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Bench dedication held during Winding Stairs Festival

September 8, 2017
Marcella Podhajsky Pults , Traer Star-Clipper

Nearly 100 friends, family members, former students and teachers gathered on Saturday afternoon, August 12, outside the North Tama County Community School gym entrance for a formal bench dedication honoring Mr. Don G. Lau, a beloved teacher and friend.

Through the generosity of classmates from the Traer High School Class of 1961, the bench was a gift to the school to preserve Mr Lau's memory and serve as a reminder of his dedication and the difference he made in the lives of his students. It is a replica of those located on the sidewalks of Traer's downtown business district with an etched bronze memory plaque attached.

Don Lau came to Traer in the fall of 1959 and taught this class for their last two years of high school. In May 1961, forty-four graduated and today, eleven are deceased. Their class motto was "Wisdom Comes but Knowledge Lingers" and their class flower was the red rose.

Article Photos

Class members who made donations for the bench purchase and attended the dedication were, back row (L to R): Shirley Wood De Lucia, Joanne Kucera Vlasak, Steve Staker, Gary Burrows. Center: Adrienne Cooper Nelson. Front row: Barbara Kvidera Merchant, Marcella Podhajsky Pults, Ted Seda. Donors unable to attend were Don Dalbey, David Dinsdale, Pat Earley Moore, Mary Fleming Shultz and Judy Madera Dutoit, Ver Jean Mugford, Eugene and Ellen (Wilson) Zmolek.

Marcella Podhajsky Pults welcomed everyone and introduced class members and four generations of the Lau family; Mr Lau's wife, Arlene; Cheryl West and family; Dusty Lau's family; Karen Lau and her daughter. Arlene was recognized for her contributions made during her husband's teaching years.

Several classmates shared memories of Mr Lau. Adrienne Cooper Nelson recalled how encouraging, patient and supportive Mr Lau was as coach of his young girls' basketball team, never losing his "cool" even after a lost game. Ted Seda, Senior Class President, shared economic and current events discussed in Mr Lau's "Today's Problems" class. He noted the similarity of issues then and now. Gary Burrows reminisced on his memories of Mr Lau and said "he was a teacher and friend who enjoyed attending our reunions, class coffees as well as the class' 70th birthday party.

Tiffany Feisel, School Board President, shared thoughts on education at North Tama and thanked the Class of 1961 for their contribution to the school. David Calderwood, School Board member, was also present.

Gary then formally dedicated the bench with these words, "May it be put to good use in the days to come for young lovers to sit on, the weary to rest on and for scholars to reflect on." Mrs Lau was then invited to be the "First Lady" to sit on the bench after the dedication. She was presented a keepsake plaque and a red rose.

The bench committee consisted of Marcella Pults, chairman; Gary Burrows, who designed the bronze bench plaque; Mary Shultz and Barbara Merchant. Paul Rea, 7-12 Principal, was a key figure in the initial phase and the Traer School Board and Superintendent David Hill gave the final approval for the bench purchase. Patty Calderwood, Activity Director Secretary at N Tama, was the main overseer of the project. On the afternoon of the dedication, several high school junior and senior girls did the outdoor program set-up.

Don Lau, known for his contagious smile, loved people and animals. He was called to his eternal home at age 88 on Feb 22, 2017. Through his positive influence and sincerity as a teacher, husband and father, he taught us "one person can make a difference."



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