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James Chadwick

Several weeks ago, I heard from a former colleague.

Eric Gorby sent me a text. I taught with Eric at the Richardson Middle School. We have stayed in touch over the years so I wasn’t surprised when I heard from him.

Unfortunately, this time it was bad news — a former student had recently passed — James Chadwick.

I recently saw James, too. So, this was especially shocking news for me. If I remember correctly, it was sometime in February (maybe January) and I was gassing up at the Mobil on Lakeview Avenue.

The next thing I know, the person in back seat of the car at the next pump over rolls down his window. This person starts waving at me. It is dark out and I can’t recognize the person. Then he starts calling me by my name, “Hi Ms. Duda!”

Obviously, this person knew me so finished pumping my gas and walked over. I said hello and the young man said, “It’s me, James Chadwick!”

I hadn’t seen James Chadwick since he left the 8th grade. I couldn’t believe he still remembered me. I asked him how he was doing. He said excellent. He was working as a plumber and making good money. He loved his trade. He said after leaving middle school he had gone to the Vocational School. We chatted a bit more but then his friends were ready to leave so we said good-bye. He said it was nice seeing me and he had a big grin, rolled up the window, and waved good bye as the car pulled away.

James died just a couple months later at age 21.

At the time, I hadn’t thought much of seeing him other than how nice it was to see a former student. There is always a special feeling a teacher gets when a former student sees you, years after having left your class, and takes the time to stop and say hello. (My fellow teachers know what I am referring to.) Now, in retrospect, those few moments on Lakeview Avenue are even more meaningful since his life was cut short not long after I saw him.

Back in middle school, James was a quiet kid — kind of goofy but honestly all kids at age 13 and in middle school are goofy. He was always happy and polite. If I remember correctly he had just transferred into public school from Catholic School.

Eric and I reminisced about James a bit when he contacted me. The year we had James in the middle school was Eric’s first year teaching in that building (previously he taught in Dracut’s elementary schools). He said of James, “He [James] was my first connection with the middle school. He always said, ‘I love that Mr. Gorby.’ And he always said Mr. He always respected me. That was one great kid.”

I agree. That was one great kid. Rest in peace.