Nonagenarian’s Birthday

Seeliger Elementary Students Write Book for Nonagenarian’s Birthday
Posted on 03/03/2022
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Former educator, math teacher, U.S. Army Veteran and world traveler Harry Chalekian, 91, celebrated his birthday this year with some special individuals who were only a tenth of his age. Seeliger Elementary School fifth-grade teacher Susan Lowther coordinated a special present for Mr. Chalekian. Her class of 10 and 11-year-olds were able to design and write a book for the nonagenarian titled “When I am 91.”

The book featured individual drawings from the students with descriptions of where they thought they may see themselves and accomplishments they may have logged over the span of the next eight centuries. Some wrote, they thought they would have worked in an aquarium, retired from professional soccer or have visited every World War II monument. Others thought they would be married and have had grandchildren and great grandchildren.

Future Astrophysicist Jack Kneeland, 10-years-old, said “When I am 91, I feel I should have gone or visited some of the same places Harry has been.” Kneeland also hoped he would have had a long career working with NASA or teaching physics at a university.

“It was a lot of fun [writing and designing the book],” said 11-year-old Lenny Bagley, who hopes to be an attorney and restaurant owner. “It was a learning experience for me. You can accomplish a lot in 90 years. I enjoy cooking food and am good at arguing with people. I want to be a lawyer and own a restaurant.”

Ms. Lowther said it was great to see the generational gap close together in a project like this. The kids were able to think beyond their short-term realm and project some of their long-term goals and aspirations. Mr. Chalekian has been to more than 70 countries and has visited every continent on the globe including Antarctica, so it was a challenge to offer him an impressive gift.

As far as the three-hole punched paper present, Mr. Chalekian said it was one of the most meaningful gifts he’s received in his 91 trips around the sun. “I’ve celebrated my birthday in many ways and in various circumstances, but this really takes the cake,” he said. “I don’t know any of them [the students], but I really feel they know me. And that is what makes this so special. I love it!”