It was just two days before Christmas in 1958 when John Cruitt’s mother died after a serious illness.
He was a student in Cecile Doyle’s third grade class at the time.
More than 50 years later, John tracked down his former teacher, to tell her how she helped him through that difficult time.
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And I remember, at my mother's wake, someone in my family came to me and said, "Johnny, your teacher's here."
Cecile Doyle: When I found out she died, I could certainly relate to that, because when I was 11, my own father died. And you just don't know how you're going to go on without that person.
JC: When I returned to school, you waited until the other children left the room at the end of the day, and you told me that you were there if I needed you.
When you bent over and kissed me on the head, it was really the only time someone said to me, "I know what you're feeling, and I know what you're missing."
And I felt, in a very real way, that things really would be okay.
CD: Well John, I really loved you as a student, and I'm so glad that I could be there with you for that time.
JC: Many years later, when I became a teacher, I started to think more and more about you. And I started to think to myself, Here I am, with a memory of a teacher who changed my life, and I've never told her that.
And that's why I finally wrote this letter:
Dear Mrs. Doyle,
If you are not the Cecile Doyle who taught English at Emerson School in Kearny, New Jersey, then I'm embarrassed, and you can disregard the sentiments that follow.
My name is John Cruitt, and I was in your third grade class during the 1958-1959 school year. Two days before Christmas, my mother passed away, and you told me that you were there if I needed you. I hope life has been as kind to you as you were to me.
God bless you, always. WIth great fondness,
CD: And your letter could not have come at a better time because my husband had Parkinson's, and he was going down hill. And I had just come home from the hospital, and I read this beautiful letter, and I just was overwhelmed.
JC: Well the funny thing is when I finally wrote to you again after 54 years, I typed the letter--I was afraid my penmanship wasn't going to meet your standards.
JC: Well, after all this time Mrs. Doyle, all I can say to you is … thank you.
CD: John, what can I say, I'm just glad that we made a difference in each other's life.