Native Writes: Thanks for the memories

As I grow older, I cherish more the times spent in the Alamosa schools, first with my sons and now with my grandchildren.

I also think of the people who touched my life and the lives of my sons. Some are no longer with us and the others who are still here are not in the classrooms.

Recently, my mind has turned to people who touched my sons’ lives.

I attended the funeral of one major influence this past Saturday as the community bade farewell to Arnold “Arnie” Gallegos.

He had been cremated and his ashes were sealed in a heavy metal container with a motorcycle on top.

His joys went with him into the hereafter where, I hope, he will continue helping younger angels keep their wings on straight.

A member of the National Guard, he served his country and brought solid values home from basic training, then attending college and going on to become an educator.

My eldest son graduated before Arnie became associate principal at Alamosa High School, replacing a man who seemed to feel fear was the best way to handle errant youngsters.

Rich had no problems with him and went on to attend Adams State while staying in touch at the high school through his two brothers, who walked in more peaceful hallways. He was glad to see Arnie working as school disciplinarian, using the velvet hammer and making students want to be educated.

Arnie was always available.

We were friends outside of school, long before any of the boys attended high school, so I can say without fear of contradiction that he epitomized First Corinthians’ description of love.

We worked for social change and he taught me the truth of the saying that one can catch more flies with honey than vinegar.

While some of us were “in your face,” he negotiated with a smile. Violence wasn’t the solution.

From him, I learned never to call for the overthrow of anything unless I had a viable replacement in mind. He was one of the reasonable leaders.

Memories were left behind when he moved on to work in schools in the Front Range. Each of my two younger sons has an “Arnie” story, punctuated with laughter and, now, tears.

High fives in the hallway, a warm smile and a word of wisdom for a child who needed help.

As time passed, he met a force with which he could not negotiate. Illness struck and hit hard, calling him away from us all.

He and his wife, Susan, had been married 48 years while many of our peers were married at the same time and didn’t fare as well.

With love, hope and charity at work, he proved the greatest was love.

That love has also flowed through many other persons who have touched our family. Jan Watkins, who taught my sons to write well; Lin Warwick, who taught them to play well; Marie Szkalak, who taught them to act well and Sandee Hay, who took them in hand early and taught them to be well.

As I write this, many more people run through my mind. I shut my eyes and hear them ask, “What about me?”

Take a deep breath and remember the hundreds you have touched. Look down from Heaven or up to the stars and smile.

Great educators help write great stories, but so do those who have flaws.

Thank you for helping us be the best we can.