A story in the Riverview Register newspaper has led to a fun reunion between a Las Vegas police officer and his third-grade teacher.
The original story about the 100th annual summertime reunion of the family of a former Riverview resident – Las Vegas police Sgt. Michael Campbell – caught the eye of Riverview resident Pam Soli, who noted the article mentioned his wife and that her relatives were Armenian.
Despite not reading the article completely, Soli, a retired Rockwood school teacher, mailed the newspaper page to friend and fellow retired teacher Cheryl Bechard, now living along the Colorado River in western Arizona.
While reading the article, Bechard (then known as Mrs. Karolyi and later Ms. Kae) recognized Campbell as a former student of both herself and Soli at Chapman Elementary School in Rockwood – something Soli herself had not read in the article.
Gina Campbell, a native of Woodhaven, and her relatives from different parts of the country were featured prominently throughout the article. Their family travels annually to Michigan for a reunion. Along for this year’s gathering at Camp Dearborn in Milford were the Campbell’s identical twin daughters Ellie and Ivy.
Michael and Gina had moved to Las Vegas for their careers in 2007. Gina is vice principal at Lummis Elementary School in Las Vegas, which is about two hours away from Bechard’s home. After Bechard read the article, she contacted school Clerk Cynthia Orr to set up an appointment with the vice principal on Oct. 22.
Bechard, who wanted to reconnect with her former student, said she wanted to surprise Mrs. Campbell first and Michael second. She made the two-hour drive to the school in the morning and met the vice principal, showing her a copy of a Chapman school yearbook and giving her a jar of Sanders Hot Fudge as a gift from Michigan.
When Gina saw the photo of her husband in a class photo and discovered Bechard had been his third-grade teacher, the first surprise was accomplished. Bechard had the newspaper article with her and showed it to Gina.
Gina asked Michael to visit the school. He arrived in uniform, but he did not know the reason behind the visit. His wife introduced him to Bechard (who he knew as Ms. Kae in third grade) but was still puzzled until she removed her COVID-19 protective mask. Once he saw her face, he recognized her immediately.
It was the first time they two had seen each other since Bechard retired in 2000 after a 29-year teaching career. Michael’s family had moved to Riverview, where he finished elementary school.
Michael called their reunion “awesome.”
“Really, the word ‘awesome’ is tossed around and used so much that it takes away its true meaning,” he said. “This was truly the definition of the word.”
The two reminisced and got caught up on each other’s lives for two hours. She remembered Michael’s parents – his father James, a retired Rockwood police officer currently staying with the Campbells in Vegas, and his late mother, Ronna, who was involved in the PTA. She also taught his sister Ellen LaBell and brother Sean Camps.
Bechard told him she had remarried and moved with her husband to Arizona. He has since passed away.
Bechard told the Riverview Register that she remembers Michael in third grade as a deep thinker. She said the hot fudge jar was really a “regift” of something she received from a visitor from Michigan – the light-hearted admission she requires for someone to be a guest at her home.
“I paid my dues and everything in Michigan,” Bechard said. “I had a great job – a wonderful life. We moved to Arizona because of the weather and everything is very nice. I have lots of contacts in Michigan and great friends out here, too. It’s a good life.”
All three – the Campbells and Bechard – agreed they would never forget the reunion.
“We talked for hours and plan to meet up again soon,” Michael said. “She was always such a fun teacher and such a kind. sweet-hearted woman. She told me Mrs. Soli (who taught Michael in second and fourth grade) didn’t even realize the story was about me when she sent it. So now I am texting with Mrs. Soli, too. What a great day.
“I owe it all to Gina’s family, the written article and Mrs. Soli and Mrs. Bechard remaining friends all these years later.”