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Second acts

Woman continues mom’s letter-writing tradition

Woman reads to students
Coetta Ramsey, who died in 2010, reads to students during her last year as a second-grade teacher. Ramsey’s daughter is upholding her mother’s tradition of mailing letters to former students. Image: St. Thomas Elementary School

For more than two decades, students who had Coetta Ramsey as a second-grade teacher received a letter from her when they graduated from high school.

Ramsey, who taught at St. Thomas Elementary School in south-central Pennsylvania, offered each student words of encouragement, along with a copy of their second-grade class photo and a $2 bill to represent their time in her class.

Although Ramsey died in 2010, the letter-writing tradition has lived on through her daughter, Natasha Fackler.

“My mother was always making a difference in people’s lives,” said Fackler, a Mechanicsburg, PA, resident. “It’s something I wanted to continue.”

Students now receive Ramsey’s original letter with an addendum from Fackler describing the tradition.

Fackler, who has mailed about 160 letters and class photos since 2010, uses social media to help locate the graduates who have moved out of the area.

William Kriner, who lives in St. Thomas, PA, still remembers the letter he received from Ramsey in 1993.

“I was shocked, especially considering she was my elementary school teacher,” he said. “She always was a kind and compassionate person. I think Natasha is great for honoring her mother by continuing her mother’s legacy.”

When Public Opinion Online recently published a story on Ramsey, former students began sharing memories on the news site’s Facebook page.

Helen Westberry McGhin wrote: “When I graduated high school in 1984, I got a letter and a $2 bill also. [We] wrote letters back and forth from the time she went back to Pennsylvania until I graduated college. Then we still exchanged Christmas cards for many years.”

In 2020, the last of the students Ramsey taught will graduate and receive their letter and photo, marking the end of one teacher’s mission to share words of wisdom and encouragement.

“Even though she’s not here, I want them to reflect on her,” Fackler said. “When you take a minute to reflect on the people who have influenced you, it makes you want to be a positive influence on other people’s lives.”

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