RMCNews with Devon Osbourne Jr. – Fort Collins, Colorado … How do you say farewell to a teacher who had been teaching at the same school for over 19 years? You throw a surprise party and name a gymnasium after them.

This is exactly what the Fort Collins church did on May 1, celebrating the ministry of Dennis Breese. The celebration was preplanned to be a surprise part of education Sabbath service.

Dennis Breese were honored with several tributes by current and former students and was also awarded a plaque for his outstanding contributions to Christian education by the Rocky Mountain Conference education director, Diane Harris.

Dennis Breese recalls the special service, “I have been to several education day services during the past 19 years and expected this one would be just like all of the others I had attended. Wow, was I surprised!

“Even though I saw some of my former students and their parents at church, it really didn’t dawn on me as to what was happening until the bulletin was put up on the monitor and I saw that the names of two of my former students who were there to share their memories of their time in my class. Their comments brought joy, laughter, and tears to my eyes. It was a very touching and moving experience that I’m sure I will always remember and cherish.”

Keiko Breese echoed her husbands’ comments. “What a wonderful and unexpected surprise it was for us! I couldn’t believe what had happened! I couldn’t believe that this program was planned and kept secret from us for such a long time! This was the most memorable day of my life during my 19 years of service at the Fort Collins Christian School.”

The service highlighted Christian education, including a rendition of “It Is Well With My Soul” by the Fort Collins Christian School handbell choir. The school currently has 31 students enrolled.

After the celebration there was still one surprise for Dennis Breese.

“The biggest surprise was saved until last when we were taken to the entrance of the gymnasium and held in suspense for several minutes with no idea about what was happening,” Dennis commented.

“Finally, we were asked to remove the cover of something hanging on the wall. We were both stunned and overwhelmed to find our name on a plaque dedicating the gym to us—the Breese Gymnatorium!. It was a truly amazing day that we will never forget,” he added.

Former RMC education director, Lonnie Hetterle, was honored to be asked to share in the tribute program. “It is a privilege and an honor for me to recognize Dennis and Keiko Breese. Over the last 19 years I have been so impressed with the dedication and passion they have shown. They have demonstrated a humble love for Jesus, for His church, and especially for God’s children. Their creativity and love for each child has enabled them to create a wonderfully safe and nurturing environment. They consistently strive to meet the unique needs of each student and family,” Hetterle said.

Hetterle also commented that the naming of gymnasium ensures that the Breeses will be remembered for a long time. “In officially naming the gymnasium the ‘Breese Gymnatorium’ we know that their legacy will live on not only in the lives of the families and students they have impacted for eternity but also as people enter the beautiful structure,” Hetterle stated.

— RMCNews with Devon Osbourne Jr. who is the school board chair for the Fort Collins church; photos by Milcah Theodor