Sunday, July 31, 2016

E Merrell Gomm

Some will remember Mr. Gomm, who taught 6th grade at La Fetra Elementary School in Glendora, California. He taught harmonica and ukulele to interested students in the mornings before regular class. He taught square dancing too, calling out the dance instructions with aplomb. I remember lining up among the boys as we prepared to dance so to maximize the chance of holding a certain girl’s hand. During an evening open house for parents I manned the solar-system exhibit, which I am sure I volunteered for.
Mr. Gomm talked about God in class, and he told us later that some parents complained. I recall him adding in a reflective and authoritative voice that he wouldn’t talk about God in class again. Mr. Gomm didn’t suffer foolishness. More than once, he dressed down a rambunctious student for transgressions that I can’t visualize now, but I still see Mr. Gomm’s reprimands.
Mr. Gomm exemplified sober patriotism. I remember his explanation that the flag shouldn’t be burned, worn, and otherwise diminished. In 1968 or 1969 I stood for the national anthem and was ridiculed by a few in the seated crowd. A friend told Mr. Gomm about it, and he seemed pleased for me. I am sure that I did it because of him, and I look for that boy from time to time.
When I was searching for an Eagle Scout project in high school, I went to Mr. Gomm, asking if he had something I could do. He said he wanted a model of a steam engine that he could use as a demonstration tool for students, and that became my project. I remember shooting baskets one day, thinking through some issue on the project. My mother came out and asked if I was ok, and I was, because I had just figured out how I would proceed. I was proud when I delivered the project to Mr. Gomm at his classroom. He received it well.
My friend Bill and I, as we were headed off to service academies for college, both cited Mr. Gomm in the Glendora Press as an important influence in our lives. In fact, he was one of my personal archetypes. I discovered the prophets of the Hebrew Scriptures in my mid-30s, and when I read Amos 7:7-8, it was Mr. Gomm who I saw, standing by a stone wall, holding a plumb line, with long sleeves rolled to the mid forearms, and talking to me. I wonder if he would think that imagery was heresy. As I write today, it wouldn’t bother me if he would have thought it heretical, but I am still curious.
Various of my friends have added how Mr. Gomm influenced them in aspects ranging from patriotism to a love of art, science, and math. I love what my brother said
"He was one of those men that was just solid all the way through to his core. A deep humility and strength. I remember once I was out at the pull up bars at recess and he did several palms out chins BEHIND THE NECK. It wasn't until I started seriously working out that I realized how hard that was."

Mr. Gomm was killed in an auto accident ten years ago, perhaps in the same old car that he parked outside his classroom, and that he drove around Glendora and Azusa so many years ago. I don’t want memory of him to be lost.

Obituary from

Its been therapeutic to reflect on the man and his importance on my life -- solid.