The Tri-County Courier
By Kehn Gibson, Staff Writer
Mrs. Winnie Oehlerich's 90th Birthday
Together with more than 100 of Mrs. Winnie
Oehlerich's former students, a
childhood friend showed up Saturday to wish Mrs.
Oehlerich well on her 90th
Flora-Belle Fields, who met Mrs. Oehlerich when both
were schoolchildren in
Yelm, Wash. in 1920, surprised Mrs. Oehlerich when
she walked into the
Tulelake Presbyterian Community Church where
Saturday's party was held.
Flora-Belle and Winnie sat together at a table,
sharing stories and memories
and giggling like the schoolgirls they were.
The two had remained in touch since 1974,
Flora-Belle said, when her son,
Bob Fields took a job managing the Klamath Refuges.
"I saw a piece in the Tulelake Reporter about Winnie
traveling home to see
her family in Yelm," Fields said. "That was when I
discovered the history of
our two families."
Party organizer Shirley Hatfield said the secrecy of
Flora-Belle's visit was
kept not so much as the surprise Mrs. Oehlerich as
to guard against the
possibility she wouldnąt be able to make it from her
home in Medford.
As the two sat together, a stream of people would
come by and share a hug
and a word with their former teacher.
The memories of Winnie Oehlerich span generations in
Tulelake, as she began
teaching at the Winema School in 1954 after her
husband, Ray, became the
The school closed two years later, and Mrs.
Oehlerich moved on to the
Tulelake schools, retiring in 1977.
Among Mrs. Oehlerich's former students who came to
wish her well was Amy
King, who said the teacher had given her a "special
When asked how, King paused, then said she had been
talking recently to
Patty Reeder, the principal at Tulelake Elementary
"We were talking about teachers who could create
good moments for kids,"
King said. "Mrs. Oehlerich gave me a special
King said that, as a student, she was lousy at art.
One day, Mrs. Oehlerich
gave the class chalk to draw with.
King said when she took her creation home, her
mother liked it so much she
hung it on the wall.
"That made me feel so good, and Mrs. Oehlerich did
that for me," King said.
"She did those kinds of things for so many of us."
Another student remembered spending a half hour a
week on penmanship.
"We would draw perfect Oo's side-by-side," said Judy
Huffman. "When we got
done they looked like a tube laying on itąs side, no
Huffman took a notepad and demonstrated. Her Oo's
flowed like water across
"She was just special," Huffman said. "She used to
read a story called the
"Where the Red Fern Grows," and she couldn't finish
it because she would
When asked, Mrs. Oehlerich said Huffman's memory was
"I was reading the story and came to the end when
the family's dog was
dying," Mrs. Oehlerich said."I felt myself getting
emotional, and began to
get control of myself when I remembered something I
"I had seen an article that challenged teachers to
be real with their
students, to show honest emotion," Mrs. Oehlerich
said ."So I let the tears
The positive impact of these memories still shine in
Huffman's eyes. She
looks across the room as Mrs. Oehlerich and
Flora-Belles' shared laughter
flowed across the room.
"She is a friend, and very special to all of us in
this community," Huffman