He was a teacher of history and a lover of baseball. He was one of maybe six Democrats in Allen County. And to me personally, he was a source of inspiration.
His name was Marty Glazier. And I found out yesterday morning that he had passed away in the night, rounding third, as it were, and heading for home.
I met Marty almost 50 years ago, in the autumn of 1967. I was a sophomore at Lima Senior High, and for reasons I no longer remember I had elected to take World History, a class that was popular with kids who wanted to sleep through first period or needed the extra hour to finish the homework they hadn’t done the night before. Me, I was the kind of student who actually paid attention in class. So every day, while most of my classmates snoozed, I sat down at my desk and listened, and I watched in wonder as a disheveled teacher with a funny accent launched into lectures about Charlemagne. And Bismarck. And King Leonidas of Sparta. And events that had shaped my world in ways I had never imagined.
Looking back on it now, I confess that I don’t really remember much about Charlemagne or Bismarck or the role Leonidas played in the Battle of Thermopylae. What I do remember, though, is this man in his rumpled suit pulling newspaper clippings out of his pockets. Mostly, they were columns taken from the Toledo Blade, columns by a guy named Art Buchwald. Marty loved Art Buchwald. And even though most of our classmates drifted off while he read these columns aloud, my friend Steve King and I listened. And mostly, we understood Buchwald’s wry take on politics and American life. So we laughed along with Marty and congratulated ourselves for being in on the joke.
Every day it was like that. And if it wasn’t Art Buchwald, it was a story about Marty’s childhood in Brooklyn. We heard about the simple joy of eating a fresh bagel hot from the oven. And about sneaking into Ebbets Field on warm summer afternoons. And about Dixie Walker and the Brooklyn — most emphatically not the Los Angeles — Dodgers. He showed us a new way of looking at things, a Jewish perspective on life that turned our world on its head.
What effect can one teacher have on a person’s life? I can’t say that I know the answer to that question with any certainty. I seriously doubt that it can be measured by any sort of standardized test. And it probably varies student to student, teacher to teacher. But I do know that thanks largely to Marty, I can now think critically when contemplating world events, and if by chance somebody does bring up the Battle of Thermopylae, I at least know what they are talking about. More importantly, though, Marty Glazier broadened my horizons. He made me want more from life. And when I finally did find myself living in Brooklyn, not far from the site of Ebbets Field, as a matter of fact, I thought of Marty often — when buying bagels at Le Bagel Delight, or when picking up a copy of the Daily News at the corner newsstand, or when listening to WEVD in the morning and hearing the talk show host tell his listeners that the essence of Judaism was “living well.” Yes, I thought to myself, living well! That is exactly how Marty Glazier would put it. And it was this spirit that has seen me through my travels over the years.
I am back in Lima now. And, thanks to my good friend Robert Lamping, I had the opportunity to see Marty again a couple of weeks ago. I told him, as I have told him many times over the years, that he was the best teacher I ever had. I have told him this so often over the years he probably thought I was angling for a piece of his estate. But no, I just wanted him to know that he turned at least one kid’s life around.
And I think that might have meant something to him. I certainly hope it did. Because, in the end, it has meant pretty much everything to me.