How many of you carry warm memories of kindergarten? And, how many of you know the origin of the word? Kindergarten is a German word meaning “children’s garden” and can refer both to a garden for children where they can observe and interact with nature and a garden of children, were they can grow and develop in an atmosphere of freedom where their creative natures are nurtured. Pioneer educator Frederich Froebel introduced the first kindergarten in Germany in the early nineteenth century. “Play is the highest expression of human development in childhood,” Froebel once said, “for it alone is the free expression of what is in a child’s soul.” It takes a special set of skills and a highly-developed sensitivity to the needs of children to be a successful kindergarten teacher. Those who master such skills are treasures. Mary Erwin is one such treasure. News has reached us through Jimmy, Bill and Mary’s middle son, that Mary has been placed under hospice care after a long battle with breast cancer that has now spread to her bones and organs. Friends and former students of Mary’s are encouraged to remember her in this, her time of need. If any reader wishes to send her a card or a note, her address is 227 Woodman Drive, Tempe, Arizona 85283 USA. Mary came to Saudi Arabia and began teaching school in Abqaiq. She was married to Bill Erwin, a driller for Aramco. They had four sons who they raised in Saudi Arabia, Bobby (deceased), Michael (deceased), Jimmy and Jesse.
One day in about 1976, Bill found a hedgehog in the desert and brought it home. The next day, Mary brought it to school to show it to her class. My son was fortunately lucky enough to have Mrs. Erwin in Kindergarten and enjoyed helping to care for Pickles. Rusty still remembers that cute little critter. It had the softest underbelly and liked to roll up into a ball of fur. His class that year was made up of 10 boys and no girls. (Poor Mary Erwin!) Last year, Mary lost her eldest son Mike at age 52 to pneumonia and understandably grieved quite heavily over his loss. Ginny Griffith who worked in the Abaiq school while Mary was teaching there, carries fond memories of Mary: "Mary touched so many lives all those years in kindergarten!” Ginny writes, “and I shall never forget those wonderful donuts she made—Krispy Kreme must have gotten their recipe from her!” Our prayers and best wishes go out to Mary and her family—and her family is quite large. Every child that had the privilege of being taught by her in kindergarten in the Kingdom is a member of Mary's extended family. We invite all of her children, wherever you may be in the world, to reach out and touch Mary. She will be delighted to hear from you. Mary Erwin 227 Woodman Drive Tempe, Arizona 85283 USA