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LARSON: Volunteer retirees bring cheer to schools

Susan Larson

Susan Larson

A few weeks ago, D.W. Pyles of Loganville wrote a letter to the editor that brought back memories. He suggested that retirees volunteer as hall monitors in our schools.

Actually, I remember retirees being even more interactive than that. At Trickum Middle in the '80s, Wayne and Claire Husband were like everyone's "onsite grandparents" volunteering all over the building while staying involved with their own granddaughter, Heather.

While working at Arcado Elementary, I always looked forward to Wednesdays when Bud Coon was "on duty" at the front door.

"Mostly I watch the main entrance, take care of the signing in and out and make sure people have some business being here," Coon told me.

Since he was a retired Air Force captain who'd specialized in intelligence, I teased him about being overqualified for the job. But he also read to kindergarten classes and got to visit with his granddaughter, Kady, when she walked down the hall. No way anyone could be overqualified for that.

My experience with retirees at Parkview was a little less positive at first. I was never getting called to sub, so I went in to ask about it. I discovered that Parkview had hired a new man, a retired Marine, to call subs. As it turned out, several of his Marine buddies used to come in every morning around 6:30 just to hang out. If he needed a sub that day, there they were, ready to serve. If not, they just hung out in the halls and in the cafeteria, cutting up with all the kids.

One day he called me about mid-morning saying they were desperate for a sub. A teacher was going home sick and he asked if I could come in.

Sure, I said, except that I had a doctor's appointment that afternoon and I'd need to leave about 15 minutes early in order to get out of the parking lot.

"No problem. We have you covered," he said.

I entered a trailer in the back lot and settled in with a great bunch of kids. It was like old times again. In my last class I announced that I would be leaving a little bit early and that someone else would cover for me. As I gathered up my belongings, the door opened and in walked one of those retired Marines.

The kids started cheering. They clapped and carried on so hard that I thought the trailer was going to fall off its concrete blocks.

As I walked to my car, I tried very hard not to let it hurt my feelings. And if any tears came to my eyes, it was more because of how those "few good men" were able to touch those kids' lives in the way that they did.

If, when, D.W. Pyles gets to retirement age and follows his own suggestions about volunteering in the schools, I just want everyone to know that I'll be here cheering for him.

Susan Larson is a writer and substitute teacher from Lilburn. Email her at


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