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Angels don’t need first names

In 1995 Guillermo Vasquez came to Russellville with his parents, older brother and younger sister from Guatemala. He was 9 years old and spoke no English. 

His parents came to Russellville because his uncle, who had lived there for several years, recommended it as a good place to try out life in the USA. He described it as a safe place with good schools and good, welcoming residents.

That fall, Guillermo was enrolled in Russellville Elementary School in the fourth grade. His parents had taught him to say three English phrases:

  • “Hello, good morning.”
  • “Fine, thank you.”
  • “May I go to the bathroom, please?”

The first day of school, there he was, left by his parents to face a sea of students and a teacher, none of whom spoke any Spanish. 

Naturally he was confused, apprehensive, nervous. The other students seemed to know each other. He knew no one at all. He was “the odd man out,” so to speak. They knew not how to communicate with him and vice versa.

The teacher was Mrs. Hargett. She seemed surprised and unprepared at first but quickly recovered, greeting Guillermo warmly, lovingly and protectively. 

Her pleasant and sincere welcome in front of the entire class stopped any classmate temptations to tease or taunt him. Further, she seemed to intuitively know how to guide Guillermo in English accompanied by gestures as he struggled to master English.

In short, she was an angel who saved him from a whole heap of pain and suffering. 

By the end of that school year, Guillermo was reasonably fluent in English and had many friends among his classmates. His fifth-grade teacher was good, and his English was acceptable for the grade, and he got along well.

In August 1997, Guillermo’s parents returned to Guatemala with the children in tow. 

Later his brother, Nery, returned to Russellville and attended college at UNA.

Guillermo made two visits back to Russellville, in the summers of 2003 and 2005, staying with his brother. In 2008 he came again for his cousin’s birthday. He had married Jacky, and they had a young daughter. They did not come with him.

Just then, his parents got into the crosshairs of a powerful criminal organization in Guatemala. They made credible threats of mayhem and murder to the family. Consequently, the family fled in great haste. 

Jacky and baby Adriana were isolated in Guatemala. Guillermo and his parents worked desperately to get them out and to Russellville. They were successful fairly quickly. Whew! Close call.

For the next eight years, Guillermo worked successively at positions at PSP Industries, G and G Steel and Sunshine Mills, where he was a production supervisor. He is now a successful insurance agent at AL Auto Insurance. He also owns M and G Services, a quick international money transfer firm in Russellville.

Last year, Guillermo was in Lowe’s about to check out when he spotted Mrs. Hargett nearby. He asked her, “Aren’t you Mrs. Hargett?”

She recognized him right away from 23 years earlier and called out his name. They had a joyful reunion. She introduced him to her husband Chris, chief of police in Russellville. To Guillermo, that meeting was one of the great moments in his life.

Through all this and in the years to come, Guillermo will always remember Mrs Hargett, his angel extraordinaire.

When asked, “What is Mrs Hargett’s first name?” he looked totally surprised then perplexed before answering, “I don’t know.”

It was apparent he had never thought of her as having a first name.

As far as Guillermo is concerned – angels do not need first names.

Dick Rowland is the senior coordinator for the Complete Census Count Committee 2020, Franklin County.