More than just a teacher

Posted: November 4, 2011

Debora Fondell passes on


Middle school teacher Debora Fondell passed away from cancer this July, she will not be forgotten

By Jessamine Von Arx, Talon staff writer

“Deb [Fondell] was the quintessential wholesome American working girl, natural and unaffected, who came to work every day looking sharp,” said English teacher, Janet Johnson, a colleague and good friend of Fondell’s for 30 years.

Debora Fondell passed away July 22, 2011 after a long and hard battle with cancer. She graduated from Lakeville High School in 1973 and also graduated from the University of Minnesota and Minnesota State University where she majored in education. Her first day working at Minnehaha was August 25, 1980. She worked at Minnehaha Academy as an eighth grade history teacher for 31 years. Fondell was a wonderful woman and touched many lives of both teachers and students.

“When Deb spoke, she had a way of laughing while speaking, of inhaling and exhaling simultaneously, one side of her mouth slightly upturned, another endearing quirk,” said Johnson. “Even when Deb was ill with lung cancer, her words to me were always along the lines of ‘How are you?'”

Even with cancer, she didn’t want the people around her to worry.

“[Deb was] the most unselfish person I have ever met, [she] always put others first,” said Anna Gaylord, middle school math and science teacher. “She always made me laugh and she was a great story teller.”

Fondell was very good at forming friendships that lasted.

“[I knew Deb] for probably 40 years,” said middle school math teacher Dorothy Wintz. “We met at Covenant Pines Bible Camp when we were campers. She always made you feel like her best friend.”

Phil Erickson, eighth grade English teacher, is another example of a lifelong friend.

“I knew Deb Fondell for over 30 years,” said Erickson. “For much of that time I had the honor to be on teaching teams with her and to know her as a valued friend. She was a selfless and loving person who always remembered and asked about what was happening in the life of those with whom she talked. She was the best conversationalist I have ever known. I think of her often and I miss her.”

Fondell also had a huge impact on the students she taught in and out of the classroom.

“Deb Fondell was a woman like none other,” said senior Nessie Toye. “She was someone who would put a smile on my face every single day when walking into history or homeroom. She affected everyone around her, even if you didn’t know her. She will forever hold a special spot in my heart.”

Her students will never forget her.

“Her class was always a fun and great learning environment, the memories will never be forgotten,” said Toye. “She will remain in our hearts forever.”

Her fellow teachers also miss her incredibly.

“We miss her terribly,” said Gaylord. “Whenever we do any of our traditional eighth grade events, it is sad because she’s not with us making us laugh.”

Minnehaha Academy won’t be the same without her.

“After the beautiful funeral for Deb at her home church, Burnsville Covenant, I spoke to a number of students who had gathered in the Narthex,” said Johnson. “One of them, a former history student of Miss Fondell, said that attending the funeral was ‘harder than [she] thought it would be.’ Just so, living our lives without Deb is harder than we could have imagined.

Johnson added that the hardest part about being interviewed for this story was “talking about Deb in the past tense.”

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