Sunday, November 13, 2011

Our Own "Miss Rumphius"

It was a memorial to a man who made the world more beautiful, or, at least, his part of the world. Officially it was a dedication ceremony, to dedicate the grounds at Fremont High School as "Stahl Gardens". The ceremony was short and sweet. The high school band played on the large front lawn, friends and colleagues spoke, the plaque designating the grounds as "Stahl Gardens" was unveiled by Bob's family.

I can't say I knew him well. I can't say I really knew Bob at all, except that I knew who he was. Everyone knew who Bob was, at least everyone who set foot on the Fremont High School campus over the last 25 years.

Bob had been the head custodian at Fremont High School, for many, many years. But Bob was more than a custodian. Bob was legendary for his gardening skills, skills that he brought to fruition at the high school. Tall red roses adorned the front walkways of the campus. Hundreds of brightly colored tulips bloomed in early spring underneath the roses. And in May, the tulips were replaced with red and white petunias, Fremont colors, just in time for graduation, while red roses bloomed over their heads, all surrounded by an expanse of bright green grass.

Fremont High School, the step-child in an otherwise wealthy school district, is not a school with funds to spare, and flowers are expensive to purchase and maintain. But people loved to donate to Bob's "flower fund". People not connected to the high school in any way would often stop to admire the flowers that graced the lawn in front of the high school. The local community was enhanced by Bob's gardening talents - as cars passed by on the busy street, or stopped at the light on the corner, people would glance over to the front lawn to take in the colorful displays.

Never in all the time I have spent at Fremont HS over the past 15 years have I ever seen or heard of any Fremont student ruining the flowers in any way.

Although students can learn without a flower garden, the flower garden at Fremont is important to keep. Especially for a school that struggles to purchase the amenities that other wealthier high schools in the area have, the garden is something tangible in which its students can, and do, take pride. For that reason, if for no other, Fremont High School should continue Bob's legacy of making the campus a nicer place, and maintain Stahl Gardens with tulips, roses and petunias, for many years to come.

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