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Impact  >  Student Story



My name is Betsy Dain and I’d like to tell you about the time Rufus and I spent together learning to read and write.  I had the privilege and pleasure of working with Rufus at the Durham Literacy Center for the past 3 years.  He was a wonderful student in so many ways.  From the very first lesson, his work ethic and drive was obvious.  He never missed a class unless he was really sick or in the hospital.  He always asked for homework and always completed it.  He made it a point to get to the Center before I did, so he could practice and review his lesson first.  He told me he was “always in a hurry to get there.” 

We had such a good time together.  He worked hard, made steady progress, and we were reading books together before too long.  He often spoke of the regrets he had that he hadn’t learned to read at a younger age, but that did not stop him from embracing it in his 80’s.

Often a word or sentence we were reading would trigger a memory for him, and send him off into an amazing story of his childhood in Durham, or one of his many jobs and experiences in the Carolinas, Michigan, Milwaukee, Pittsburgh, Baltimore or Boston.  His memory was sharp and he was a wonderful story-teller and a real philosopher.  I learned as much from him as he did from me. Maybe more.

But then he’d say “Let’s get back to work” and we would.  He’d struggle with a new concept or idea and then when he got it, he’d sit back and chuckle.  This was a man who loved to learn.

Rufus and I not only did our own lessons together, but he generously agreed to help train new tutors at the Center and answer their questions, and appear in videos and online materials about literacy.  This was asking a lot of a basically shy person, but he wanted others to benefit from learning to read and write as he had.

He told me about many people who had been kind to him over the years, and strangers that he had helped simply because they needed it.  One day he said “I want to go out with love for people in my heart.”  Well, Rufus, I think you did that.  And you also went out with many, many people holding huge love for you in their hearts.  Rest in peace, dear Rufus.

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