On June 26, 2004, a close friend of our family, Florence Tatosian, passed away. We attended the same church. Her niece, Paula Ganimian, is also a very close friend.
Florence, who was commonly called “Flo,” was an elementary school teacher for Fresno Unified School District during her entire career. After retirement, she helped her niece at a local bakery, which Paula and her husband, Sam, own and operate.
One day, shortly after Flo’s passing, I went down the hallway to see my colleague, Fresno Superior Court Judge Wayne R. Ellison. As I entered the office space adjacent to his chambers, he was talking with his judicial assistant, bailiff and court reporter.
I overheard the court reporter, Mary Martinusen, remark, “My teacher, Ms. Tatosian, just passed away. She was a great teacher.”
I had to ask about Mary’s connection with our friend.
Mary explained that Ms.Tatosian, her first-grade teacher, had a very positive impact on her. “She was such a good teacher,” Mary said. “I was allowed to skip second grade because of Ms. Tatosian.”
Mary recalled that while she was in the first grade, she completed a painting at home, which she titled, “Over the Rainbow.”
Mary’s uncle, who later passed away, was an artist who had all the materials for Mary to do the painting. Her parents were so proud of the artwork, they hoped that Mary would keep it. Instead, Mary insisted that she wanted to give it to her first-grade teacher, Ms. Tatosian.
Shortly after this conversation with Mary, I visited my friends at the bakery and told them one of Flo’s first-grade students at Wilson Elementary School is a court reporter for the Fresno County Superior Court. I related how much the reporter admired and respected Flo, and that she attributed much of her success to Flo’s teaching skills. I then added that the former student said that she gave Flo a painting titled “Over the Rainbow.”
Paula didn’t miss a beat. “ ‘Over the Rainbow’ by Mary Martinusen!” she exclaimed. “That’s been hanging in the hallway for well over 25 years! In fact, we still have it!”
Excitedly, I told her to keep it, and that we would try and get it back to Mary.
Several weeks later, Paula and her brother, Keith, brought the painting to my chambers. Mary, of course, was present, and I introduced Mary to her first-grade teacher’s relatives. They returned the painting to the young artist, as her family had earlier wished.
“Flo loved being a teacher, and she was a fabulous one, Paula said. “Not one child left her first-grade class without being able to read. She was very proud of that. Flo always shared with us her teaching experiences and especially talked about her favorite students. Mary was one of them!”
It can truly be said that the painting, which is now hanging at Mary’s residence, went “Over the Rainbow.”