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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
principal there.
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 memory."
When asked how, King paused, then said she had been talking recently to
Patty Reeder, the principal at Tulelake Elementary School.
"We were talking about teachers who could create good moments for kids,"
King said. "Mrs. Oehlerich gave me a special memory."
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 gaps."
Huffman took a notepad and demonstrated. Her Oo's flowed like water across
the page.
"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 accurate.
"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 had read.
"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




Page Updated: Thursday May 07, 2009 09:14 AM  Pacific

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