More Than Geography: Wayne German

Sometimes a teacher is so much more than the man at the front of the classroom. I had many good teachers throughout my education, but one man stands out. We lost that man this morning when Wayne German passed away. I’d like to tell you about Mr. German and how he affected my life.

Wayne and his wife Marilyn lived about ten houses away from ours on Oak Street in Renton, a little coal mining town. Wayne was about the only man I remember living there who wasn’t a coal miner.  I remember the day I started seventh grade at Plum Junior High School. Wayne was the 8th grade Geography teacher and he sent for me in whatever classroom I was in. Having no idea why I was called to his room coupled with the fact that I was a bit terrified anyway in the new school, I was relieved that Mr. German just wanted to make sure I knew that he’d be keeping his eye on me and that he’d be sure to share any information he gathered with my dad.

I remember little of the geography Wayne taught us in 8th grade, but I remember other things he told our class. Expressions like “no boys are going to buy the cow if they can get the milk for free, girls” and “you better get a good look at the girl’s mother before you marry her because that’s what you’re getting into” have a way of sticking with you. Wayne was the wrestling and football coach. He used to take me along to wrestling meets to keep stats. Let me tell you, in Pennsylvania, wrestling is a BIG DEAL–and by being with Mr. German, I got to be a part of that. I felt like somebody at an age when I had no idea who I was or what I would ever be good at in life.

Wayne and Marilyn have two beautiful daughters, Nicolle and Kimmy. Wayne always said he named her after me. 😉 They asked me to babysit often and Wayne always drove me home afterward, even though it would have been an easy walk. He and Marilyn were friends with my parents. Marilyn and her twin sister Marlene were part of my mom’s “Card Club”, the group of women who taught me the most about adult female friendships and how invaluable they are. They were the grown ups of my childhood, those who began to teach me what adulthood would look like.

Years later Wayne came to visit me in Gowanda, to meet my family and to see where I landed. He brought along his teenage nephew, Cory German, and we had a nice lunch.  We remembered the days in Renton and then Wayne told me something I’ve never forgotten. He acknowledged that my dad had been hard on me during those years and then he said that it must have been worth it since I’d turned out as well as I did. I thought I had the strictest father on the planet and by most standards I did—to hear Wayne acknowledge it just made me feel a little bit better about it.

Wayne German had a way of seeing the best in everyone and in me. At a time in my life when I didn’t think much of myself, this tough, rough talking neighbor, teacher and friend showed me that I was worth having around. No big talks, no self esteem boosting strategies—-he just gave me the gift of his time and attention. Included me. Made a difference in my life.

I’ll be traveling to Pittsburgh for the funeral this week and I’m sure the place will be packed with other former students who were taught, coached, mentored and cared about by Wayne German. I’m so honored to be one of them. Love you Wayne, you dwell forever in my heart and in my own actions with students. I hope God’s got a coaching job all lined up for you and that you get to walk and run and dance again. Rest in Peace Coach.

  1. Nicolle,

    It was my honor to have known him and to have the privilege to write about him. I wrote on Sunday, shortly after learning of his passing, as a way to put my thoughts in order. So sorry you had to lose your dad so young. Really looking forward to seeing you, Kimmy and your mom, and giving you a great big hug.

    See you on Friday, Kim

  2. I spoke to your mom a few minutes ago and she told me about your blog. I immediately went to the computer to read what you had written about my dad. You described him perfectly. My family has always held you close in our hearts as our neighbor, student, babysitter and friend. I actually mentioned to my sister yesterday that we have to reach out to Kim Mormour. You are still in our hearts and always will be. The next few days are going to be tough but having friends/family like you will help. Thank you for that. We look forward to seeing you. My dad was and will always be an amazing person – my pillar of strength and my favorite person. And you are correct – he is walking and running and dancing. He loved to dance! Kim thank you for this tribute – it was beautiful. xoxo

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