Former teacher fulfills decades-old promise

By: Megan Peterson Email
By: Megan Peterson Email

It's a promise that goes back about 40 years, and a mysterious ad in a local paper with special meaning for some.

The man behind it is calling them tributes. He’s a former teacher who's on a mission to keep his decades-old promise to give his former students $100 for graduating high school.

It all started in 1970 in Mr. Lance Lamphere's 6th grade classroom in Arkansaw, Wisconsin.

"There were 38 students and I was really impressed because they were so supportive, so loyal and had such a great spirit."

He calls the one year he spent in Arkansaw the best of his 25 years of teaching.

"I actually have ranked all 25 classes from the very top to the very bottom. I assigned each class a grade like A to F. Of course Arkansaw's way up there at A+."

That year also stuck with many of his students.

"It was a different year. It was kind of a turning point I think for a lot of us. He put the kids first. He did a lot of extra things for us," former student Mickey Wentworth said.

These days, Mickey Wentworth teaches in the same classroom she shared with Mr. Lamphere.

"Right away when we moved in I said 'Oh my gosh' I went to 6th grade here with Mr. Lamphere," Wentworth said.

Mickey says she remembers him fondly, but says she didn't even know Mr. Lamphere lived in the area until she saw the small ad in the local paper.

"I just thought it was so strange. You know after all these years, just to kinda out of the blue be in the paper. We're all in our 50's and 6th grade was like a lifetime ago," Wentworth said.

The mysterious ad is about a special promise, or tribute, as Mr. Lamphere is calling it. It's one he made to that favorite group of 6th graders all those years ago.

"I issued what I called the certificates promising that I would give them $100," Lamphere said.

One hundred dollars to be redeemed if they graduated high school with a B average and if they put a little effort in to keeping in touch.

"I said that I would like to hear from the students once in a while during the next six years," he said.

When graduation rolled around Mr. Lamphere didn't feel that stipulation had been met. So he didn't fork out the money. But now, he says he wants to make good on his word.

"A promise is a promise and I've always thought of that over the years," he said.

That's when he wrote the special note.

“I thought well maybe I won't hear from anyone, or maybe some of them are angry because they felt that I hadn't met the promise," Lamphere said.

But the response to Mr. Lamphere has been quite the contrary since he's already heard from more than half of his students.

"It just is amazing to me that he thought of us after all that time and really wanted to do this," Wentworth said.

It's a 40 year old promise and a connection between a special teacher and his students that never died.

"I'm amazed that there's an automatic, immediate connection. It's almost as if I was going back the next day to teach and I would be talking with the students," Lamphere said.

While he only promised the money to 25 students in the class at the time, now he wants to make good on the promise to all 38 students. He still has 11 left to hand out.

If you're one of his students here's his address:
P.O. Box 1
Nelson, WI 54756

Mr. Lamphere says he just wants a nice letter or a quick phone call. He says a couple of his students have passed away and he wants to get in touch with one of their loved ones to give them the $100 tribute.


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