Harford County and its public schools system are mourning the loss of a key figure.
But for Dr. Leonard Wheeler's Board of Education colleagues, it's far more personal.
“I miss my friend,” board member Cassandra Beverely said at Monday's Harford County Board of Education meeting.
Board members held their first meeting without the presence of the board president, who passed away Sept. 11.
Monday’s meeting began with a tribute and a moment of silence as Harford Board of Education members and the public shared a few words in honor of Dr. Wheeler.
Don Osman, a former teacher at Havre de Grace High School and a former board member, met Dr. Wheeler in 2009 when he was appointed to the board of education. He described Dr. Wheeler as “a kind and gentle man.”
Osman shared how he got to know Dr. Wheeler on a more personal level during their once-a-month drives to Annapolis legislative meetings.
“He would just sit and absorb all the conversation and at the end he’d always come up with this very neatly packaged summary which amazed me how he could do that,” Osman said.
All speakers seem to use the same words to describe Wheeler: thoughtful, humorous, passionate and man of integrity. But it was his love and dedication to the kids of Harford County Public Schools that each board member focused on.
“He wanted to get kids educated and he wanted to give them a chance to be everything they wanted to be,” board member Allyson Krchnavy said.
She continued: “The words that come to my mind as I’m thinking about my time with Dr. Wheeler is: ‘Do it now.’ It took Wheeler forever to get a point out and it frustrated the snot out of me. But in the end, he could make his point and leave it with you for a long time. Do it now, take the time to be apart of this community. Take the time to make a difference. I realize I am talking to the choir. Look at this room, it’s packed. If he were here, he would love this. But everybody, take a page from Dr. Wheeler and realize you have to do it now.”
Krchnavy reminisced not only the times she learned from Dr. Wheeler but also the funnier times that she and Dr. Wheeler shared since they both were appointed to the board in 2008.
"I remember him looking at me and saying, 'Today we get sworn in and the next several years we are going to get sworn at,'" Krchnavy said.
An emotional Dr. Tomback, who spoke at Dr. Wheeler’s funeral, shared how the president touched his life as well as many others.
“Talking about Dr. Wheeler in the past tense, which was very hard to do and in fact still is, but even talking about him in the past tense ended with us laughing and smiling and feeling good," he said. "And I would suggest to you that if any of us spend the life when people talk about us after we’re gone and end they up with a smile with a laugh with a good thought, than that was a life worth living."
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