proved I could do the job,” Bob said.
Bob remembers most, if not all, the students from that first class. Peggy, he said, was a soft-spoken student who enjoyed learning. She recently told Bob she had a crush on her fellow student, Bobby Olson, at the time.
Peggy, who said she enjoyed Bob as her teacher, remembers stealing chalk from his classroom one time.
“I was going to take it home and make hopscotch out on the sidewalk,” she said. Unfortunately, another student snitched, though Bob didn’t much care.
“Peggy could never get in trouble, that’s for sure,” Bob said.
While Bob rose up through the education system, teaching for six more years and then being principal at other elementary schools in the Auburn School District, among them West Auburn, Pacific, Algona, Chinook and Lea Hill, Peggy graduated high school, was married for 24 years, had two children and now has six grandkids.
Bob, who was married for 72 years to his wife, Josephine, until she died last May, has three kids, six grandkids and now two great-grandchildren (“Emphasis on the ‘great,’” he said).
The two enjoy having lunch together at the living facility, and will occasionally play Bingo together, though he declines to join her at Pinochle, since he knows she’ll always clean his clock.
Bob said he’s always wondered where his old students and fellow teachers ended up, but since reconnecting with Peggy, he wants to get a reunion together.
“I wish I could see them all again now,” he said.
Ariel Halstead, Cedar Ridge’s sales and marketing manager, said they’re working on a list of names so she can do some research and reach out to people from Bob’s past, adding she’s willing to host the reunion at the living facility.
Anyone who wants to connect with Bob or Peggy can email Halstead at firstname.lastname@example.org.