Meverell Good thought he was coming to the high school for a small delivery.
Earlier in the week his wife, Anne Good, suggested they visit the school to give secretary Inez Montanile a gardening book.
But inside the front lobby of the high school on Friday morning, a group of students stood in a line, twisting their fingers and twirling their hair while they waited to surprise Mr. Good.
“Here he comes!” history teacher Elaine Cawley Weintraub said.
When he entered, the students and teachers clapped, gave him hugs, told him they had missed him and were so happy he was there. His eyes swelled with tears as he took it all in. The halls boasted posters of his pictures, quotes and accomplishments.
“This day will be in history books,” said senior Maddie Webster. “Mev Good Day.”
For 10 years Mr. Good served as a substitute teacher at the high school, covering everything from science to English. But it was history he preferred, and was known to dress up in his World War II uniform during class and put students in the shoes of a soldier.
“Look to your left,” he would say as he prepared to take students on a journey through war. “Look to your right. Some of you will not return.”
But it was more than his engaging presentations that made Ms. Weintraub want to celebrate Mev Good Day.
“We never do enough for people when they are around; we take them for granted,” she said. “And Mev made history come to life for these kids. He was the past, real for them.”
Up until last spring the 88-year-old veteran was substitute-teaching three days a week. His speaking topics ranged from life during World War II to dancing in the roaring twenties.
“He makes history real for the students,” said history teacher Kate Holter. “He’s like a living legend.”
After an injury this summer, teachers and students alike felt his absence around the high school, asking “Where is Mr. Good?” So on Friday students and teachers gathered to thank Mr. Good for his time at the school, and to let him know he was missed.
“Your stories have stuck,” said Ms. Holter. “We won’t soon forget about your brush with Louis Armstrong on that New Orleans dance floor or the ambition and bravery of your Aunt Ruth during a time when women weren’t encouraged to fly.”
“You are less a substitute and more the model of a truly impassioned friend, colleague and educator,” she said. “And when you aren’t here, people notice.”
“I usually did not care for substitutes,” said senior Tjark Aldeborgh. “I was one of those students that would run off into the hall. But anytime I would walk into your classroom, I’d say, ‘It’s time for history.’”
Senior Brian Hurley echoed his thoughts.
“I was amazed by Mr. Good’s connections to history and the pride in his family,” he said. He remembered the presentation on the Civil War, in which Mr. Good had family members fight on either side. “He actually dressed in both uniforms.”
Brian added: “When I’d walk into a classroom and he was my substitute, it’d make me smile and light up my day.”
Mr. Good himself was overwhelmed with the surprise.
“You could have knocked me over!” he said. “I started crying.”
He reminded the group of the lesson he has taught for a decade: live your history.
“And there’s not much more to say except I miss you,” he said.
After the speeches the students sat around him at a table while he ate cake and told stories.
“What was it like living in the mountains?” asked a student.
“Well,” said Mr. Good. “You had to live outdoors entirely . . . ”
Ms. Weintraub looked at Mr. Good, surrounded by students who were eager to listen.
“You know, it’s a true community when the young can welcome one of their elders and honor them,” she said. “That is teaching right there.”