Irving Lester

Several of us have been discussing fabric choices in one of the many quilting forums that I belong to. One asked if we buy a piece of fabric that we love without a specific plan for it.

I do, because I know that eventually I will have a need for it. When I bought the rose fabric in the quilt below, I just knew I loved it and “needed” some. I had no specific plan for it.

Then my brother died. And I had to do a quilt in his memory. That rose fabric was the ONLY fabric that would do for me. Not only was it the right color and scale, it also had significance. You see, when he lived with Mom and we both took care of her for several months, he would go out in her yard and pick 2 red roses. One for the “World’s Greatest Mom”, and one for his “World’s Greatest Little Sister”. See? It was the only appropriate choice.

Here is my sweet brother that I miss so much.

Remembering My Brother

Irv was a teacher. He taught High School English for many years, and later College English. Here is one of my favorite letters from one of his former students. His teaching style was much like my Mom’s.

“Subject: Mr. Irv

I had Irv for classes in 84 and 85. He was the most incredile teacher ever!!! I just learned of his passing, and send my prayers to the family. I have a story to share that won’t mean much to others, but it did to me. it changed me.

My sr. year, my family was going to leave early for vacation for an early grad. gift. I had to take my final a day early, so Irv put me out in the hall with all of my stuff. (class folder
included.) I did it, I cheated, I looked up an answer. I got 100% on the final. I had to tell him!!!! “Mr.Lester, I cheated!” his response was “of course you did! But have you learned something?” He gave the A anyway! And I never cheated again!!!Thank you, Irv.”

He was really special….. and that fabric that I bought was perfect.


52 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. KK
    Jul 24, 2007 @ 21:42:36

    Wow – Irv was a special guy. I hope he knew how many lives he touched. Great quilt – for a great man.


  2. Vcki W
    Jul 25, 2007 @ 07:40:32

    Gayle – glad to see you have your own independent blog going. I enjoy reading your posts on LAC and am looking forward to following your blog!


  3. Jan
    Jul 25, 2007 @ 07:43:04

    Gayle, that fabric is perfect!! And your brother sounds like an incredible man. Thank you for sharing the quilt and the story.


  4. Christine
    Jul 25, 2007 @ 13:35:07

    Oh, Gayle! That message from a former student brought tears to my eyes. It is the lessons like these that teachers can bring to their students which later go on to change not just one person but the world. I am so sorry for your loss but know you are blessed to have had your brother in your world for the time he had on earth.


  5. SSS
    Sep 06, 2008 @ 00:52:46

    OK – I have to admit I feel rather strange about posting on a quilting forum site, but here goes. I was a student of Irv’s at DGN in 1984-85 (not the same student you quote above). English was always my fav subject in school, but Irv and I connected on another level. On the first day of class, I wore my Peter Tosh t-shirt. From that day, Irv and I had a reggae music connection. He definitely helped to refine my skills as a writer. I went on to major in English in college, and I worked briefly as a journalist. Now I have the privilege of writing CD liner notes in my spare time for a major reggae label out of NYC. I credit Irv to this day for helping me realize my writing goals. Nice quilt, by the way. ~Selah~


  6. Wendy
    Feb 13, 2009 @ 12:02:49

    Happy 60th Birthday Gorgeous Husband!


  7. Stacey
    Feb 16, 2009 @ 13:18:51

    I recently joined facebook and read about Mr. Lester’s passing on one of the DGN blogs. I was just looking at my yearbook prior to the reading and I came across his picture in the yearbook and thought to myself “I wonder what old Irv man is up to?”. He was such a cool guyand an absolutely awesome teacher! I had him in 1980 and I actaully went on to become a high school teacher myself. I mentioned Mr. Lester in my beginning of the year speeches all the time as being one of the coolest and most inspiring teachers I had ever had in high school. He meant a lot to his students and I will never forget him! RIP “Mr. Lester the Bester” (our nickname for him)

    Thanks so much for letting me know how much he meant to you. I will pass it on to his wife too.


  8. Karin
    Apr 09, 2011 @ 13:40:06

    I’m sitting here crying because I just learned that the best teacher I ever had has died. I was a student of Mr. Lester’s in ’81 and ’82 and I will never forget him. He made us all feel like adults-starting with the coffee and doughnuts he provided in the morning, to the way he called me “a smart lady” He ignited a writing spark in me that I still have to this day.


    • Gayle
      Apr 09, 2011 @ 14:49:06

      He was so wonderful, in so many ways. You were lucky to have him as a teacher. I was lucky to have him as my big brother.



  9. Amanda Claus
    Apr 24, 2011 @ 19:05:20

    I had Mr. Lester as my Humanities teacher at DGN in 1997. I will always be thankful that I had a teacher who cared so much and inspired me to explore art. I went on to become and art history major and now I teach high school art all because of his influence.
    Also, here is a nice story about him: He told the class that he was going to California for a visit and would be back in a few days. I asked if he would bring back a bottle of sand for me from the beach. When he returned he gave me a collection of small glass bottles and said ‘travel the world yourself and fill them up’. I still have the bottles and I collect sand from every beach I visit!
    I wish I could have told him thank you in person:)


    • Gayle
      Apr 24, 2011 @ 21:04:12

      Thanks so much for sharing that wonderful story about my brother. That sounds exactly like him! I am so happy you had him as a teacher. He was a wonderful guy.

      ps. I remember him saying different times that he loved teaching Humanities. I think it was more interesting to him than teaching just English.


  10. Anonymous
    Aug 15, 2011 @ 16:22:48

    I was one of Mr. Lester’s students in ’90 – ’91 I was class of ’91 from DGS. Mr. Lester was a wonderful teacher. He interacted with all of us with as equals. The world lost a great man when Mr. Lester passed away. How wonderful that you get to claim the honor of being his sister.


  11. Kelly
    Oct 04, 2011 @ 22:32:59

    I have often wondered about Mr. Lester, and looking for his whereabouts brought me to this page. I’m also a former student, and I, like the others who commented before me, am struck with sadness in hearing about his passing. He was a great, great teacher and a good human being. In fact, he was so inspirational that what guided me into becoming a high school teacher myself. The funny thing is, I often reference Mr. Lester to my own students, in reference to the important things that I learned when I was a student. I even start the week with “weekend updates” — my favorite ritual from his class.

    I was his student in a 10th grade honors English class during the 96-97 school year. I believe it was his last year at DGN. He was going through a time of personal stress, and, not knowing what else to do, we decided to throw him a party to celebrate him. We had devised a scheme to get him out of the classroom, and when he was gone, we all changed into black t-shirts, jeans, silver rings, and ponytails. I’ll never forget seeing him walk into the room and realizing what was going on. He got tears in his eyes, and I was so grateful to know that we had been able to convey our love for him.

    I know this is coming several years after the fact, but I am very sorry that you lost your brother. His legacy as a teacher is woven into to me — how I treat my students, my own beliefs of education — and I hope that I am doing him justice.


    • Gayle
      Oct 04, 2011 @ 23:06:06

      Thank you so much for taking time to share with me. You are absolutely doing him justice. I am sure he is thrilled by that. His legacy truly is living on through his family and former students.

      Wishing you a great school year!


  12. Matt Peters
    Jun 12, 2013 @ 14:03:33

    It’s an amazing thing that I stumbled onto this blog and learned about Mr. Irv Lester’s passing. I’m saddened to hear the news. He was my Humanities teacher at DGN around ’75. I graduated in ’76 and have always thought of him as my most favorite teacher. He was my teacher the year we convinced him to shave off his beard. I can’t recall the reason but I think it was to raise money for charity. He told us a story about how, before he shaved off the beard, he neglected to warn his daughter he was going to do it. I guess she was startled to see him the first time without a beard.
    Anyway, you’ve made a beautiful quilt. I’m sorry for the loss of your brothers. It is a privilege to have known Mr. Lester.


    • Gayle
      Jun 12, 2013 @ 14:39:41

      Thanks so much for your kind words. Irv loved teaching, and loved his students.
      I had forgotten the story about shaving his beard!



  13. aeschylus bound
    Jul 27, 2014 @ 18:24:05

    Had us read Dune. Which was largely incomprehensible for this greenhorn ( also not into SF). Irving was a Dude/ A hip cat/ An hombre with some depth ( rare for western suburban anywhere). I’m watching a documentary on Dune which made me think of him…Bless his heart.


  14. Bob Slusarek
    Oct 10, 2014 @ 14:45:48

    Gayle –
    For some reason today (Oct 10, 2014) I googled Irv Lester Downers Grove North. I am saddened to be led to your site and find out your brother passed away 7 years ago. I debated whether to post or not, not wanting to not open old wounds but I just wanted to say I am sorry that Irv is gone. Its hard for me to believe that I had classes with him having transferred to DGNH in 1972 and having graduated DGNH in 1974. He was, as mentioned above a very unique teacher, one I am sure so many have not forgotten in the recesses of their minds. Many nights were spent at his little house on Curtis by Bono’s Beef discussing so many things. God bless you, your family and Irv.


    • Gayle
      Oct 10, 2014 @ 15:42:19

      Thanks for your comments Bob. I believe you were one of several students that would go to Irv and Kathy’s house so many years ago. That was when he was still married, right? His little girl and boy are now grown up with beautiful children of their own. I can only imagine what those discussions were like!



  15. Brett DGS '92
    Jun 28, 2016 @ 12:38:46

    I am so sad to learn of Mr. Lester’s passing. I looked him up to write him a letter about his amazing teaching style. I honestly can’t recall much I learned at DGS in high school, but I do remember Mr. Lester’s “Star List.” We spent over a month of class time talking about it. And now as I write, 20+ years later, I still recall his lessons. Aside from just being an amazing human being (so authentic), I guess you can say that he lives on in virtually everything I write. You are missed, and appreciated, Mr. Lester. Thank you!


  16. Julie Broussard
    Oct 13, 2016 @ 22:39:47

    Dear Gayle,
    I am also a former student of Irving Lester at DGN. I just learned of his passing when I did a Google search to try to find his famous Star List. My very late condolences to you and his whole family! I have thought of “Mr. Lester” often through the years. He so strongly influenced my writing habits. I echo Brett’s comment above about the Star List. Irving Lester lives on in my writing. I now work as Country Office Head of an agency of the United Nations in Beijing, China, where I’m the only native English writer in my office. I’m often correcting my staff’s numerous documents in English. I want to explain the Star List to them, to improve their writing. Can somebody send me a copy of the Star List? I’ve moved so many times in the more than 30 years since I graduated that I don’t have a copy anymore. But it is imprinted on my writing soul.
    much love,
    Julie (Taylor) Broussard
    DGN Class of 84


  17. Anonymous
    Nov 16, 2016 @ 16:18:55

    Dear Gayle,
    Your brother had a profound influence on how I view the world, especially via the lens of fine art. I had him for Humanities at DGN 1974-5 and he is the reason I saw Monet and mummies and other antiquities in person. Decades later (2009) I saw Italy and the Vatican for the first time and all Mr. Lester’s lessons reawakened. It sounds like his death was sudden and I’m sorry you lost your big bro too soon. My mother was an avid quilter so knowing you made a rose quilt for your brother is a beautiful thing. Alex Roberts, Class of ’75


    • Gayle
      Nov 16, 2016 @ 18:36:54

      Thank you so much for sharing your memories and the impact Irv had on your life. He surely was special. He would be thrilled to know that you saw such great art in person. And *I* appreciate that you “get it” about making a quilt to honor my beloved brother.


  18. Anonymous
    Nov 16, 2016 @ 16:27:00

    Irv imprinted me in ways I know he never knew and I am sad to hear he passed away. -Alex Roberts


  19. Eric Lester
    Nov 22, 2016 @ 22:57:20

    Hi Aunt Gayle,
    So I’m crying now. Gwendolyn turns ten tomorrow. She’s asleep. All I think about is that I want to be as wonderful to her as my dad was to me. But then I get scared of how much it will hurt her, if I could be that great to her, when I am gone. Ten years doesn’t make it hurt any less, just less often.
    Thank you for hosting these comments. And thank you to everyone who has already and will one day post. I know my dad was proud of and loved all his students.


  20. Eric Lester
    Nov 22, 2016 @ 22:57:58

    The quilt is unbelievable. It’s perfect.


  21. Steve
    Jun 26, 2017 @ 22:16:09

    Not a month goes by that I do not think about Irv and Eric; but tonight I found this page. I am truly sorry for your loss so many years ago and I am honored to have hung with the boys throwing darts in their apartment in Downers. I have so many fond memories and instilled life lessons from Irv that I am happily passing on to my kids (I still have my POW/MIA bracelet, and I think a couple earrings we traded!). I often wonder where Danielle and Eric ended up…what a great family. Even though I only knew Irv for a few years I could fill pages with stories, all properly penned, of course! warmest regards, steve


  22. Priscilla Yanez
    Oct 26, 2017 @ 01:13:33

    Gayle, I found out this news about Mr. Lester and was truly saddened. I worked with him at a college in California. He was truly something. The students loved him. I am happy to have known him. Such a thoughtful, caring and charismatic soul with beautiful penmanship. He is very missed.


    • Gayle
      Oct 26, 2017 @ 08:52:10

      Thanks for the comment Priscilla. That must have been at Heald. He liked that job. It was different from teaching HS. “Thoughtful, caring and charismatic soul” pretty much says it all!


  23. Jan Klopke Smith
    Nov 02, 2017 @ 20:40:27

    I found out about Irv’s passing in the spring of 2014. I cried so hard. (Am crying while I type this). I am a 1978 graduate of DGN. I think I had him as a teacher for all four years. My freshman year my parents went to parent/teacher night. I said to them that they might not like my “funky” English teacher. They hit it off with him right away. We wrote some poetry together after school sometimes. I still have my copies. Later when I was pregnant I went to see him at his apartment. When he answered the door he giggled and touched my belly. He was a very special man. I am a much richer person for having him as a teacher and a friend.


    • Gayle
      Nov 03, 2017 @ 08:44:48

      Thanks so much for leaving a comment about my brother. You were lucky, indeed! I’m sure he is happy that you are a Mom and that he was an important part of your life.


  24. Jennifer Sheppard
    Dec 13, 2017 @ 00:56:50

    I know this is years late but Mr.Lester was the most influententail teacher of my high school years. (95 grad of she) His infamous star list traveled with me all the way to post graduate school. He was so real, so accessible…exactly what we young adults needed as we were about to embark on our journey. I mentioned casually that I was a Garth Brooks fan…about a week later he presented me with a vhs tape of recorded concert and interview footage. I always felt priveledged to have had the chance to know him.


  25. Julie
    Feb 04, 2018 @ 01:40:20

    Hi Gayle, I got a copy of Irving’s Star List from another former student at DGN. How can I send it to you? My email is


  26. Gayle
    Feb 06, 2018 @ 20:59:01


  27. Debbie (Payne) Parran Class of ‘84
    Feb 11, 2019 @ 23:03:17

    I remember going on a field trip to the Art Institute with Mr Lester in ‘83 or’84 DGN. Before exiting the bus to go inside, he warned us that he would probably get thrown out of the museum, so we should meet him outside. He was planning on touching a Rembrandt painting. Yes, we found him outside. Great teacher.


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