Saturday, November 15, 2014

Nat Sloan: The (Still) Dancing King

Nat Sloan, the new 90
How many 7th grade science teachers make an effort to keep up with their students? All through life? I know of only one -- Nat Sloan, who for many years taught at Quaker Ridge School in Scarsdale, N.Y. The proof came last weekend at his birthday party -- his 90th. And celebrating with him -- dancing with him -- were his students from 50 years ago and more! His smile was as broad and infectious as ever, his spirit as lively as his footwork.
I loved that science class. He told scary stories of getting trapped overnight on "Copperhead Island" -- a snake infested spot not far from our school that he refused to reveal the location of.  And I got to take home the class garter snake at Christmas. Showing it off to my younger brother was the only time I ever willingly held a snake -- and then it pooped on me!
What I didn't realize was how much "Mr. Sloan" loved us, his students. As the years went by, as the decades went by, he would make extraordinary efforts to keep up with us  -- like showing up at our parents' funerals. Of course, we would be there.
"He is interested in their stories," said Nat's daughter, journalist Karen Sloan.
Aging usually means losing friends. They move to be near grandchildren, or to be somewhere warm, or because they fall ill.  The circle dwindles.
Nat's post-career project was keeping fit and keeping friends, making sure his circle grew.  He plays tennis, lifts weights, creates art and boogies -- check out this  video.  And yes, he goes to funerals, though at this point he's outliving some of his students.

"Somehow over the years, I’ve been blessed with an enormous store of loving friendship," he said Saturday, as he looked around the crowded room at the Saw Mill Club in Mt. Kisco. This is my real wealth and I’m a multi billionaire on this account. There are some wonderful people here, a lot of them former students and I was lucky early in life to find a niche in life just meant for me as a junior high school teacher of science. I’ve always had a love of science from my childhood on. I was out in the woods, in the fields, climbing trees, capturing butterflies, capturing snakes and just being a part of life of so many young people for 30 odd years. It was the best way to spend a lifetime. 
"There are strange mixtures of people still here. I have a cardiologist who’s also an architect. I have a cardiologist who is also an attorney. What a mixture! I have friends and family, cousins and nieces, nephews, grand nieces and nephews as well. … Some of my friends here go back to college days over 60 years ago. My students go back to over  40 years ago."
That line was greeted by laughter as guests shouted out, "50 years… 55!"
Also here, he continued are "some of my club tennis buddies. I have my curb ball buddies. I don’t know if you remember what curb ball is. Some of you may remember it as stoop ball. We’ve been playing together for over 20 years and I can still compete with the best of them. One of them is also a student. 
"Life has brought a lot to me. We’ve all had our vicissitudes in life  but we’ve come through it and we’re still here and we’re still going to go on. In November  2019, there’ll be another shindig.
Be there!!!

1 comment:

Lindsay Allen-Ruiz said...

I think my Uncle Nat will keep going for another 90 years!