To anyone who didn't know her, Pauline Fritz must have lived a wonderful life.
She was 104 when she died last year. Like all people her age, she witnessed the dawn of the modern age. The automobile, the airplane, the harnessing of electricity and the atom, the space age.
But her life was firmly anchored 2,000 years ago with Julius Caesar, the Roman Empire and other wonders of the ancient world.
As we learned in class, one of Caesar's famous quotes was "veni, vidi, vici." "I came, I saw, I conquered."
Maybe we didn't conquer all the translations we were given. But we who had Miss Fritz for Latin class came to love the classics and we came to love her. She taught our mothers and fathers, our aunts and uncles.
And when she retired in 1965 after 41 years at East Rochester High School, the senior class dedicated the yearbook to her.
The dedication included a passage from Cicero: "Not only is there an art in knowing a thing, but also a certain art in teaching it."
I asked some of my classmates to reminisce about Miss Fritz. They said she imparted an indispensable knowledge of Latin and therefore of English. Petite and fragile-looking, she always had a smile on her face and a twinkle in her eye. And even though she was old enough to be our grandmother, we never saw her as old.
How could we? Only in her class did we have happy fizzy parties with cookies. Whether it was declining a noun or conjugating a verb, she made it fun. Latin for her was not a dead language, but rather a window on a world that would serve us well all through school.
Miss Fritz was born in 1899, and in her later years she told friends she was so happy to have lived in three centuries. She also took pride in sharing a birthday with Julius Caesar and George Eastman.
Miss Fritz left us with an appreciation for Latin, a deeper understanding of English, and a feeling we're glad we didn't choose French.