Past and present Clarkston students gather to honor beloved teacher | Community Spirit
The Clarkston High School Auditorium was filled with love, hugs, tears, laughter, and memories on Saturday as family, friends, and former students of longtime English teacher and Drama Department Advisor Pete Torgerson. Torgerson, who has taught at CHS since 1985, recently retired due to Parkinson's disease, which he was diagnosed with in June 2011.
The afternoon started with a darkened stage and former students huddled in a quiet circle. "Mr. T," or "Torg," as he is affectionately known, had no idea that this gathering has been in the works for months. He was guided onto the stage and the lights brought up.
After hugging each individual, an emotional Torgerson sat in the middle of the group and heard many thanks for his loving dedication and guidance throughout the years. "In our hearts, we will never leave this place. And in our hearts YOU will never leave this place," class of 1995's Jody Snyder told him.
There was a tour of the old home of the theater - the former cafeteria - which is now the library. The last theater production in that facility was near the end of October 1999. The first CHS show in the new auditorium was the musical "Grease" in May of 2001.
Afterward, there was a gathering in the new cafeteria in the auditorium building. Former students stood up one by one and spoke about how Torgerson touched thousands of lives throughout his teaching career and through the theater.
Among the many heartfelt comments:
"The first real opportunity in my life to make friends."
"Without what drama gave me, I would not be me."
"The reason high school was special."
"There was no other teacher who could take such a variety of students and bring them together."
"You'll always be here."
"You gave us something no one else gave us."
"You mean more than you can ever imagine."
"He has shown me what I want to be in my life."
"You are more than a director to me. You were my dad."
"This really is family."
"I just wanted to be loved. Torgerson created that environment."
"He was there for us. He would sit down and listen to us."
"He was a pseudo father."
At the end, Torgerson spoke to the gathering. Fighting back tears, he told them that each of them gave him memories as well. "There isn't one of you I don't have a memory of you doing wonderful things," he said. "Every one of you shined."