Remembering Delores Forsmark
Any writer would do well to reflect on those in the past who had a part in molding his or her understanding of the written word. After all, without teachers, where would any of us be? So today I wish to honor a special lady who made a tireless impact on a multitude of Michigan students in her English classes for forty-four years.
When I look back at my youth and reflect on those who especially encouraged my early interest in being a writer, after my parents the next major influence was Delores Forsmark, who went home to be with the Lord on September 9th. I felt so sad when I heard the news, and then memories took over from there.
“Mrs. Forsmark” taught me English and literature at Genesee Christian High School in Burton, Michigan, between 1983 and 1987 (she taught at GCS a total of twenty-two years). But that’s not all. She took an extracurricular interest in my fiction writing and encouraged me to paricipate in a few writing contests.
Anyone who has pursued creative writing knows what I’m talking about. I was just a scared kid who liked to put words together, but I didn’t know what to do with this interest. Was my writing any good? (Or did it stink and nobody had the nerve to tell me?) Was this writing itch worth scratching? She helped provide some direction when I needed it.
Above all she was encouraging. I remember submitting a particularly bad short story called “The Curse of Greed” for one of the contests. Of course, I didn’t win the contest or even get a ribbon, but Mrs. Forsmark was positive, cheerful, and supportive—always highlighting what she thought I did well. And that’s really what I was looking for at the time—someone knowledgeable in English or writing to confirm that perhaps I had some talent in this area and to encourage me not to give up on it just yet.
And I didn’t give up. Eventually I won first place in creative writing at the Michigan Association of Christian Schools fine arts competition—definitely a pivotal moment in my history (to God be the glory). Without people like her along my path, I might have given up on my dream of being a published novelist or really any type of writer. I’m very grateful that God uses people like her to be our cheerleaders along the way.
When I close my eyes and remember Mrs. Forsmark, several qualities come to mind: her cheerful spirit, patient smile, and long-suffering dedication, particularly when my classmates and I struggled to understand the difference between gerunds and participial phrases. Or when we reluctantly read Hamlet aloud, stumbled through the Elizabethan English, and surely butchered any semblance of what Mr. Shakespeare must have had in mind. I think the experience provoked more giggles than any true appreciation for the bard.
But she knew those trials of quizzes, tests, term papers, and read-aloud Shakespare would serve us well on our journey to adulthood—and life is much richer because of them. And why did she do this? Certainly not for monetary gain; I know those teachers didn’t make much money. For applause? No, I’m sure she wouldn’t have wanted to be the center of attention. Perhaps she knew God had called her to make a difference in our lives. And so she did—quietly, in the background, like a true and faithful servant of God would.
If so, I’m Exhibit A.
Even today, as I edit another book in my home office, I can’t help but appreciate one of the important people who was such a big part in encouraging my love for words. Without that love, planted by God and nurtured by special people in my life, I surely wouldn’t be a writer or editor today.
Years after my classes with Mrs. Forsmark, God led me to pursue print journalism in college (I didn’t see how I could make a living with a creative writing degree), and I’ve been a professional editor since 1991, working with two companies for fourteen years and working independently from home since 2006. And nope, I never gave up on fiction writing.
After God opened the door for me to publish my first novel, after being out of touch with Mrs. Forsmark for a good many years, she sent me a note:
I just completed reading your novel, Fatal Illusions. I was excited that I knew you way back when you and Jim [her son, a classmate] were in my English class.
Congratulations on your exciting page turner. May many be saved and God glorified by His precious blood by means of reading your work and seeking Him in His word. Congratulations again.
Encouraging, as always. And there’s another vote from someone I highly respect to keep the meaning in my suspense. Of course, God gets all the glory, but Mrs. Forsmark gets my thanks as well. She will be sorely missed.
What about you? Can you look back at your life and identify the cheerleaders who encouraged you during those tough times along life’s journey? Maybe you know someone in your life who needs a cheerleader today. Why not pass on that encouragement to someone else?
- Sorry, no post today due to editing demands
- How Can I Be an Editor Too? Part 2
Thank you for the touching tribute to Delores! I feel the same way you do! She was my English teacher the 1st two years of Genessee Christian (behind Mayfair Bible Church). Awesome lady! My parents were friends with her and her husband Bert for many years! She made such an impact on my life! I have asked the Lord to let me be such a shining light in this world! I believe I have read your 10 Plagues book. Keep up the good work!
Adam! What a wonderful tribute to an awesome lady! I can identify, and agree, with everything you have said. She was tough but she did an excellent job preparing us for college!
I am also excited to hear of your career success – and spreading the word here at GCS (I am the Director of Finance) and we are all checking out your books on Amazon.
May God continue to bless you as you give Him the glory,
Lisa (Young) Oliver
Thank you for sharing, Karen! Yes, she was a very special lady who probably touched more lives than we know of. I’m glad you read “The Tenth Plague.” I hope you enjoyed it. Thanks for letting me know.
Thank you, Lisa, for sharing and for spreading the word at GCS. I was wondering how to connect, so thanks for your help.
I did not meet Delores Forsmark until my beautiful daughter married her son Jim. I was really touched by her love for my daughter Joy and her acceptance of Joy as Jim’s wife and a member of a large and loving family. I shall do my best to be as good a grandmother to our little Douglas as I know she was and continues to be in Heaven. It is wonderful to know how many lives Delores touched.
My husband and I worked with Mrs. Forsmark for several years. I have good memories of her and her family. We had not heard that she had passed away. She was a tough teacher and did prepare her students for college. That is rare today. I know she loved her students and was proud to have been a part of their successes. Thank you for an encouraging and uplifting memorial for her.
I would like to thank you, as well, for honoring Mrs. Forsmark. I agree with your comment that she wouldn’t wish to be the center of attention; but, in my humble opinion, she certainly was at the top of my list of favorite teachers. Not for the reasons most students choose favorite teachers–because it was easy to get a good grade from them, they were “fun” teachers who brought lots of laughs to the classroom, or because you didn’t get in trouble if you were tardy to class. No, in fact, it was just the opposite.
While she did exhibit the qualities you shared–a cheerful spirit, patient smile, (the first two attributes that ALWAYS come to the forefront of my mind when I picture her) and long-suffering dedication, I believe everyone would agree that Mrs. Forsmark was strict, precise, and required students to put forth their best effort. It was these qualities that most certainly played the largest role in what I learned from her classes.
It wasn’t until I had Mrs. Forsmark for English grammar classes that it all made sense to me. I remember the day the light bulb came on in my head and I finally understood the difference between a direct object and an indirect object. Up until having her for an English teacher, I could not grasp the concept, let alone understand how to use these weird things called “parts of speech”–noun, verb, adverb, adjective, pronoun, preposition, conjunction, and interjection; and yes, that includes how these parts of speech function in different ways, such as gerunds and participles!!
I am sure I am not the only one who will testify to her strictness in learning the definitions of the parts of speech, and how she graded them on her quizzes and tests. If your definition of a noun was “names a person, place, thing, or idea”, or your definition of a verb was “expresses action or state of being”, YOU WERE WRONG!!!! How could that be? That’s exactly what the book had for the definition!!! No, it wasn’t. The book’s definition states that a noun is “A WORD that names a person, place, thing, or idea”, and a verb is “A WORD that expresses action or state of being”, so on and so forth, through all eight parts of speech. All of a sudden, EACH WORD in a sentence came alive to me, and it made sense! I could understand the function of EACH WORD in the sentence. THEN grammar became fun! It was no longer quite as much of a chore to diagram those sentences that she always made us do. As much as we disliked diagramming, when looking back on it, wasn’t it a fun challenge to figure out those sentences of the Apostle Paul and the Apostle Peter? You know the ones I mean–the assignments to diagram two or three Bible verses that would require us to tape together sheets of notebook paper in order to fit the entire diagram on one page? And, even if you don’t want to admit it, you now have more of an appreciation for making sure that your modifiers aren’t “misplaced”, thanks to all that diagramming. For instance, I frequently hear someone on television or radio make a comment which is funny because the prepositional phrases are in the wrong place so the sentence isn’t really saying what they think it’s saying. There’s a current advertisement running on a radio station in our area in which the lady voicing the commercial starts out saying “At the age of three, my father was incarcerated…”. As she continues, you understand that SHE was age three when her father was incarcerated. However, the mental picture of a three-year old in prison still makes you chuckle!
Yes, I think most everyone who had Delores Forsmark for a teacher would agree that we snickered a little because she looked old-fashioned and she could be very stern and strict, but isn’t it exactly those qualities–the good old-fashioned discipline and teaching–that were most beneficial to us, her students? I, for one, am very sad to lose a teacher of such caliber. Mrs. Forsmark, I am, and will forever be, very thankful to have had such a wonderful, godly woman as a teacher–a teacher who was not only passionate about her students living their lives for Christ, but also making sure her students really comprehended the English language–THEIR language! We need more Mrs. Forsmarks in the world today–now more than ever!
Total confession: I still have one of those high school English textbooks as a reference–I bought it from a used textbook sale that the school held one year because it was an excellent book and I didn’t know if I would ever find anything as helpful. I have used it with my own children, and plan to keep it around for when I have grandchildren. And, every time I pull it out to use it, it’s like having Mrs. Forsmark right there next to me! And, that is a very good thing.
Thank you, Joyce. Yes, Delores touched many, many people. I appreciate your sharing.
You’re welcome, Judy. I knew I had to write something.
Wow, thank you, Patti, for sharing your thoughts. You stirred some memories I had forgotten (diagramming). I agree that we need more strict and demanding teachers (with cheerfulness mixed in). She obviously made a big imperession on you. Thank you again for sharing.