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Feelings of family as former St. Elmo Elementary students, teacher reunite after 50 years

Bob Layfield (left) and Fontaine Waller, with Columbus Regional, smile for a photo after a lunch get together on Jan. 18, 2019, at Speakeasy in Columbus, Ga. Layfield taught Waller in the 6th grade at St. Elmo Elementary in the late-1960s.
Bob Layfield (left) and Fontaine Waller, with Columbus Regional, smile for a photo after a lunch get together on Jan. 18, 2019, at Speakeasy in Columbus, Ga. Layfield taught Waller in the 6th grade at St. Elmo Elementary in the late-1960s. mdaniel@ledger-enquirer.com

When Bob Layfield came to teach at St. Elmo Elementary in Columbus about 50 years ago, he had just graduated from Troy University. He was 21 years old. The students in his sixth grade class were about 11 or 12.

“It was such a good time in my life,” Layfield recalls. “I was single at the time, so they were my kids. Everything I did was related around them.”

Recently, Layfield and seven of his “kids” had the opportunity to get back together to reminisce about those early school years. It was almost like a family reunion when they gathered at Speakeasy for lunch.

Mitch Williams, operations manager for Pittman Waller Roofing in Columbus, was the first of Layfield’s former Lakebottom-area students to reach out to reestablish contact after all of these years.

“To a lot of us, you’re like another daddy,” Williams told Layfield at the reunion.

What makes a 11 or 12 year old kid have such fond memories of a teacher like Layfield?

“He’s a genuine person . . . It [teaching] was more than a profession to him. It was him,” Williams said.

As they talked, the group passed around old group photographs including a black-and-white one taken during a school trip to Washington D.C. , took new pictures with their smart phones, and caught up on the more recent happenings in each other lives.

Layfield and his former students said they are not sure when they will get together again, but like any good family reunion, the gathering made them eager for the next one.

“We’re just (like) family,” said Lisa Jolley, a retiree who lives in Columbus.

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