Remembering a friend who loved and lived to teach

grandcanyonbybrucestambaugh
The Grand Canyon was just one of many places Paul Sauerbrey introduced me to on our trip “out west” in 1970.

By Bruce Stambaugh

My old friend, Paul Sauerbrey, introduced me to four of our most notable presidents. I met the much larger than life-size George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Teddy Roosevelt, and Abraham Lincoln at Mount Rushmore in South Dakota.

That was July 1970. I was 22 years old and still wet behind the ears. I went with Sauerbrey, which is what he preferred to be called, and three students on what he termed his annual trip “out west.”

paulsauerbreybybrucestambaugh
Paul Sauerbrey
Prior to this, I hadn’t been west of Toledo, Ohio. Sauerbrey’s introductions on that journey certainly didn’t stop with presidential memorials. He opened my world to travel, whetted my appetite for geography, and showed me first hand just how big and marvelous this great country is.

I was one of the fortunate ones. For many years, Sauerbrey used to take summer excursions from Killbuck, Ohio to the West Coast. He would go with families, students, and other teachers like myself. Having already been to the same places, his main purpose was to teach us first hand about America’s extensive topography and the country’s many cultures.

Sauerbrey got as much pleasure out of observing our initial reactions to encountering the numerous noted locales as he did visiting the places himself. In the space of three weeks, we experienced a diversity of venues, from South Dakota’s Badlands to Southern California’s Disneyland, from Yellowstone National Park to the Grand Canyon.

The trip changed my life. It gave me a perspective on the vastness and beauty of our country that I may never have had if Sauerbrey hadn’t asked me to go along. I’ve been traveling ever since.

There was nothing pretentious or shallow about Paul Sauerbrey. He either liked you or he didn’t, and you definitely knew where he stood, too.

bighornsheepbybrucestambaugh
Paul Sauerbrey got as much excitement out of watching his travel companions making new discoveries, like these Big Horn Sheep, as he did seeing the scenery and wildlife himself.

Sauerbrey was a dedicated and respected teacher. He taught elementary school for 43 years without ever missing a full day of school.

Sauerbrey was an exacting teacher. He was especially particular when it came to English and math, two of his favorite subjects to teach. He could diagram a sentence with the best of them, and expected his students to do the same.

Some thought him a bit too strict of a teacher. As a friend and peer, he simply and rightfully had high standards. Students who could not meet those lofty requirements sometimes found themselves in the doghouse with Sauerbrey.

sauerbreyandkidsbybrucestambaugh
Paul Sauerbrey with our son, Nathan, and daughter, Carrie, when they were youngsters.
To be sure, Sauerbrey had his faults. Don’t we all? He loved to teach and lived to teach. That’s what really matters. In a way, he still is teaching.

Each year several high school graduates benefit from Sauerbrey’s generosity, foresight and commitment to education. He donated a majority of his estate to the Holmes County Education Foundation.

In the 20 years since his death on Feb. 13, 1993, scores of students have been awarded scholarships to assist in the cost of their college education. Sauerbrey saw the importance of having a college degree, especially for students from a rural area. Many students who have received a Sauerbrey Memorial Scholarship have been the first in their family to attend college. They have become doctors, directors, lawyers, educators and first-rate mechanics.

Knowing that fact alone would have made Paul Sauerbrey extremely happy. I can imagine the smile on his face. It’s just like the one he had while watching me recklessly scramble to the top of a rock formation to get a better view of four great stone-faced presidents.

© Bruce Stambaugh 2013

Inspired to make a difference

Living Acts group by Bruce Stambaugh
By Bruce Stambaugh

Kids of all ages inspire me. I guess that had something to do with honing 30 years in public education.

It also motivates me to help award scholarships at the end of each school year for the Holmes County Education Foundation if I can. This year my schedule was free. Once again I found myself seated with several other presenters facing the 2012 graduating class of West Holmes High School, Millersburg, Ohio.

The look by Bruce StambaughLike the others who announced scholarship winners, my job was a simple one. I merely had to read off the names of the recipients of two different memorial scholarships of two of my very best friends in life. Prior to their deaths, Paul Sauerbrey and Helen Youngs had established the scholarships so that youngsters from future generations would be encouraged to further their education beyond high school. Over the years, the financial assistance has helped dozens and dozens of area students attend college or trade school.

I’m always impressed with how well behaved the graduating seniors are. For them, high school is over. They could be off celebrating. But on a beautiful late spring evening, most of the 179 seniors were on hand to accept a simple certificate awarding them their grant. In some cases, students earned more than one scholarship.

Unlike the caricatures too often portrayed about teens in the mainstream media, these young people are polite, thankful and eager to move forward with their lives wherever that may be. Sure, some of them wear flip-flops while others clop to the stage in high heels.

Flip flops by Bruce StambaughMore creative, free-spirited graduates don expressive attire. One kid once came dressed in pajamas. Nevertheless, the students understand the significance of the situation. In many cases, like my two friends, the money is given in the memory of someone. Several are memorial scholarships named for loved ones who died tragically or unexpectedly.

Prior to announcing the scholarship recipients, I take the opportunity to inform the students about Mr. Sauerbrey and Ms. Youngs. Perhaps this is my teacher instinct still coming out.

Mr. Sauerbrey and Ms. Youngs each were persons who made a huge difference in life, not just for me, but also for the entire the community. I wanted to put some flesh and bones and spirit with the names of the scholarships. The students listened attentively.

Both Mr. Sauerbrey and Ms. Youngs were instrumental in the daily activity of Killbuck, Ohio, the village in which they lived most of their lives. Mr. Sauerbrey taught at the elementary school for most of his 43-year teaching career.

Ms. Youngs worked at Killbuck Savings Bank for 55 years. She also served as the town treasurer for 43 years, and loved to play the organ and sing in the choir at Killbuck Church of Christ.
Youth volleyball by Bruce Stambaugh

Previous scholarship recipients have made a difference through their chosen careers. Some have become teachers, doctors, lawyers, bankers and mechanics while others operate their own businesses. Given the grace, respect and appreciation the 2012 graduates showed in accepting their scholarship awards, I expect they will succeed as well.

What really caught my attention though was the support and geniality that the graduating students showed to each other. They truly seemed to care for one another.

If that positive attitude persists in life, these graduates will likely make a difference whatever they do and wherever they land. Mr. Sauerbrey and Ms. Youngs would be very pleased indeed.

Baptism by Bruce Stambaugh
© Bruce Stambaugh 2012