I don’t remember whom other two 3rd grade teachers were at St. Jude in the early 70’s.
Oh I’m sure they were wonderfully dedicated teachers, but I sort of feel bad for the students who had those teachers and not Sam Talarico, Sr. In my opinion, they really missed out.
Before becoming a teacher, Mr. Talarico was in the Army and played college football. He is a giant of a man, especially to a 3rd grader. He has equally giant, bear-paw-baseball-mitt-sized hands.
While his size certainly could have been intimidating enough to instill good conduct in his students, I think they behaved for another reason: they didn’t want to disappoint him.
Many of his former students may recall that on the first day of school, a roll-down map covered the chalkboard. Mr. Talarico rolled up the map, revealing the word “RESPECT” written boldly, not with chalk, but with a chalked-up eraser. That was the rule by which he governed his classroom.
Ironically he didn’t have to demand respect, he easily earned it. He never “talked down” to his students, and perhaps most key – he treated them with mutual respect.
What a well-timed lesson. Kids hit the 3rd grade after the newness and intimidation of 1st grade has worn off, and then making their 1st Holy Communion in 2nd grade. They are just starting to gain confidence and feel like big stuff. Instilling respect when they may be on the brink of a little sass and attitude is pure brilliance.
While specific memories of that particular year have faded over the past four (going on five) decades, I am able to clearly remember the overall feeling and tone of that classroom. It was an environment of calm and security.
In those days, the faculty consisted mainly of women – nuns and lay teachers.
Here was a big, handsome guy, teaching small children. Being in Mr. Talarico’s classroom meant having a school day dad; a 2nd Dad for those of us blessed enough to have a Dad at home.
I can only imagine the vital role he played for the students who didn’t have a Dad at home. A man’s man, but still a teddy bear with a gentle nature, he has modeled a life of faith, family, and hard work.
One evening during the fall of ’72, our doorbell rang. My Dad answered it and yelled, “Annie, look who’s here.” There stood Mr. Talarico on our front porch. I was stunned. My stomach dropped. Oh no. What had I done that was so horrible that Mr. Talarico had to come to our house and talk to my Dad?
Perhaps I was an anxious 9-year old. His visit had nothing to do with me. Mr. Talarico was campaigning for a seat on the City Council. Door to door. Face to face. On foot. The old-fashioned, grass roots way.
He won. He was now a husband, father, teacher, coach and Councilman. He served on the City Council for 24 years.
I don’t know how he has shared so much of himself with so many people so successfully, or how he has been able to remember so many names and faces – even decades later, as his black hair turned a distinguished gray, and eventually a striking white.
Through the positive power of Facebook, I learned that Mr. Talarico, now in his 80’s is hospitalized. His large family has asked for prayers, and for folks to share their favorite memories of their Father and Grandpa.
Heaven is surely flooded with prayers, and his family may now have some small idea of the number of lives he has not only touched, but shaped: the students he taught, the athletes he coached, and the kids he rooted for, both on and off the field.
For generations of families, he will be forever linked to the memories of St. Jude School and Church, as much as any Priest or Nun. A tour of our Parish would go something like……There’s the school, church, convent, rectory, oh, and that’s where Mr. Talarico lives. The Talarico home was across the street from the “new” church, and they even had the bell from the “old” church in their front yard.
It all started with that first simple, but important lesson of the year: Respect.
It is a special teacher who is so beloved and fondly remembered by everyone they have ever taught, or even met. That is a job well done and a life well lived.
Thank you Mr. Talarico, and Thank you Talarico family for sharing your Dad and Grandpa with so many kids over his 43-year career.
While he may have taught 3rd grade, Mr. Talarico is 1st class…all the way.