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Saturday, November 8, 2014

The "Near-Perfect Secretary" Story

Marie M. Gehman
It was an ordinary day.  Just got off the phone with Just Sue who lives in State College, PA and is one of my traveling friends.  Called to tell her that a friend of ours, Marie Gehman, had just died.  Sue's husband and I taught together at Manheim Township High School and Marie was the secretary for many of those years.  When I started teaching at MTHS in 1967 Marie was one of the high school's front office secretaries.  She eventually was promoted and was the secretary to the principal.  She was extremely efficient and a loyal employee for the high school.  Took pride in never doing anything wrong.  I had quite a bit of contact with her since I taught graphic arts and did all of the in-house printing for the high school.  She and I worked together designing just about everything from stationery to hall passes during the many years we worked together.  But, there is one story that she and I always talked about when we would see each other when the retired high school staff would get together for breakfast.  It was graduation time during one year in the early 1980s.  Marie would always type the graduation program and I would print it.  Had to wait until the last minute to print it to make sure all the names on the program had passed the requirements for graduation.  Some years the ink probably came off on the fingers of the parents who attended graduation, since I had to wait some years until the day of graduation to print the program.  This particular year I was able to print the program the day before graduation in the morning and had the program finished by lunch.  I dropped the programs off in the office and Marie thanked me for the good job.  Shortly she walked into the print shop with a smile on her face.  Somehow I had made a mistake!  Had to print them all over again.  Finished the job by late afternoon and took them to the office where Marie was waiting for them.  Told her how sorry I was for the mistake and left.  Wasn't more than five minutes later she returned to the print shop as I was putting my jacket on to go home.  Her face was white and her head was hanging low.  Seems she had made a mistake on this version and it had to be redone one more time.  I was exhausted and told her it would have to wait until the next day, graduation day.  She gave me the corrected version and early the next morning, about 6:00 AM, I arrived to get started.  Wasn't more than ten minutes later in walks Marie with a plate of pastries and fresh strawberries from her garden.  She was so upset that she had caused me to have to come in and reprint the program because of her mistake that she brought me breakfast.  I stopped working and we sat at the light table to share breakfast with each other.  It was during that time that we both got to know each other a little bit better.  She realized how hard it is to produce something under stress and I got to see another side of her when she apologized once more for making the mistake.  Marie retired in 1985 and was probably one of the most efficient secretaries I have ever worked with during my teaching career.  May she rest in peace!  It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy. 

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