A Greyhound shows his integrity

Dale Wakeley and Ms. Leonard

Dale Wakeley and Ms. Leonard

LeeAna Cruz, Carly Grohs, and Melanney Viera

One day after school in late September, senior Dale Wakeley made his way to Mrs. Fitzgerald’s classroom because he had found a class ring from 1972 in a field near his house.

Wakeley made a choice to find the owner of the ring by researching old yearbooks in the school library; he matched the initials on the ring to Richard Leonard, a Naugy graduate of 1972.  He remembered that Mrs. Fitzgerald also graduated in the 70’s.

“I knew that Mrs. Fitzgerald had graduated in the 70’s because she’d mentioned it in the Crossing The Line meeting earlier that week. After finding Rich Leonard’s name in the 1972 yearbook, I knew I had to ask her if she knew him or knew of a way to contact him or his family,” Wakeley said in an interview with The Greyhound News.

“You have to understand, Naugatuck High School was not only a center for the community, but also an extended family.  We all were Greyhounds and everyone was proud of that,” remarked Mrs. Fitzgerald when she heard Leonard’s name.

She further reminisced that Leonard graduated with her sister and that “Rich was a handsome, beautiful blue-eyed young man…a swimmer….. strong and smart.  He was liked by everyone.”

Coincidentally, Dale is also a swimmer and honors students. The similarities between the two touched Mrs. Fitzgerald.

After Dale approached Mrs. Fitzgerald, she reached out to Mrs. Dymond, the journalism teacher.

Mrs. Fitzgerald and Mrs. Dymond reached out to Richard Leonard’s sister, Ms. Lisa Leonard,  a teacher at City Hill Middle School.

Mrs. Fitzgerald, Dale Wakeley, Ms. Leonard

Sadly, Richard Leonard passed away many years ago. Fitzgerald reached out to his sister who eagerly agreed to meet with Dale and be reunited with her brother’s ring.

When I started to read her {Mrs. Fitzgerald} letter, many emotions flowed through – surprise, happiness, wonder, and a bit of disbelief. My dear brother Richard’s class ring had been found!” Leonard said in an interview with The Greyhound News.

The reunion happened on September 26 in Mrs. Dymond’s room.

“When I met Dale, I hope he felt my gratitude.  More importantly, I hope he knows what a wonderful young man he is and that he is a model of citizenship and integrity. Days after our meeting and even now,  I cannot stop thinking about the exemplary character of this high school student,” said Leonard.

In turn, Dale has felt a sense of peace after giving Mrs. Leonard such an important keepsake. He feels that making the decision he made has made his life better.

“After I gave the ring back, I’ve received more interest from colleges, met someone special, and have received a class ring courtesy of Naugatuck [High School’s] staff. I never had the money to buy one, ironically enough. I’ve also been shown the meaning of reminiscence. Ms. Leonard, Mrs. Fitzgerald, and Mrs. Dymond – despite all graduating in different years, and one from a different school – were all able to look back at high school and their class rings fondly, and it felt good to know that eventually I’ll be able to look back at my time in high school and say, ‘Wow, I really did all of that.’

The beautiful irony of this story is that Naugatuck is such a close community and a special place.

“Mrs. Fitzgerald played a crucial part in bringing Ms. Leonard and I together so that I could give her the ring. I only had Rich Leonard’s name and that I had his class ring; Mrs. Fitzgerald was the one that remembered Mr. Leonard, knew that he’d passed, remembered that he has a sister, and found and emailed her,” said Wakely.

Most importantly, a Greyhound has shown his integrity and his character. He stands at the foreground of a school full of students who all carry these ideals.

“My wish is for Dale to experience the success and excitement of life that my brother Richard experienced, to have a wonderful college experience, and to go through life being an important part of the community as a contributor, problem solver and exemplar for those who came before him, as my dear brother Richard did,” emphasized Ms. Leonard.

What a beautiful wish from a grateful sister for an honorable young man.