Her teacher paid for her class trip 31 years ago. Now, this New Milford woman has paid him back

NEW MILFORD — In 1991, when resident Kathy Deliktas was in the seventh grade, her family fell on hard times and couldn’t afford to pay for a class science trip — so her teacher, Craig Vial, paid for her.

Vial’s good deed was never forgotten and Deliktas, now 42, thought about him often over the years. Recently, she found his address and mailed him a long letter, telling him all about her life — and included the $65 that he paid for her to go on the trip.

Deliktas received a letter back from her former teacher within the week.

“I was sitting next to my daughter and was reading it and started sobbing, and I started reading it to her,” said Deliktas, traveling back more than three decades in time.

“When I was 12, my parents were divorced and my mother, who lived in (Brookhaven) New York, sent me and my older sister Christine to live with my father in South Carolina,” said Deliktas, who has a 24-year-old son, and a 14-year-old daughter who attends Schaghticoke Middle School in town.

Deliktas remembered they were very poor that year.

“We were on food stamps. My dad worked as a parts person in an auto store,” said Deliktas, who is a business administrator at New Milford Library.

“I remember a church group coming and bringing us Thanksgiving dinner.”

Her science class at Hickory Tavern Elementary/Middle School in South Carolina was scheduled to take a weekend field trip to St. Christopher Barrier Island. The cost of the trip was $65.

Upon learning her family couldn’t afford the trip, Vial paid for Deliktas out of his own pocket.

In his letter, he thanked Deliktas, and wrote the idea that “any deserving student should miss out on a field trip because of their economic situation is appalling. I tried to assure that that wouldn't happen. Every now and then I'd even get help from ‘advantaged’ parents.”

He couldn’t be reached for further comment.

Deliktas remembers the trip being a lot of fun and also a learning experience in marine biology.

“We stayed overnight in a camp for two nights,” she recalled. She has memories of sleeping in a bunk bed, walking on the beach and looking at marine nature.

She recalls Vial as being “a fun teacher” and one who strongly connected with his students.

“He was very high energy and was always zipping around and moving from one subject to the next,” she said. “If you were to raise your hand and ask a question that was completely off topic, he would always answer your question in great detail. He always had a whole bunch of knowledge.”

Deliktas found out later in the school year from her father that Vial had paid for her trip. The following year, Deliktas moved back to live with her mother, and lost touch with Vial.

“My mother had mental health issues and killed herself in 1994 on Christmas Day when I was in 10th grade,” Deliktas said. “I ended up back with my dad in South Carolina to finish out high school.”

As Deliktas grew into an adult, she said she often thought of her beloved teacher.

“I have literally thought about my teacher Mr. Vial maybe twice or three times a year every year for 30 years — it was just his kindness that didn’t leave my memory,” she said.

Deliktas said the letter gave her closure and the chance to reconnect with Vial, and she plans to write him back.

“If I was able to put a smile on his face for five minutes of him getting my letter, than I am happy,” she said.

sandra.fox@hearstmediact.com 203-948-9802