Saturday, December 19, 2009

We lost more than a friend this week

I met her 37 years ago on Main Street under a street lamp in Fennville, Michigan. We were attending one of our first Black Hawk football games when the field was in front of the (then) High School. There was not a lot of room and virtually, no security (as in fence) so if you weren't sitting in the small stands, you were milling around the sidewalk. We were new to the community and she was interested in who we were. She was a teacher there. We seemed to connect as I talked to her and her husband.

I got to know her even better the next fall when I joined the Middle School staff. She was teaching sixth grade and I seventh. We did not interface much...except during staff meetings when I could tell what a professional she was by her demeanor and during parent teacher conferences. I had her middle son in class.

For the next several years I listened and learned from her. She knew the area, the kids, the parents and she knew about teaching. Everybody respected her.

She moved into administration as Curriculum Coordinator the year before I served as principal of Anna Michen. During that year I again was a student at her feet. She filled in the vacant spots in my resume even though I received my Master's degree the year before. I was lacking in elementary curriculum experience. She filled in the gaps.

I moved back into teaching and continued to learn from her. She filled in as interim Superintendent for a few months when there was an opening being filled. She faced some really critical issues that few knew about, but having been in administration I was aware of. Again, she was superb.

Shortly after her oldest son married the daughter of one of our closest friends. We were now "family."

I left education and she continued to serve the Fennville Public Schools in administration and then after she retired from teaching, as a board member. And while I did not have a lot of contact with her the stories about her continued to filter through: thoughtful dedication, intelligent decision-making, hard work (at the fruit market) and compassionate grand-mothering.

We knew she was ill, but she was a fighter. She continued to work in the family business and as a grand parent. But the news continued to be bleak. She had given so much, but was now the focus of the concerns of others. It was one of those sad stories: a good person struck down by a debilitating disease.

It is with profound sadness that I write my thoughts and think back upon the 37 years that encompassed our friendship. I was the recipient of so much of her wisdom. She was truly a great lady and we will miss her...Ardith Raak.

1 comment:

SLB said...

She ALWAYS had a smile on her face :) She will be missed.