Celebrating an educator’s life

This is a first.

Before this week, I have never looked forward to a funeral.

But that changed Saturday night when longtime Red Oak educator Buck Laughlin passed away.

Aside from talking to him a couple times, I never had the opportunity to carry on a substantial conversation with Buck, much less get to know the man on any level.

However, observing everyone’s reactions to his passing has only confirmed what I already suspected: this was one very special man who impacted a lot of lives.

That’s part of the reason why the Express will be publishing a special tribute to Buck next week.

People will want to share their stories and memories of this man, and it’s the newspaper’s responsibility to give them the chance to do so.

When I was calling Red Oak school officials this morning to help spread the word amongst their staffs about the tribute, the most animated response I received came from Buck’s old stomping ground, Inman Primary.

Not surprisingly, they were very excited to share some of their stories of their fearless leader, and I have every reason to believe they will be as entertaining as they are touching.

Thursday at 2 p.m., many of his friends, family, colleagues and students will reflect on Buck’s impact and legacy at a celebration of life service in the high school gymnasium.

Celebration of life. I like that concept.

Funeral services are typically reserved to mourn the passing of a loved one, and at times, that seems more appropriate.

But the impression I am receiving is with someone like Buck, celebrating his life, and recognizing his influence on the world around him is ideal.

On one level, Buck’s legacy will be one of compassion and dedication to children’s education, especially the ones in his charge at Inman Primary.

On a bigger scale though, Buck’s legacy is one of leaving the world a better place than when you came into it.

Red Oak Superintendent Terry Schmidt told me he expects by 1:30 p.m.

Thursday that the gym will be filled, and people will start being turned away.

That speaks volumes to the impact Buck had on this community and the world around him.

I’ve always been annoyed at funerals when someone with just a passing knowledge of the deceased gives the eulogy. It has always seemed very cold and impersonal. Because of that, I’ve often thought an open mike would be great for a funeral so anyone with an story or fond memory could properly eulogize the deceased.

But when there is a gymnasium filled with friends and admirers, that format isn’t so feasible.

Fortunately, other than me, there probably won’t be a single person in that gym who only has a passing knowledge of Buck.

He was a man known, and loved, by thousands.

For those though who would like to share their memories of the beloved principal and educator, please send them to the Express by noon on Friday.

We would love to include them and give Buck the proper tribute he so richly deserves.

Gregory Orear is the General Manager/Editor of the Red Oak Express, and can be contacted at publisher@redoakexpress.com

The Red Oak Express

2012 Commerce Drive
P.O. Box 377
Red Oak, IA 51566
Phone: 712-623-2566 Fax: 712-623-2568

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