That's My Story...And I'm Sticking with it...
One Close Friend, Supervisor and a Colleague
November 15, 2020
Say what you will about 2020, but I will never forget it as the year continues to roll on toward the end. Here is a list of memorable items 2020 brought us:
Now for my personal losses for 2020:
Now I want to get serious, because 2020 has taken some things from me I will never get back…
Kenn Knight (June 5, 1957 - April 23, 2020) Best friend for over forty years...
I met him at George, Air Force Base in California in September 1979 when he was returning from a TDY with the War Spares Kits where I was assigned a month after graduating from tech school in Denver, CO. His first words to me were, “Heed my words young man, CYA, cover your ass.” Never had such sage like words have ever been uttered. CYA became my mantra and Kenn became my best friends even though he had none of the attributes of what I had usually looked for in a friend. He was sarcastic (and he taught this to become my second language), persnickety, pessimistic, cutting, unempathetic, a Red Sox fan and worse, a Patriots fan who did not bother to acknowledge any other teams even through he was an avid sports fan who was hardwired into ESPN. He was the only human being who had an association with both of my ex-wives and my current wife Amy who considered Kenn a second husband. In 1981, Kenn finally came out after moving up to San Francisco after his discharge. I came up to see him for Thanksgiving that year to meet his friends and associates from San Francisco State where he would get his bachelors and meet the gang that used to hang around Harvey Milk before he was shot and killed along with the mayor of San Francisco. He became active in the Gay Republicans, an oxymoron if ever there was one, right? In 1991, I moved to Rio Nido near the Russian River and lived a block away from he was living at the time as he applied for his masters degree while I went to Santa Rosa Junior College after my discharge from the United States Air Force and got a job at R-House in Rincon Valley which was 24 miles from my sanctuary in the Redwoods. Teaching me how to drive a standard, because that is what I managed to buy, Kenn nearly sacrificed his life for the cause. There will be more detailed accounts of his bravery and bravado, but this was the price he paid since I had cable and he could toddle on over on Sunday to watch the ESPN reports of the day. While Kenn did not care for kids, he did develop a relationship with Skylar and Tegan as “Mean Old Uncle Kenn.” He approved of the title, but Tegan sensed that he was not really as mean as he wished to be known. One thing Kenn did not car for were dogs. Of course Jordan, my black Lab loved him as did the other dogs, but when we got Paillons Zeus and Boo Boo, these proved too much for him to tolerate for any length of time. His love of cats will never be questioned and when Amy and I lost our home in Arizona in 2015, he met us in a small town in Texas, half way between us and took Sugar, Indy, Bela, and Honey of Steve as Kenn called him. A few months later, Amy went to work for Lane County in Arizona and after the school year ended I joined her. That summer Kenn, who had served as city manager in Port Offord, OR came up to interview for a city manager job in some small town near Prescott and spent the weekend with us. He did not get the job and went back to Texas to keep looking until he was hired by Panoia, CO. After a year, the city council decided to let him go. After that cancer came and he asked us to let him have some time to himself. When June came, I decided he had enough time, but no matter what I did I could not find out what happened. It wasn’t until Amy got a hold of a friend named Mike when we learned that he had passed away in April of a heart attack. Each of the cats got a home and Kenn was cremated according to his wishes. We found this out in October. I will go on record to say this loss leaves an empty hole in my heart for sure. We both loved music and sports and we never stopped arguing. How I miss the sarcasm and insults and the shaming for being a Viking fan for almost 50 years and the superior attitude of being a Patriots fan. No one will ever replace him for that...ever.
It is hard to write about a supervisor, but six days after I learned that Kenn had passed away, I found out about Courtney who I knew was not over fifty years old yet and yes, I will admit that she was beautiful in a supervisory way (even minus the supervisory adjective) with two beautiful children and a husband who was deeply in love with her and devoted to her. Jon Castelhano was also in charge of the IT section for the district while I was there (2008-2016) and together I would have to say with full prejudice, Jon and Courtney were Apache Junction Unified School District’s favorite couple. During my second year in AJUSD, I was working on my masters in special education and during a dinner for a fallen colleague, I met Courtney who was at the time, Assistant Special Education Director under Peggy Mejia, a former kindergarten teacher, who impressed me as the special education director to this point, but then Courtney was nice. Peggy was nice, but hers came from a professional make up as a kindergarten teacher whereas her assistant was just nice. I am so glad that I got to know her better and found out she was more than just nice. In 2010-2011 school year, I was assigned to Peralta Elementary School and found out that I was not cut out for primary and so I applied to Cactus Canyon Middle School where Larry LaPrice was principal and he liked me so he took me back instantly. Then he accepted the job at the high school and was replaced by Courtney for the 2011-2012 school year. It did not take long for the staff to find out what I already knew, Courtney was nice. But it takes more than nice to run the only middle school in the district and her best loved trait was how she treated everyone like a true professional. She was also hands-on, finding time to leave her office and take a tour of campus where there were five main buildings. She would just wander in without any warning and sit and observe the class. Her comments were always positive and her points to be improved upon were always framed in the positive manner. By the end of the year she was beloved by almost all staff, but since I had her when she was special education director, I had a head start. When I lost my house in 2015, she allowed me to bring some of my belongings to my classroom where I had a storage area in the back and she took time to talk to me during a very difficult time in my life. One of the things she said was my strength was how I built rapport with my students and how I could meet them on their level. I keep that in my head as I continue my professional career in Oregon. As a substitute, I had three special education sessions, noting how I was able to get down to eye to eye with the kids on the spectrum, but then I had a really good teacher who taught me that skill who passed away in 2014. It makes me wonder why some of the most favorite people in my life have been taken too soon from my life. Courtney was only 48 years old, much too young.
Miranda Green: Colleague
When I came to work at Willamette Leadership Academy, I heard about a teacher who was undergoing cancer treatments in which all her hair had fallen out. When I met her my second year at the academy, she was pale, quite thin, and did not have any hair on her head. Unable to work everyday, I did not really get to know her, but the next year 2018-2019 school year, I got to know her since she now had hair and seemed to have regained her physique. She was nice, but always down to business. She missed a lot of days due to her health, but from what I saw of her, she seemed to be getting better. This was all to change when the school year started. She was no longer teaching and was assigned to administrative duties only, still she had a sense of humor and a realistic outlook on what was going on. When the Pandemic sent us all home, we found out that she was sent to hospice and passed away a few days later. While I did not have a close professional relationship with Miranda, what I did know was that she was good at what she was able to do and she never gave up no matter how much pain she was going through. Never once did I hear her complain about her health condition and for that alone, I admire her.
Three people who are gone from my life leaving a hole in my heart. Going down the list of musicians, I find some favorites leaving us in 2020 reminding me of 2016 when it seemed so many of my favorites left us. I am looking forward to 2021 when perhaps the smoke of the fires of 2020 will clear and leave us seeing a lot more clearly than 2020 did.
The Rest of the Story: