Letter To Heinz – 2012

Curator Note: The letter below was shared on the Facebook WMS page. For many of us alums of all years it speaks to our undying gratitude to Heinz, Max and Gertrud, and all those teachers and staff that continued the legacy of the Bondy education experience that began in 1920 Germany. The writer was one of the last students to graduate as the school suddenly closed in 1975 do to unrecoverable financial difficulties. Heinz continued to be an education administrator through the rest of his life, working in both large universities and small progressive private schools. He passed away in 2014.

Dear Heinz,

It has been almost 40 years since I graduated from Windsor. Unfortunately, it happened to be the last year the school was open, and I feel that I never had the chance to express to you just how grateful I have always been to you for allowing me to go to school there. Life has moved at an incredible pace. I was 18 years old and then suddenly I’m 54, but there has always been this deep desire on my part to reach out to you, to express just how much you and the experience at Windsor meant to me. I desperately wanted to come to the reunion in 1996 to see the two people who most shaped my life, you and Gerdi. I had just gotten married to a girl from Switzerland, and we had already arranged a trip to visit her dad, so I couldn’t back out. In the back of my mind, I justified it by thinking that there would be other chances to see you, but again years pass, and nothing. With Facebook, many of the students are reconnected. Peter joined and after communicating with him, he offered to forward any message to you.

I’m not sure you remember who I am, but that isn’t important, what is important is that you understand how inspiring you were to so many of the students. When I first asked to come to the school, you said yes. It was as a full scholarship student, and it certainly was not based on my grades from public school, but for some reason you took a chance with me, even though the school was already struggling with its finances. I was 14 years old, scarred, shy and extremely innocent. I had never been away from home. I worked hard at my classes, to help justify the chance you took with me and got straight As. You often let me work at your house to earn a little extra money, Carolynn would put me to work in the backyard, and I always worked as hard as I could to show, in some small way, that I understood the extraordinary opportunity I had been given.

I feel extremely proud to count myself in an extremely rare group of people that had the chance to experience Windsor. The setting was nothing short of spectacular. I remember going up to the ridge of the mountain that overlooked the school. We would spend the day climbing up and could view the entire valley. At Christmas time, I always loved to sit in the Main House late at night and just watch the snow, and the Christmas tree that was in the corner by the windows. It was always quiet and the hall was dark. It was breathtakingly beautiful!

As a pivotal force in my life, aside from my own father, you and Gerdi helped shape my points of view and most of the choices I’ve made in my life; give back to the community, do not be afraid to stand up when you believe you are right, even if it is unpopular. Gerdi taught me the same lessons, but on rougher side, stand up, and be a man, as well as physically testing us with the grueling cross-country trips up to Mt. Greylock. Gerdi took me under his wing, he would bring me to his house to help with different projects, always talking about his life experiences, about the different cities in Europe, and how beautiful they were (he also introduced me to good Czech beer). For a teenager, it was all I needed to hear, travel has become a part of my life.

For your part, it was a much more subtle approach. You had a way to reach kids. You were kind, and patient (most of the time) and gave us room to explore. I always admired how you were there if a student needed to talk to someone. Of course this not a picture seen with rose colored glasses. I know that there were many kids with major problems at the school, drugs, alcohol, and many other problems, but for me… aside from a few parties…I always managed to stay away from the problems. I was almost always happy, and perhaps that is why I got along so well with most of the other students and especially with the teachers. When I first came to school, I remember all the former students coming back to visit, and looked forward to doing it myself. Unfortunately, that was never to be.

It is fair to say that you and Windsor changed my life, for the better, though I graduated from Windsor, I never left. I still find myself dreaming that I am back at school.

Thank you for so much more than I will ever be able to say!

Bobby Wilcox