The following is shared in the Feb. 13 Tomahawk Leader:
By Abigail Wix
Tomahawk Leader Reporter
I was just one of Mr. C’s students. One of hundreds, probably thousands.
Bob Colclasure, better known as “Mr. C” to the kids who enrolled in his English literature and journalism classes, was a teacher at Merrill High School who made a difference not only in education, but in those many lives of the students who walked in his classroom door.
Maybe it was the way he smiled at everyone when he walked down the hall or cracked a joke to cheer up a forlorn student. Maybe it was how he made literature through the ages interesting or the way he would announce with a twinkle in his eye that today’s lesson would be listening to him sing and play the banjo or guitar.
Regardless of how he instructed his class, Mr. C was more than a teacher. He taught more than great scholarly writers or how to write a news article. Mr. C taught lessons in life.
He had spirit, character, charisma, passion and a true dedication to his teaching. Through his smile and never-ending sense of humor, Mr. C had the ability to make a connection with anyone he met, especially kids. The shy student in the corner, the angry kid without a care, the smartest girl in her entire class – they were all the same in Mr. C’s eyes. And he always found out what made each and every one of them tick, and how to make them break into a grin.
I was 16 the first time I had a class with Mr. C – journalism. Our first assignment was to analyze a newspaper article. I handed my paper in on time and didn’t think much about it. The following day, Mr. C told me how much he loved what I wrote. So much so, that he read portions to the class. I didn’t blush; I turned the color of a fire hydrant. Thus, my first brush with the public viewing or hearing my writing was in Mr. C’s class. My modest reaction still gave me an innate sense of pride.
Mr. C had the ability to touch people like that.
Outside of the classroom, Bob was active in his community. He was a Vietnam veteran and could often be found supporting veterans organizations and activities, soldiers coming home from war or educating people about a history, a history of war when those waiting at home didn’t necessarily support your mission. He earned much-deserved awards for that active allegiance.
Bob served on the Merrill Common Council for eight years as well as various other city committees. He wasn’t a hard-nosed politician, rather, he had a common sense approach that everyone respected. Bob’s church, his community, his family and friends took the forefront of his days. He was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease in recent years, a battle he committed to fight head on.
For many years and most recently, Bob lived in Merrill, but he hailed from Ontonagon, Mich., a place he often told fond stories of that were filled with good humor and real life.
Real life was what Mr. C taught me about. I had several other classes with him during my high school career, time I grew to know him even better and time he grew to be my friend and mentor. Even after I earned my diploma, left high school and Mr. C retired, our friendship was not left behind.
We stayed in touch, running into one another here and there, having lunch or a cup of coffee. Like myself, many other students would visit him or recognize him on the street, calling out, “Mr. C!” and catching up with him for a moment or longer.
Mr. C never forgot anyone and everyone mattered.
For all these reasons, Mr. C was someone I looked up to. Not only was he an amazing writer, poet, musician and teacher, he was an extraordinary person. Through his eyes, life was a gift. And there wasn’t a day he didn’t enter without a smile.
My teacher, friend and mentor died this weekend. In my last correspondence with him, just weeks ago, he told me how proud of me he was, as though I were his own kid. When I heard the sad news of his passing, I held those words close to me. I always will.
There are some people in life, who change the way you look at things. They shed light where there was none or they give you direction when you are lost. They change a piece of who you are. Mr. C was one of those people. I know he changed me.