Washburn High School Class of 1961 50th Reunion

From: Jim Dishington (husband)


Lera Lou (Wolner) Dishington, a 1961 graduate of Washburn High School, passed away July 10, 2010, after a 9-month fight with acute myeloid leukemia. Classmate Sue (Harvey) Shirley and Lera kept in touch over the years, and Sue had informed her of the upcoming 50th high school reunion. Sue has now kindly let me know of this chance to write a remembrance of Lera.

Lera and I were married in Minneapolis in December of 1967, with Sue Harvey (now Sue Shirley) as bridesmaid. We had met at the University of Minnesota a few years earlier and fallen in love.

Lera was a foreign language teacher (Latin and Spanish) for all of her career. After finishing her Masters in Spanish and the Classics at the U. of M., she taught first for a year in Sioux Falls (SD) and then for several years in Madison (WI) while I was in graduate school there and where our daughter, Lorinda, was born. During this time she did additional graduate work summers at the University of Vera Cruz (Mexico) and the University of Madrid (Spain). By the late 1970s we were in the Boston area where I pursued my career, and Lera taught for many, many years in our adopted hometown of Groton (MA). We traveled nearly every year to Europe or Latin America, sometimes by ourselves with Lorinda, but often with groups of Lera's students, which made the trips especially memorable.

Lera was still enthusiastically teaching high school Latin (which was her first love after her family) in the fall of 2009, with no intention of retiring very soon (or ever, as she would say), when she was suddenly diagnosed with an aggressive form of leukemia. She had to leave the classroom in the middle of the day to report to Massachusetts General Hospital, never to see her students again. After intensive chemotherapy and a bone marrow stem cell transplant over a 3-month period, Lera appeared to be developing a new immune system during the subsequent 3 months of relative isolation. But then the leukemia returned and no further treatment was possible.

I was fortunate to have had our relationship and marriage for all these years. For me it will never end. And in some way Lera lives on in the many generations of students she had. We used to enjoy thinking that, if we were still living in Sioux Falls or Madison, she would soon have the great-grandchildren of her earliest students in class.


Jim Dishington