In 1962, I was finishing the third grade at PS 144 Queens in Forest Hills. Our teacher for the following year was listed as TBA (to be assigned).
In September 1962, Mrs. Mary J. Cox walked into our classroom. My class of about 32 boys and girls absolutely fell in love with her. If Michael Jordan was born to play basketball and Bill Gates was born to work with computers, Mrs. Cox was born to teach. She instilled a love of learning in me and my classmates that most of us still have.
I would leave school Friday afternoon and couldn't wait to go back Monday morning. How many little boys can say that!
Our parents petitioned the principal of our school to have her teach us again in the fifth grade, and we were fortunate enough to have her for one more year.
Mrs. Cox is a black woman, and I believe she was the first African-American teacher at PS 144; 1962 was a different time and a different world than today. All of us kids knew that Mrs. Cox was one of the best people we would ever have the privilege to know.
I moved away from Forest Hills to Franklin Square after the seventh grade and did not stay in contact with Mrs. Cox or any of my classmates after that. Somehow or other, through either Facebook or Classmates.com, I managed to reconnect with a number of my classmates from way back when.
About eight months ago, somebody posted a picture of our fourth-grade class. Somebody else commented, "There is Mrs. Cox, I loved Mrs. Cox."
I posed the question if anyone knew whether Mrs. Cox was still alive. A former classmate living in Ohio said she was and he had been in contact with her over the years. Another classmate living in New Jersey came up with the idea of having a class reunion.
In April, this came to pass and 15 former students who were in her class in 1962 attended this reunion. We met at the childhood home of Dean Malouta, a classmate who now lives in Houston, and whose parents still live in Forest Hills.
I had the privilege of picking up the 83-year-old Mrs. Cox at her house in Springfield Gardens. After giving her a bouquet of flowers, I started to cry. There were a lot of tears of happiness shed that day by a bunch of nearly 60-year-old people who couldn't believe the good fortune of spending a day together after all that time.
Mrs. Cox taught in PS 144 for 39 years. She said that she never once had a disciplinary problem with any of her students.
What an absolutely extraordinary lady!