Gores remember a teacher's kindness

January 20, 1993|By Phyllis Brill | Phyllis Brill,Staff Writer

In her 30 years with Baltimore city schools, Frances Kessler never imagined her job as a teacher would lead her to a presidential inaugural ball. But that's just where she'll be tonight, at the invitation of the new vice president himself.

Mrs. Kessler met Al and Tipper Gore in 1989 after their son, Albert III, was seriously injured by a car in front of Memorial Stadium and was hospitalized at Johns Hopkins Children's Center.

A teacher in the city's Chronically Health-Impaired Program (CHIP), she was called in to tutor the 6-year-old boy while he was recovering. The time she devoted to Albert nearly four years ago apparently was not forgotten by the Gores.

"I'm thrilled," said Mrs. Kessler about her invitation. "My husband had a big appointment with a client in New York [tonight]. I told him, 'Cancel it, you're going with me to the inaugural ball.' "

The Kesslers will be attending the Tennessee ball, one of 11 official inaugural balls being held around Washington this evening.

The veteran teacher, whose job routinely takes her to hospitals in the city to tutor children with chronic illnesses, tutored Albert, then a first-grader, for about a month.

"Mostly I would read to him and take him into the children's play center to see the animals," she recalls.

"He wasn't really in the mood to do much because he was in traction. He had been hurt pretty badly."

Albert was hit by a car in April 1989 while leaving the Orioles' Opening Day game with his father. The boy was hospitalized for two months, during which time several friends and family members came to Baltimore to visit.

Mrs. Kessler became friends with Nancy Hoit, a close friend of the Gores who visited Albert in the hospital from Boston several times. The two women have kept in touch through letters and Christmas cards ever since.

When Mr. Gore was elected in November, Mrs. Kessler says, "I wrote to Nancy and asked, 'Can you be Lady Luck and get us two tickets to the inauguration?' "

Ms. Hoit reminded the Gores of Mrs. Kessler's work with Albert, and the invitations arrived soon after.

Still, like the 6,000 other invited guests, the Kesslers have to pay for the honor. Tickets to any of the 11 balls cost $125 each.

Mrs. Kessler says she came to know Mr. and Mrs. Gore as very "involved" parents during their son's stay at Hopkins.

"They were gravely concerned about their son's condition," she says. "Mr. Gore was there all the time. Sometimes he'd be doing work while he was there, but he was in the room. They were very much hands-on parents."

Mr. Gore has said publicly his son's near-fatal accident changed his life.

He described the accident in his acceptance speech as a vice-presidential candidate at the Democratic National Convention last summer, saying, "When you've seen your 6-year-old son fighting for his life, you realize that some things matter more than winning."

Mrs. Kessler, who has spent 10 of her 30 teaching years with handicapped children and their parents, says Mr. Gore's remarks didn't surprise her.

"Anything that traumatic in a family changes people and makes them more appreciative of everything that is given to them after that."

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