August 15, 2009
To Mrs. Catherine LeDuke
Thank you. Thank you for the blessings you have given me, blessings you had no way of imagining you had so generously presented to me. You were only going about your business the best you knew how. Now I want to tell you how profound your efforts proved to be - at least in one instance; I'm sure there are many more. However, before I do, I want to thank you for being a lady of dignity and substance. I am blessed to have lived in the days when ladies of your distinction were in vogue. I am sorry to learn that you are not in the best of health, but as Cicero was wont to say: Dum animus est, spes est.
Omnia Gallis in tres partes divisa est - as taught by Mrs. Catherine LeDuke, which is more correct than Caesar penned it in his Caesar's Gallic Wars; and which also proves that you were perhaps a better teacher of the Latin language than even the magister who taught that famous Roman general his rhetoric.
It is difficult to express the depth of my gratitude for all you did for me, or that I did for myself as a result of your tutorial efforts. For example, the basic Latin principles you planted so indelibly in my mind in those two years enabled me to win a Latin scholarship which in turn provided exactly enough money to pay tuition for my final semester at Memphis State. Then, to follow in the ever-spreading wake of your influence even farther, I did by best to teach Latin in the professionally personal manner that you taught me. In turn, many of my students - one of them my son - gave credit to their Latin background for their outstanding success in other fields of study such as English, History, Biology, and in Journalism, Etymology and pre-law at the college level.
However, Mrs. LeDuke, that isn't half the story. Your erudite spirit went with me - as if you were standing in my jumper pocket - all the way from your World History classes held in the Science Lab at THS to ports of call in almost every country in Europe, to Iceland, Scandinavia, the Caribbean Islands, and parts of Northwest Africa aboard a Navy ship. How can I express my gratitude to you for the insight you gave me that elevated my experiences in those countries from that of a mere traveler to an eager visitor with a deep understanding and appreciation for where I stood and for the people I conversed with - the progeny of heroes and villains, as you had described them to me with such eloquence.
I stood on the coast of Plymouth, England and visualized the Mayflower as she set sail, not realizing that they were about to plant seeds of wisdom that would grow into the greatest country the world has ever known - aware only that they were seeking freedom, freedom to worship God the way they believed to be proper, and to speak as their conscience gave them utterance, without fear of a moronic King and his merciless minions, or of a self-proclaimed god-on-earth and his corybantic priests who loved to light up the night with the blazing bodies of "heretics".
From a seaside mountain near Bergen, Norway, I could see miles of fjords from which the warlike vikings sailed; and, from the shores of Scotland, the firths where they landed to wield their murderous swords and battle axes. And so it was with every country. I could hear your voice describing their rebellious rump parliament, Henry the Eight and his unfortunate wives, William of Orange, Robespierre, the Teutons, Celts the hosts of armies and their generals. I sailed past the white cliffs of Dover, and listened again to your soothing voice telling about the Nazi bombers roaring in from Belgian bases. Then I listened to young women describe the fear and the devastation of cities in almost the same words you had used. It was sometimes uncanny.
History is a witness to the passing of time; it illumines reality, vitalizes memory, and provides guidance in daily life; that is, if the historian is true to his craft - unlike many modern "Social Studies" engineers, and would-be chroniclers. (O tempora! O Mores! As Cicero might repeat today.) Nevertheless, even with an excellent text, an excellent teacher is required to make History come alive. That is what you did for me, dear Mrs. LeDuke, and I thank you profoundly. You made my life fuller, my world more interesting, my faith in God and man more extensive, and, consequently, those I love happier.
Lloyd D. Ervin
Class of 1948