Remembering my old high school principal

JoAnn Steinbach

Life tends to repeat itself from one generation to the next.

At least it has in my family and we’re not unique.

As a boy, I remember times when my mom would hang up the phone on the wall in the kitchen (the only phone in the house; it had a very long cord) with the comment that her mom only called when someone died.

Please don’t take that the wrong way. Elsie Cook, my grandma, lived in the town where I grew up. We saw her often. I doubt if there were many days until she died in 1990, at age 80, that she and Mom didn’t at least speak on the phone. And the older she gets, it is uncanny how much like Grandma my mom becomes. In fact, this was something about which Dad delighted in teasing her. All he had to do was say, “Now, Elsie.”

I mention all of this to set up the email Mom sent Tuesday to me and my siblings. It said: “Three recent deaths in Chariton from your past. Dan Redmond, Ginny Altenhofen and Ila Moon. Remember the Christmas dinner at Ila Moon’s house years ago and her mother’s delicious noodles?”

And I am not complaining about the email. In fact, I’m glad she sent it.

To answer her question: Yes, I remember those noodles.

I also remember Mrs. Altenhofen. She was an English teacher at Chariton High School. It still seems awkward to call her Ginny even though her daughter, Anglea, was in my graduating class, our families attended the same church and they are people I’ve known for as long as I’ve known almost anyone.

Angela, who lives in Chicago, her brother Paul, who lives in Englewood, Colo., and their dad, Ron, all have my sympathies. Mrs. Altenhofen was 71. She died Sunday.

Daniel T.
Redmond Jr.

But I’m really writing this because of Daniel T. Redmond Jr. If you don’t mind, though, I prefer to still call him Mr. Redmond. He died Saturday at age 83.

A memorial service will be held from 1-4 p.m. this Saturday at Lakeview Country Club in Chariton. Arrangements are being handled at Fielding Funeral Home, where an obituary hasn’t been written yet. I’ll add a link here if I can find one later.

From 1969-1989, according to the funeral home, Mr. Redmond was principal at CHS, which is where I graduated in 1985.  At the time, he seemed like an old man. He would have been 56 back then, which makes me chuckle now. It’s funny how time changes someone’s perspective.

On a Facebook page called, You grew up in Chariton, Iowa, if you remember …, Kaye VanFleet said of Mr. Redmond: The best way to describe him would be to say he was a Teddy Bear when you got to know him. He handed out discipline with honesty and fairness, praise as needed and was someone you could talk to if you had a problem.”

That’s pretty much the principal I remember, too. Mr. Redmond was a big guy back then. And he didn’t walk well due, I think, to bad knees. He had been an athlete in college and maybe even afterward, if I remember correctly. He had played football and/or baseball, I think.

But by the late ’80s, it was difficult for him to get to some corners of the old three-story high school. At the time, he always struck me as someone who was stern — maybe even a bit cantankerous. I respected him, though, and may have even feared him more than I cared to admit.

After graduation, I moved on. At some point after I had graduated from high school and college, I ran into Mr. Redmond. It had to have been in Chariton, but I don’t remember what year it was or why I was even there. But I do remember him. He was friendly and funny — not at all the man I thought I knew when I was in high school. This, I’m guessing, is closer to the man remembered by his former golfing buddies, many of my former teachers and others in Chariton who knew Mr. Redmond.

He touched the lives of many people. My memories of that place, that time and that principal are synonymous.

And I’m glad Mom reminded me of it all today by sending her email.

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