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Tribute to Sen. Paul D. & Sheila ISON Wellstone YHS 62

Tribute* to Sen. Paul D. & Sheila ISON Wellstone YHS 62

Last week I mentioned that Senator Paul Wellstone (D-MN), who died in a plane crash shortly before Election Day, was an Arlingtonian. NPR's Peter Overby had called to remind me that Wellstone had grown up in Arlington and graduated fromYorktown High School.

Retired Yorktown teacher, and good friend, Sarah Jane Knight called me as soon as the column appeared to confirm this and add to the Wellstone Arlington "leg­end."

Sarah Jane remembered Wellstone from his student days and kept up with him throughout his political career, as did other Arlingtonians.

The future senator from Minnesota spent his first three high school years at Arlington's Wakefield High School while Yorktown was being built. (Yorktown High School had pre­viously been Yorktown Elementary School when the school board decided that another high school was needed in North Arlington.) He graduated from Yorktown in 1962, along with his high school sweetheart Sheila Ison, who soon became Mrs. Paul Wellstone when they were nine­teen years old. Sheila died with the Senator in the plane crash.

The 1962 Yorktown yearbook. shows them together in cap and gown "looking very loving" according to Sarah Jane.

Much has been made of the senator's feistiness as a wrestler. He was, in fact, captain of the Yorktown wrestling team, Yorktown's Athlete of the Year, a varsity cross country runner and member of the Monogram Club. Pretty good for someone who was also a major intellectual, political science Ph.D. from the University of North Carolina, and a professor at Carlton College in Minnesota.

Max Smith, Wellstone's gov­ernment teacher, remembers him well. The senator invited Max to "shadow" him for an entire day in the Senate. Wellstone set a fast pace. He was impatient with ele­vators, so he (and Max) ran up and down the stairs. It was a "marvelous day" for Smith, who was introduced by Wellstone as the person who got him interested in government.

Wellstone's English teacher, Gerry Shelton, told me that Wellstone was an outstanding person, a "giant in , personality, intelligence, and concern for oth­ers" even as a high school student. What impressed Shelton (as it would any teacher) was that his student was truly interested in what he was teaching.

Gerry remembers that when he finished his lectures on Emerson and Thoreau, Wellstone came to him and said, "You know, I think I have become a transcendentalist." This is an experience that makes it worth being a teacher.

This is a story of a precocious Arlington kid who went on to make a difference in the world. It is also, however, a tale about qual­ity teachers and quality education that have been a hallmark of the Arlington educational system. And it is a story about community.

Readers of this column are familiar with my contention that the image of the Washington met­ropolitan area as one of transience and lack of community is false. Arlington has maintained a strong sense of community and connect­edness forgenerations. The strength of this community is reflected in the remembrance of Paul Wellstone by his teachers and, perhaps more important, the regard that Wellstone held for them throughout his life. This is what "community" is all about!

Our Man In Arlington Columnist Richard Barton
Falls Church News Press of Nov. 14, 2002, Page 16
Reprinted with permission
Kindness of Kathi Jeffers AFYHS Friend & Mother of Alexander Pickands YHS 91 and Christina YHS 06

* For a variety of reasons the tragic loss of Senator Wellstone, his high school sweetheart bride Sheila ISON, and their daughter Marcia, along with several members of their staff generated an astounding amount of praise at the national level.  Somehow this piece brought to our attention by a AFYHS Friend seemed to reflect the values of the Wellstones most aptly.

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