Paul Sauerbrey and Halloween just naturally went together. My late friend was born on October 31, 1915.
Whether he intended to do so or not, Sauerbrey, which was his preference, lived a trick-or-treat lifestyle. Ironically, he never wanted his birthday celebrated, nor did he particularly enjoy all the Halloween commotion.
Sauerbrey taught elementary school for 43 years and claimed never to have missed a day. He loved teaching that much.
Sauerbrey also enjoyed both tricking and treating people. He either liked you, or he didn’t. There was no in-between for the Halloween baby.
Sauerbrey loved math, English, and science. He subscribed to magazines that promoted the latest scientific gismos, and he often ordered the ones that caught his fancy and that he could afford.
He would buy dozens of clickers and popup buttons that would react to changing temperatures. Once the metal reached a specific temperature, the seemingly dull device snapped loudly and popped high into the classroom air, startling students.
He also tormented his sixth-grade students with crazy word puzzles that required mathematical equations to solve. He praised the few students who figured out the correct Venn diagram and chastised those clueless as to what a Venn diagram was.
His students mirrored their teacher’s inclinations. They either liked him, or they didn’t.
I especially remember one particular prank Sauerbrey pulled on a warm summer day. Sauerbrey arrived at his favorite hangout, the village gas station.
A father and his two sons, one of whom was legally blind, owned the popular town hangout. Sauerbrey loved to pester the blind man, John, who was no saint himself. I was talking with John when Sauerbrey quietly approached from behind.
John had just poured a cup of water when Sauerbrey let loose with an air horn that he had recently purchased. John immediately turned and threw the water towards the sound and soaked our ornery friend. Sauerbrey’s trick had turned into John’s treat.
Sauerbrey loved to tell stories, especially about his younger years growing up on a farm in rural Coshocton County. Sauerbrey didn’t hesitate when a neighbor offered to take him and others to a Cleveland Indians baseball game. Sauerbrey had never been to a major league game before.
The neighbor had his passengers sit on chairs in the back of his pickup truck. Long before interstate highways, the 100-mile trip took them three hours each way through both country and city settings.
The group sat in old League Park’s leftfield bleachers. When a player hit a home run, Sauerbrey caught the ball. He promptly threw it back onto the field to the surprise and ridicule of those around him. It was a long ride home for my friend.
Sauerbrey had a soft side, though. When my family visited his three-room home in Killbuck, Ohio, he always spoiled us with Cokes and Hershey bars. Of course, we had to help ourselves.
Sauerbrey was generous, far beyond offering candy and soda. After he died in 1993, the former teacher left a majority of his estate to the Holmes County, Ohio, Education Foundation to assist future Killbuck students in attending college.
Some of the students have been the first in their families to attend university. Their majors have run the alphabetical listings of college catalogs: chemistry, education, English literature, diesel mechanics, physical therapy, speech pathology, sports management, and many others.
To date, hundreds of thousands of dollars have been awarded to students to assist with their higher education expenses. That’s quite a philanthropic trick for someone who never graduated college or earned more than $6,000 a year.
© Bruce Stambaugh 2021
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