It is not very often these days that I hear of a former teacher given my advancing age, but the other day, I was delighted to hear that one of my former teachers from Permian High School, resides right here in Runnels County.

It is not very often these days that I hear of a former teacher given my advancing age, but the other day, I was delighted to hear that one of my former teachers from Permian High School, resides right here in Runnels County. Let’s face it, as a 1978 grad of Permian High School, many of my favorite teachers have gone to that great classroom in the sky.

However, the other day,  Larry Reed and his wife, who live out between Wingate and Wilmeth, stopped in to do a little business with the Register. And, as so often happens, we all started chatting while waiting to complete the transaction.

While the Reeds and I were discussing our roots, they said they had recently moved from New Mexico to Runnels County. I offered that I was from Odessa, to which Larry said, "I'm sorry," and then offered “my sister Sondra (Petty) was a teacher there for 30 years.”

I said that my parents, Bob and Judy Hawkins, were stalwart educators there for decades and he went on to say that his brother-in-law Duane Petty, taught jewelry at Permian.

“Oh my God,” I told him. “I had Mr. Petty for jewelry for two years in high school! I can’t believe he lives here in Runnels County.”

It turns out, Mr. Petty lives in Winters - who knew! I had him for four semesters my junior and senior year at Permian.

Well, I have always said that when you think you should thank a teacher that had an effect on you do so - because too many times I’ve missed the chance.

And indeed Mr. Petty had a most profound effect on me because, I continued to take jewelry classes for two years in college, until I had to buckle down and decide whether I wanted to be an art or an English/journalism major. And so it goes, journalism won out, but I will never forget Mr. Petty and how much he taught me and how much I enjoyed making jewelry.

Back in the day in the late 1970s, those were some tough years for teachers - a lot of unruliness going on at school - at least in Odessa. But I remember Mr. Petty as being a very calm, even tempered fellow who was always ready to help the students, either with design, fabrication or even with the making of stones.

And, it had to be a bit nerve wracking to be running a class where students could play with saws, blow torches, kilns and a centrifuge.

I preferred fabricating jewelry using a torch. The lost wax method where the centrifuge was used was a skill I never mastered. But no worries, Mr. Petty wanted students to take on projects they liked most of the time. Oh yes, we had assignments to learn the other techniques, but when it came to the semester assignments, our work was our creation.

I vividly remember looking up during class and there was often a line of students waiting for him to help them. He patiently helped us all - making sure no one was ever left out.

If I recall, he ran a little place out west of town too, where you could buy silver, wax molds, tools and such. I shopped there frequently both during my time at Permian and while I was at Odessa College.

The most valuable lesson I learned from him was patience and a love for what you do.

And I know he had an effect on others too. A far away friend of mine named Pat Barnes, who is a few years younger than I, had Mr. Petty and he made jewelry his profession and he is very successful at it.

Here's to you Mr. Petty! You're a real jewel!

Celinda Hawkins is the managing editor of the Runnels County Register and can be reached by calling 325-365-3501 or 432-349-2736 or via email at chawkins@gatehousemedia.com.