HendersonvilleNews Stories

HCEF Education Hall of Famers share unusual experiences


Julia Redden (1878-1951)


By Pete Zamplas-The Henderson County Education Foundation on March 20 will induct into its Hall of Fame a pioneering female principal, local schools’ first nutrition director, the superintendent during the city-county school merger, two basketball coaches and four other retired teachers.

The nine new inductees are principal Julia Trimble Redden, the lone deceased inductee; former Supt. Dr. Dan Lunsford, coaches-teachers Drew Brannon and Rick Wood, Child Nutrition Director Ruth Sass; and teachers Bobbie L. Caldwell, Madeleine C. Duncan, Linda B. Flynn and Sara Lee Nickell.

“This a very diverse class,” HCEF Executive Director Dr. Don Jones said. The keynote speaker is local Board of Public Education Chairman Ervin W. Bazzle.

The 12th annual TD Bank/HCEF Hall of Fame Induction Ceremonies will be Thursday, March 20 in Hendersonville Country Club. Social time begins at 5:30 p.m., dinner at 6 p.m. also downstairs. This is HCEF’s main fundraiser, to help pay for scholarships and grants. Event sponsors include Park Ridge Health, Selee Corp., retired banker J.W. Davis and three universities — Lenoir Rhyne, Mars Hill and Wingate.

Here is more on each inductee, including unusual stories:

• Julia Trimble Redden (1878-1951) has the earliest legacy of 2014 inductees. She is considered among the very first female principals in North Carolina, in the Roaring Twenties. She was Valley Hill School principal officially by 1927-28, but as early as 1923-24. She started at Valley Hill as a teacher in 1902. Pay records indicate that in earlier years she may have been classified as a lead teacher, yet administered as a headmaster. Dr. Jones notes, “Julia Redden was the face of Valley Hill School for 43 years.”

Redden is related to three generations of attorneys, three-term U.S. Rep. Monroe Redden, and the Deerfield retreat which protects 828 acres via conservation easements.

• Ruth Sass was another pioneer, as the first child nutrition supervisor in 1973-95. She served both city and county schools in a joint service, for 20 years ahead of the 1993 merger. Her menu analysis revealed half of schools were not meeting basic requirements. One cafeteria head “bought suckers from a store, and gave them out at lunch. That was a no-no.”

Sass corrected that. She standardized menus, improving nutrition. She saved money with bulk purchases. She said, “we worked as a team.”

• Dr. Dan Lunsford guided merger of city and county schools in 1993, overcoming objections. His innovations include requiring athletic directors be assistant principals and not head coaches, alternative school, Junior ROTC at East and West Henderson, lighting at baseball fields, and a food service warehouse. As its president, he enabled Mars Hill last August to expand into a full university. He is the most recent superintendent to join the Hall, and first one honored while living.

He had to squelch merger-related rumors he said were fueled by the Times-News and others. One was that Hendersonville High would cease. He insists “nothing was in the plans to close it.” The other rumor involved North Henderson, then the new high school. He relied on a county-wide student panel, to choose North High colors and mascot. Word leaked out correctly the main color would be purple, but errantly surmised for Vikings like the purple-clad NFL team. Instead, the choice ended up the Knights.

• Rick Wood is on the school board, and leads the local Education History Initiative. He taught history and coached men’s varsity basketball for 40 years, the last 17 with West Henderson until retiring in 2006. His Falcons were unbeaten in 1991-92, before falling in the state title game. His Falcons twice led all men’s basketball teams in the state in team grade average. His 1994-95 squad produced current boys varsity basketball coaches Joey Bryson at North Buncombe and Ronnie Coren at North Henderson, and Luke Manuel who is West’s athletic director.

Wood emphasized teamwork, academics, citizenship (he challenges State Sen. Tom Apodaca on the Nov. 4 ballot), and sportsmanship. His was a no-cussing zone. He sustained one technical foul in 40 years, when leading Tuscola 30 years ago. It was errantly called, Wood said, after he shouted non-disparaging instruction to one of his players. “The official had his back to me. He turned around. He thought I was yelling at him.”

• Drew Brannon has been a rabid West Henderson Falcon fan for the school’s 54 years. He was in Mills River High’s last class, in 1960. The grade behind him ended up part of West’s first class, in ’60-61. He is county Soil and Water Conservation District chairman, and a supervisor for 40 years.

Brannon taught for 10 years at Mills River Elementary. He coached track, and boys’ seventh-eighth grade basketball in 1968-72, until those two grades went to then-new Rugby Junior High. He won the unofficial West High district title, in three of his four seasons. Once, he upset taller Balfour. His lone title defeat was by three points, to Jim Case’s Fletcher squad. Brannon’s tactics backfired. “It turns out Jimmy had a Hendersonville transfer, better than the kid we fouled out.”

• Bobbie L. Caldwell taught for 30 years, mostly home economics in Rugby Junior High. She taught in Fletcher High School in 1957-59, then Fletcher Elementary for eight years starting in 1965. She then taught various subjects in Rugby Junior High/Middle, before focusing on home economics at Rugby in 1978-92. “My favorite skill was to cross-stitch,” she noted. “I wanted to be an artist.” She started Rugby’s award-winning parliamentary procedure teams, molding leaders.

Bobbie joins her late husband Hardy R. Caldwell Jr. in the Hall. He was school board chairmen, amidst the city-county merger in 1993. Their son Bo Caldwell is senior director for Human Resources, in the school central office.

• Madeleine C. Duncan taught sixth grade for 30 years combined, at East Flat Rock Elementary then Flat Rock Middle School. At Flat Rock, she mostly taught language arts. Students read the novel that spawned a hit movie, often preferring the book and thereby appreciating literature. In both schools, she put together a book of her students’ poetry. She has volunteered since retiring in 2006, such as in helping monitor state testing locally.

She taught at Balfour Elementary for five and a half years, starting in 1968. Her honeymoon got off to a hotter start than expected. On her wedding night on Aug. 21, 1971, arsonist fire destroyed the Balfour school, she noted. School resumed, in trailers and nearby church rooms. “As Supt. Glenn Marlow said, ‘we were able to persevere.’”

• Linda B. Flynn taught for 31 years, mostly fourth grade in Mills River then Marlow elementaries in 1986 to 2007. She loves history, such as about aviation. She got as class speakers a B-17 crew of WWII veterans including her father, and another time Tribune Managing Editor David Morgan’s uncle Col. Robert K. Morgan who piloted the B-17 Memphis Belle.

She met Dr. Kohlan Flynn when both were Western Carolina students, on his first Sunday on campus. This was at the WCU Baptist Student Union’s Sunday School. She led the class, and was the pianist. She sought a lead singer of hymns. “I raised my hand, got up and walked to the front,” he recalled. She said, “he sang well.” He countered, “she got my attention.” They had lunch, right after the session. They married in 1967.

• Sara Lee Nickell taught English and world history in Flat Rock then East Henderson high schools. She also taught drama at East. She was among longest-serving teachers at East Henderson, for 31 years from its opening in 1960 until retiring in 1991. She first taught in 1955-56, in East Flat Rock Elementary.

When she was chosen county-wide Teacher of the Year in 1988, then-Supt. Glenn Marlow commended her “enthusiasm and vigor.” Noted author Robert Morgan cites Nickell as among his most influential educators. She taught him world history, in 1959-60. He noted “she was an inspiring teacher, loved by all of her students. And most of the boys had a crush on her.”

The banquet price is $40 per plate. Reservations can be made through Saturday, March 15, either online at www.hcef.info or by calling Nancy Bracken at 698-8884.

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