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Perspectives are commentaries produced by and for WNIJ listeners, from a panel of regular contributors and guests. You're invited to comment on or respond to any Perspective on our Facebook page or through Twitter (@wnijnews), in keeping with our Discussion Policy. If you would like to submit your own Perspective for consideration, send us a script that will run about 90 seconds when read -- that's about 250 words -- and email it to NPR@niu.edu, with "Perspectives" in the subject line.

A Friend For All Time


I need to share a personal story.

This story begins on my first day at Jefferson Junior High in Aurora — seventh grade and I knew no one.

I was that skinny, extremely shy kid. Instead of joining, I hid in books.

My plan was to stay off the radar. Until I met Peter Gemmer. 

Pete was in my "Homeroom" class, and he spotted me right away.

Lunch hour had arrived, and I was in no hurry to face a room full of strangers.

Now Pete loved to tell this part. He said I looked pathetic, like a lost puppy. But he did something I still consider amazing. 

Pete introduced himself — with his trademark smile — and said, "Come with me."

Instead of the lunch room, we walked to his house a few blocks away.

I ate my baloney sandwich, we shot some hoops ... and started a friendship that never stopped.

We both moved on, as people do, Pete living mostly in Florida. We'd get together once a year and visit the junior high and nearby West Aurora High. We'd peer into windows, including the homeroom where we met.

Sadly, those memory walks are over. Pete passed on a few weeks ago, and he slid quietly into history.

He remains part of my story, though, and I need to tell it … partly so he is not forgotten, just as I will not forget the day we met.

I wish I could share this story with every young student … struggling with self-doubt, peer pressure, growing pains, and so much more.  I think it's still scary out there for most teens.

And I'm thinking … wouldn't it be great if everyone could have a Peter Gemmer in their life?

I'm Lonny Cain ... and this is my perspective.

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