Art Bloomer wasn’t expecting to attend a high school reunion this summer. But then Art and his wife, Sue, started talking to fellow Westerly resident Betty Curtis at our Fourth of July indoor picnic.
While they made small talk, Betty asked Art where he grew up. “I said, ‘You’ve never heard of it.’ I said Lebanon, Kansas, and her eyes lit up like crazy.”
Betty said she most certainly did know Lebanon – it’s where she had her first teaching job in 1950-51. That was Art’s senior year at Lebanon High School. He asked her maiden name—Feldman. “It rang a bell immediately. I said, ‘You’re Miss Betty.'”
Not only was Betty one of Art’s teachers, she sponsored the yearbook and taught journalism. Art was editor of the student newspaper and business manager of the yearbook. In fact, he still had the book – which Betty had signed — in his apartment. Within a few days, Art and Betty spent hours poring over the pictures and memories inside.
Betty remembered Art as the tallest boy in school and also that he was valedictorian. Art remembers that the boys thought Miss Betty was quite attractive. She was only five years older than they were.
“I told her, ‘You don’t know how much the senior boys were stuck on you,'” Art said. “She laughed and said ‘I can’t wait to tell my kids I was a hot teacher!'”
It’s rather remarkable that Art and Betty wound up neighbors at the Westerly more than 65 years later. Betty was engaged during her year in Lebanon, but her fiance, Charles, was attending seminary in New Jersey. He had asked her to marry him before he left, but she wanted to wait. “I said no, I needed to pay my bills.”
She spent that Christmas in New York with Charles and bought material for her wedding dress on Broadway. They were married in June 1951, then she joined him in New Jersey for three more years. Their first son was born there.
They returned to Kansas and Charles pastored several churches, while Betty taught piano and school. She eventually earned two more college degrees and later taught remedial reading to incoming freshmen at Wichita State University.
Art, meanwhile, got an athletic scholarship to Emporia State University. He was drafted in his junior year and decided to join the Marine reserves so he could finish school. To his own surprise, he applied for a regular commission and spent 31 years as a Marine Corps pilot. He and Sue didn’t return to Kansas until 2004 – 50 years after they were married.
It’s hard to believe he wound up living in the same building as his former teacher, yet here they are. “I don’t know if it was coincidence or divine intervention,” he said.
Betty, too, marveled at how one year in her life suddenly has so much significance, given her rich journey through school, marriage, and family life. “It’s like a piece of meat had laid there in that sandwich for 66 years, and I had given it hardly a thought,” she said.