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Student-teacher friendship evolves over 64 years

by MEGAN WENZL The Muskegon Chronicle on October 25, 2013 10:50 AM

MUSKEGON, Mich. — It is rare that a person can say they still keep in contact with his or her former teacher, especially one from elementary school.

At the age of 92, Evelyn Furman, former third-grade teacher and a winner of Muskegon County’s Teacher Excellence Award, knows one of her former pupils can say that.

Pat Owen (Pat Simpson at the time she was in Furman’s classroom) and Furman have been friends for 64 years. Their friendship started at the Lindbergh Elementary School in Kenmore, N.Y.

Furman, a Muskegon resident, describes Owen as “the gal that still remembers her teacher after 64 years.”

“I couldn’t find any fault with her except her penmanship was awful and her desk was always messy,” Furman said, then laughing.

Keeping in contact throughout the years, Owen wrote letters to Furman and called her often.

Although Furman describes Owen as shy, her former student has an adventurous personality.

It is Owen’s sense of adventure that provided Furman an opportunity to do things she wouldn’t have normally done without Owen. It is a testament to the strength of Furman and Owen’s relationship.

Owen took Furman to Niagara Falls and convinced Furman to go “over the whirpool on two wires in a glass cage,” Furman said. “You looked down and saw the water whirling.”

One of Owen’s letters described to Furman what she should see in Washington, D.C., as Owen lived there with her husband and children. Furman visited Owen at her home in Washington and then in Colorado.

Owen has visited Furman in Muskegon and attended Furman’s 90th birthday party.

In fact, Owen visited Furman recently to take part in volunteering for Kids Food Baskets, a nonprofit organization that provides meals for children in need, and to also explore the Muskegon area.

The two friends spent an hour packing lunches for needy children.

Owen came with old photographs and stories from Furman’s teaching days.

“She’s quite a jokester and she was quite a teacher,” Owen said. “I remember her facing the blackboard with her back to us writing something, and she’d put on those black glasses with the mustache and turn around. It was a great time.”

Owen, 72, lives in Franklin, Tenn.

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