Mr. Jory, my high
school algebra teacher, died last week. He was born November 19, 1922. If I
did the math correctly, he was 83 at the time of his passing.
I think that's correct. My addition and subtraction usually aren't a
problem, but I never did learn algebra, and God only knows how hard Mr. Jory
Mr. Jory taught at Utica Free Academy for more than 30 years, retiring in
I believe I wrote a newspaper column about Mr. Jory in honor of his
retirement. If I didn't, I'm ashamed of myself because he deserved one.
"He had a passion for teaching," his obituary stated, "and touched many
lives during his years as an educator," which is true.
"Passion," though, isn't the first word that comes to my mind when thinking
of Mr. Jory. "Perseverance" comes to mind and so does "dedication" and
Mr. Jory might not have been able to teach me algebra, but he refused to
give up. He "invited" me to his homeroom for extra instruction on many
occasions. He could have put his feet up and relaxed during this free
period, but he spent a frustrating 30 or 40 minutes with me instead.
Mr. Jory used his perseverance, dedication and discipline when, later in
life, he took up running. Whenever I'd see him chugging along Genesee
Street, I was reminded of how hard he tried to teach me freshman algebra.
His room at Utica Free Academy was on the second floor, northwest corner,
meaning it had lots of windows. Alas, much of my time there was spent
looking out those windows instead of at the blackboard where Mr. Jory was
His pants and sport coats were always covered in chalk dust. It was not
uncommon for his hair to be out of place. If I was going to cast someone for
the role of college professor, a professor too concerned about teaching to
care about his physical appearance, I'd pick Mr. Jory.
And he was always serious in his classroom. Other teachers lightened things
up from time to time but Mr. Jory was all business. The first time I ever
saw him smile was after his retirement, which might tell you something about
how seriously he took his job.
Now that I think about it, maybe it was me and others like me who gave him
little to smile about during his teaching years.
Once he yelled at me in class. It was a well deserved yell, I should add,
caused by my interest in what was going on outside. The next day he
apologized for raising his voice.
The obit stated that Mr. Jory was "actively involved with the Legion of Mary
and the Oneida County Right to Life Committee." This I knew because I'd see
him picketing outside of Planned Parenthood on Genesee Street in Utica. The
word "passion" is the first word that comes to mind when describing Mr.
Jory's feelings about that subject.
During his retirement years, I'd bump into Mr. Jory from time to time. He
was always nice and seemed sincerely happy to see me. Once he even told me
to stop addressing him as Mr. Jory. "Call me Don," he said.
I was never able to do that, though. I had too much respect for Mr. Jory.
Joe Kelly is the editor and publisher of The Boonville Herald & Adirondack Tourist and