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Grandpa brightens school days

Kady Litwer's grandpa Bud Coon has a pretty impressive resume. When Coon was a captain in the Air Force, he served as the executive officer to the Wing Commander of the 4080th Strategic Reconnaissance Wing, which flew U2 spy planes.

"It was such a secret with the Air Force," Coon said. "Planes took off and landed at night. They were in the hangar all day. No one in the public knew about it until Gary Power's plane was shot down over the Soviet Union.

"I was also there during the Cuban Missile Crisis. U2s took photos of Russian ships going into Cuba with missiles on board."

But that's not all. For 26 years, Coon worked for the Department of Defense in program analysis and

evaluations.

"I started working under Robert McNamara and retired under Frank Carlucci," Coon said.

And here's where we get to the best part. When Kady started kindergarten at Arcado Elementary School, Coon started volunteering there one day a week so he could have lunch with her and get involved with her in class.

"I wasn't ready to give her up," said Coon.

His granddaughter is now a seventh-grader at Trickum Middle School. When Kady left for middle school, no one at Arcado was ready to give up her grandpa.

"The office staff asked if I'd stay and help out, and I've been here ever since," Coon said.

Coon's duties at the school vary. "Mostly I watch the main entrance, take care of the signing in and out and make sure people have some business being here," he said.

With his military history, I can't think of anyone more qualified for the job.

Pam Martin, who retired last week after 25 years as Arcado's secretary, has a lot more to say about what Coon does.

"I don't know what we'd do without him," she said. "He helps out with special events, works at our book fair, landscapes the front walkway and does all the grilling for our annual cookout. He's like an extra pair of hands, doing whatever needs to be done."

On a Wednesday, if Coon isn't at the door, it's probably because he's reading to a kindergarten class. Kids can't wait their turn to have "Mr. Bud," as they call him, to sit down and share a favorite book with them. His involvement with children and books goes beyond the classroom, though.

"When children withdraw from Arcado, he gives them a going away book," Martin said. "He puts such emphasis on reading that he thinks there is nothing better to give them than a book."

Wouldn't it be great if every school had a grandpa like Mr. Bud?

Susan Larson is a Lilburn resident. E-mail her at susanlarson4@yahoo.com.