A many decades-awaited reunion between two students and their first grade teacher began with a chance meeting at an ice cream shop in Mitchell.
As luck would have it, classmates Jim Hillman, 77, and Webb Delmer, 78, started talking to Stephanie Swanson, formerly of Wessington Springs and sister to Springs resident Helen Huisman.
“We asked her if our first grade teacher, Evelyn Weaver, was still in Wessington Springs and she said she believed so,” said Hillman, who splits his time between Vancouver, WA and Mitchell, SD. “Not too many 77-year-olds get to visit their first grade teacher so we thought we’d give it a try to find her.”
And so the classmate duo planned a day earlier this summer to set out on Interstate 90, heading west on an adventure to Wessington Springs in search of their former teacher.
Once they arrived in Wessington Springs several Tuesdays ago at about a quarter to noon, Hillman and Delmer found themselves in the True Dakotan office on Main Street, asking about Weaver and her whereabouts. They explained that she was their first grade teacher at Longfellow Elementary School in 1947 and they wanted to reconnect.
“I corresponded with her until the late 1970s but then we lost touch,” Hillman explained to Delia Atkinson, office and subscription manager at the newspaper.
Delmer chimed in, “I’m too old to write and I didn’t pay much attention in school. So we thought we’d come in person.”
Atkinson, who also drives the Springs Area Bus and is knowledgeable about many senior ladies’ schedules, told the classmates that they were in luck.
“Well Evelyn is probably at the senior center having dinner,” she said, pointing out that it was getting close to noon.
After getting directions from Atkinson, the men went on their way with purpose and hope.
“We walked into the center and asked the first woman we saw how we sign up for dinner,” Delmer explained, saying that they then paid for their meal and made their way to a table. “Wouldn’t you know it, when we asked the folks sitting there eating if they knew Evelyn, they said, you were just talking to her!”
After a good laugh, Hillman and Delmer made their way back to Evelyn and explained who they were.
“That was the last thing I ever expected,” Weaver said. “That they went out of their way to come here and find me made me feel 10 feet tall.”
“As soon as we told her who we were, her face lit up,” Hillman said of their now 94-year-old former first grade teacher. “She was in seventh heaven. And so were we.”