By Bruce Stambaugh
You can see it in her eyes, in her smile and in her body language. Mil Agnor finally has closure.
Earlier this year, the 80-year-old former Millersburg, Ohio resident had her two-year term of service with the Peace Corps in Romania unexpectedly interrupted. After a routine physical exam, she was sent back to the United States for more medical work.
Agnor was diagnosed with bladder cancer, underwent surgery and treatment, and was glad to be up and around and physically well. But something was missing in her life. She had to leave her Peace Corps teaching assignment without saying goodbye to her students, cohorts and friends.
“I didn’t have a chance to say thank you and goodbye,” Agnor said. “I didn’t feel like I had closure.”
The self-assured and talented Agnor was determined to correct that situation. Once she got the medical all clear, Agnor began planning a trip back to Romania. She left Oct. 12 and returned to her new home in Stow Oct. 26 a very satisfied person.
Agnor didn’t make the trip alone. She took along 400 refrigerator magnets that she had made at a print shope in Millersburg. She handed them out to her former students, fellow staff, Peace Corps partners, parents, school and government officials, and even to people she met on the street.
“Romanian’s are very friendly,” Agnor said. “They were very appreciative.”
They should have been. The magnet was a photo of Agnor in front of the school where she taught English in Palanca, Romania. The magnets were inscribed in Romanian with heart-felt thanks from Agnor.
Below the U.S. and Romanian flags was the salutation, “For my dear friends in Palanca and Romania. My greatest thanks to you and your good health.” It was a keepsake anyone there would cherish, especially since Agnor had it made herself and personally handed it out.
That’s not all the generous and compassionate woman did. Teacher that she is, Agnor took along another small gift that created a memorable object lesson for her former students. She gave each student a Lincoln Head penny while sharing this little rhyme: “Find a penny, pick it up; all day long you’ll have good luck.”
She also seized the moment to teach the students about Abraham Lincoln, whose profile is on the coin.
“I told them all about Abe Lincoln, one of our most successful presidents,” Agnor said. “Like my students, he had a humble beginning, was honest, worked hard and loved to learn.”
To Agnor’s great delight, her hosts had a nice surprise for her, too. A dedication was held in her honor for the new science lab that Agnor helped create. She wrote a proposal for the lab, which was approved by Peace Corps officials in Romania and the U.S. The project, which included adding water and electricity in the unused room, totaled $9,300.
The local school raised 35 percent of the amount, 10 percent more than what was required, Agnor said. That amount included $275 collected by the students from selling jewelry and food. The balance was raised through donations to the Peace Corps.
The staff and students hustled to complete the science lab while she was visiting. A special celebration was held, requiring Agnor to stay in Palanca an extra day.
County and local officials and school personnel all acknowledged Agnor’s leadership role in helping to instigate and create the lab. Agnor said she felt honored to receive the recognition.
The biggest hit of the science lab was the smart board, which is basically a large interactive computer screen that allows teachers and students to share in researching and displaying projects. In addition, the monies raised help supply the lab with tables and chairs.
“The project had to be sustainable,” Agnor said. “We had to develop something that will be ongoing in the absence of Americans.” She said the Peace Corps would terminate its services in Romania within two years.
Agnor’s service in Romania is completed, but her dedication to helping there is not.
“I’m going to find a way to continue to work in some nonprofit approach here to help my friends in Romania,” she said. Given her commitment and determination, she will likely be successful at that as well.