One of the Best Educators I Ever Knew
A personal remembrance from September 2012.
“I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived. I did not wish to live what was not life, living is so dear; nor did I wish to practise resignation, unless it was quite necessary. I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life” – Henry David Thoreau
There are people that you meet that change your lives. They may not be trying to, but the wisdom they impart transforms you little by little and you become a better person. Many of these are educators. They may or may not be teachers in the traditional sense, but that is the life they live.
One of these was David Moutrie. I never had him for a class. He taught at Frasier High School and I was already well past college years when I met him. I knew him as a friend and neighbor. We moved into our house about 10 years ago and God blessed us with great neighbors in David and Kristina Moutrie. They were very welcoming and David and I began to have long talks, usually when one or both of us was supposed to be working. I would go to take out the trash or be mowing the lawn and half an hour later my wife or his would poke a head out and tell us to get back to work. But I think he was working. To him, being a friend and talking about life was more important than household chores. Helping others was his life’s work.
From him, I learned about friendship. He was always willing to help out, even when he had his own to do list. He would often tell me, “You don’t have time for this. You have three kids you are raising.” and proceed to help me over my protests. He always would take the time to listen when things were rough and knew how to provide just the right encouragement. In talking with him, one never felt like they were imposing on him. He really wanted to know about you.
From him, I learned about being a Christian. We didn’t agree on everything, but we were men of faith together. Faith wasn’t something left at the church door, but an integral part of life. He didn’t need a WWJD wristband. He studied the scriptures and met with other Christians, ingraining this knowledge into his soul. When he told you to trust in God during a rough patch, you knew he did the same.
From him, I learned about marriage and loving one’s family. When we moved in, we were two years into marriage and kids were only a plan. He and Kristina had a long-established marriage with two mostly grown sons. Their marriage was solid, based on love, support, and trust in God. They were willing to do anything for each other, whether it was David taking allergy pills so Kristina could have a dog or Kristina moving with David to northern Michigan where his heart felt at home. I watched how they lived and how they guided their sons, Stuart and Timothy, through life. Sometimes I learned from our discussions, but most of the time through their example.
He always had time for my family too. He and Kristina “adopted” our daughters as grandkids. They loved going over and talking with them. He had a light teasing way about him that endeared him to them and they were always excited to see him and Kristina, or Mr. and Mrs. Moo as they were known to our girls.
From him, I learned about serving others. He was always giving of his time and talents, whether it was to his neighbors, keeping an eye on the Paint Creek Trail, or volunteering in Pontiac schools or at his church. He wanted to make a difference. He did. He saw a need and worked to meet it.
From him, I learned about living life to the fullest. He always had a list a mile long of things he wanted to do and just not enough time in the day. Retirement was not an end, but an opportunity for new beginnings. It was a time to help out others, start businesses, build a house, and spend time with his wife. It was time to explore and enjoy. He sucked the marrow out of life.
I could never have repaid him even if I had had the time to. But he would not have wanted to be repaid, but to pass it on to others. He would want me to use what he taught me to be a better husband and father, neighbor, community member, Christian, and person. He would want me to help others just as he did.
And so I learn my final lesson from him. It is not just a lesson about death and grief, but a lesson about leaving a legacy that others don’t just want to pass on, but feel compelled to pass on. His work on earth was not finished, but will continue as those who knew him take part of his work – as a friend, a mentor, an educator, a person of noble character – and make it part of their lives’ work.
David, I shall miss you. You were a true friend and a true educator. Your lessons will live on, passed on by those you touched.
David Moutrie passed on September 15, 2012. He is survived by his wife, Kristina, and sons Stuart (Eva) and Timothy.