Elementary school receives apology and payment about 45 years after student stole books

Posted at 9:49 PM, Dec 10, 2015
and last updated 2015-12-10 23:49:22-05

RIVERTON, Utah -- About 45 years after a student stole some books from Riverton Elementary School, that student is reaching out with an apology and a payment in the hopes of making things right.

The apology came in the form of a Christmas card with $50 inside. The student has been feeling guilty for a very long time, but the school says all is forgiven.

Kyla Robertson, an administrative assistant at Riverton Elementary School, said they were surprise by the card.

“Just shocked, like this is really neat,” Robertson said.

She recently opened a mysterious piece of mail addressed to Riverton Elementary School, with no return address. But, there were a few names mentioned on the card inside.

“I took some paperback school books from my teachers,” Robertson reads from the card. “I think their names were Miss Stout, Mr. Wade and Mr. Bellon.”

It was an anonymous confession, along with a 50 dollar bill from a student who attended the school in 1969.

“I know I can't pay them back, but take this and get some more books with it,” Robertson read from the card. “Sorry for what I did.”

Robertson reflected on the motive for the card, saying: “That's many years to have this weigh on your shoulders.”

The three teachers mentioned in the card retired long ago, but one of their coworkers remembers them well.

“They were absolutely wonderful teachers,” said Linda Warwood, who teaches first grade at the school.

Warwood has been a teacher at Riverton Elementary for 54 years.

“It was a farming community way back then, and the kids were very honest and just fun to work with,” she said.

She said she can't imagine which student is responsible.

“Everyone is so curious,” she said. “We'd love to see the person who did this.”

book theft class photoAnd now, you can... Sort of. A school photo of the sixth grade class in question shows 25 students, and one has already been eliminated as a suspect.

Ardel Wong was a student in 1969, and she currently works with the school’s lunch program.

“Back in school I never really heard of anyone stealing or taking anything that wasn't theirs,” she said. “We were pretty good kids.”

She also remembers Miss Stout, Mr. Wade and Mr. Bellon.

“We had all three teachers all day long,” she said.

Wong and others at the school hope the former student who came clean might also now come forward to share their memories and to celebrate the honest students Riverton Elementary has produced—the kind that would send a card like this.

“It was such a feel-good gift,” Warwood said.

As for the $50, it has been set aside in a special account at the school which can only be used for by teachers to purchase books.

While all have retired, at least one of the former teachers still lives in the area, Mr. Bellon. The teacher is now in his 80s, and Warwood said she knows him well and added he has been made aware of the letter.