Teacher remembered in time capsulePublished 4:08pm Tuesday, April 24, 2012
Six years ago, Brandywine teacher Bill Hecker and his sixth-grade class placed several items in a time capsule before burying it in the courtyard of Brandywine Elementary School.
One of the items in the capsule was a handwritten letter by Hecker to his students. Hecker, who taught at Brandywine for more than 20 years, planned on opening the capsule and reading the letter to the students the year they would graduate.
As fate would have it, Hecker wasn’t able to fulfill that promise. He passed away in March at the age of 64.
The 16 remaining students from Hecker’s sixth-grade class — all seniors now — gathered Tuesday to open the capsule in Hecker’s memory.
They found the letter, folded and damp, inside the weathered aluminum popcorn can.
Sandy Neldon, a classroom mother whose son, James, was in Hecker’s class that year, was afraid the letter wouldn’t be readable.
She was relieved to find the blue ink smeared but legible.
Students gathered around Brandywine Elementary principal Tim Bagby as he read the letter.
Hecker wrote a line or two for each student. Some were funny and others heartfelt, but all provided insight into how Hecker viewed each student.
Amanda Zindrick laughed out loud when she heard hers: “(Amanda says) I don’t get it, I don’t get it, right before she shows me that she really does get it.”
Zindrick was amazed at how true those words were.
“I still do that,” she said. “It is amazing because all the things he wrote, we all haven’t changed that much.”
James Neldon felt joy and sadness when he heard what Hecker wrote to him: “(James) worries too much, but has learned about my sense of humor.”
James kept in touch with Hecker even after Hecker retired from Brandywine in 2006 and moved to California to teach. James credits Hecker for helping him find his voice and self-confidence.
“It’s sad, but, at the same time, I feel like he is watching us,” James said.
The class buried the capsule under the window of Hecker’s classroom at the elementary school on June 4, 2006. It was the last class Hecker taught at Brandywine.
Students and school officials attempted to unearth the capsule Friday, but couldn’t locate it. Superintendent John Jarpe and a maintenance worker used a metal detector to find the capsule Monday.
In addition to Hecker’s letter, the capsule contained a wallet, baseball, candy egg, calendar, notes and several other items.
The final line of Hecker’s note read: “Finally, to a fun class, a fun year, I will miss you all and remember you.”