SEBRING — When Leonard Whitman, 67, learned that his first-grade teacher was still alive and lived near his cousin in Sebring, Florida, he knew that was a trip he had to make. Though it had been over 60 years since he sat in her classroom, he never forgot the impact Carrie Fox had on his life.
Both Carrie Fox, who resides at the Sudan Interior Mission retirement village here in Sebring, and Whitman grew up in the small central Maine town of Athens. In that small town, everyone knew and looked out for each other. Whitman remembers Fox as a kind, loving and disciplined teacher. One teaching method she employed that sticks out in his memory is using slices of banana to teach addition and subtraction. With the added benefit, of course, of eating the slices at the conclusion of the lesson.
It was under Fox’s Bible teaching at Sunday school a few years later that Whitman remembers asking Christ into his heart as his Savior. After high school, Whitman joined the Navy in Vietnam. Upon leaving the Navy, he went on to pastor churches in Maine, Texas and Arkansas.
Fox didn’t stay in Athens, either. After teaching for 21 years in Maine, she joined the teaching staff of a mission school in Nigeria, Africa. After 21 years in Africa, retirement brought her back to the U.S. and to the SIM retirement village in Sebring, where she has resided for 27 years.
This visit from her former student was somewhat of an early birthday gift. Fox turns 95 today, Dec. 8.
The trip has been in planning for over a year and had to be aborted once due to health complications. Whitman, who lives in Malvern, Arkansas, has battled Philadelphia leukemia for over 10 years.
Now, Whitman feels like he has come full circle. He was able to reconnect with his first teacher and let her know the influence she had on his life. For Fox, it is a special gift to learn that her work in the classroom had a lasting impact on a young life.