I met Anna in the raging ’60s. She was engaged to Tom, a friend and co-worker on the campus paper at Northern Illinois University.
Her voice and smile made it so easy to slide into friendship. She was a reminder of the goodness in people. Put simply, it just felt good to be around her.
That never changed.
Anna became a teacher. Perfect. That was fate doing the right thing.
I was angry when cancer took her 19 years ago. Fate got it so wrong that time.
Tom recently posted on Facebook that he had visited her school, Lincoln Middle School, in Rockford.
He found his Anna Wartowski Memorial Fund was still going strong.
Anna discreetly gave school supplies, clothing and other necessities to students in need.
“She paid for those things out of her own pocket and never said a word,” said Tom. “The fund was established to continue her spirit of giving by reimbursing teachers who helped their students."
Fred Zuroski, the teacher who monitors the fund, told Tom that retailers, students and teachers give freely.
Zuroski has created what he calls "Anna's Closet" — to store clothing and supplies.
"I could tell he genuinely loved what he was doing," said Tom. "Anna would have liked him.”
So true. Anna liked or tried to like everybody. In return, she was respected and loved by many.
Anna would insist I say there are many teachers doing the same thing: teaching — and caring.
We need teachers like Anna to lift students up so they can see the world … and themselves.
In every school there is — or was — an Anna. She believed that, and so do I.
I hope every school has an “Anna’s Closet.”
If not, they should.
I’m Lonny Cain, and that’s my perspective.