Some of you may be familiar with a custom begun recently in Japan where the government seeks out uniquely talented individuals and classifies them as living treasures. These artist and artisans, often of advanced age and occasionally feeble, are recognized for their skills in calligraphy, tapestry, paper-making, painting, pottery, and the like. These living legends are given nation-wide deference and a small, token-like stipend.
We at SJA have a similar situation. George Zanotti has been sharing his uniqueness with us for what seems a lifetime, but, in fact, has been a mere twenty years. Who has not seen what he can do with a common Magic Marker and a piece of scrap paper? Give this man some yarn, a little crushed foil, a dash of glitter, and a dollop of glue and he's in ecstasy. Who has not passed his desk without so much as uttering a passive "Ooh, Aah, or Tsk-Tsk"? His bulletin boards have inspired minimalists everywhere and have set the standard here at SJA. How many of us have seen his eyes gloss over as he creases a fresh sheet of of construction paper or when he tries out a virgin nib? George, we have watched you in amazement!
Additionally, his skills have not been limited to only the arts. What this man can do with with his daily ensembles...well, breathtaking is close to the truth. I personally have seen him take shoes of different color, different style, and different material and wear them together with a degree of style and grace that is rarely matched in the pages of GQ. You want to talk about dexterity? What George can do with an automobile is material made for legends. How about his death-defying trips across town on potential snow-warning days? Heart stopping for sure.
George's various skills even carry over to his spirituality and worship. What can't be said about his traveling shrines and just-made relics? How many associate pastors have been left mystified and awe struck by this man's amazing and clever liturgy preparations? Bless you, George, your rewards, as you well know, are not of this world.
Quite frankly, George, without your twenty years of service, SJA would have been much less of a place, and, no doubt, your second twenty will make the school much more than it already is. And finally, in the adroitly chosen words of a first-year teacher: "George, we all hope to be just like you when we, too, grow up!" Best wishes always, you are, indeed, a real treasure.
*Little did I know when I wrote this in 1984 to help celebrate GZ's twentieth year of teaching at SJA that I would be posting it twenty-five years later celebrating his forty-fifth year in the classroom. Congratulations are in order for that long-serving achievement.