Meeting Chester Thacker in 1999 was a blessing for Amanda O’Riley, a social phobic who had uncontrolled panic attacks. She was a freshman at Fort Dorchester High School and feared the very thought of taking part in the school’s student broadcast, of which Thacker was the teacher in charge, she says.
“Mr. Thacker would sit me down and tell me to imagine no one was in front of me and to just keep talking,” O’Riley says. “I did not want to be in front of the camera. He asked me to try and do something so that I would be part of it (the broadcast).”
When O’Riley found out through Facebook that Thacker had died, she decided to organize a candlelight service in his honor at Fort Dorchester and to invite faculty and students from there and Summerville High School, where Thacker also taught during his 34-year career.
She credits him with teaching her how to work through her panic attacks. He also showed her how to calm herself down enough to avoid them.
“High school is such a large crowd of people, you are never really prepared for it. He made you feel like you were on top of the world.”
O’Riley, a 2003 graduate, says she would never have graduated without Thacker’s help. He was the only teacher she remembers who would go out of his way for everyone, she says.
Elizabeth Murray, who graduated from Fort Dorchester in 2005, was never fortunate enough to have Thacker as her teacher, but was blessed with knowing him, she says.
“Random acts of kindness never applied to him,” says Murray, who went on to explain that everything Thacker did for someone was kind and intentional. “There was no negativity when it comes to this man.
“I think if God would come down and describe him, he would say, ‘I loved this man because he loved my children,’ ” Murray says. “No matter who you were, you were his (Thacker’s) child.”
O’Riley knows the feeling. “I feel that without Mr. Thacker I would never have learned to accept who I was. My parents, the principal, everyone saw that I had potential but that my fears held me back. It was Mr. Thacker who helped me to embrace those fears so that I could do something positive with my life.”
Whenever O’Riley stopped by Fort Dorchester after graduating, she took the time to give Thacker updates on her life, she says.
Reach Wevonneda Minis at 937-5705.