Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Coradell Alexander

by Rocky Macy

This morning I learned of the passing of a close friend, a wonderful lady who literally taught generations of young people in my hometown to appreciate and love music.

Coradell (Crain) Alexander was born on June 23, 1918, in Morrow, Kansas, and died this past Saturday, November 10, 2012, in Little Rock, Arkansas.  She was 94-years-old and survived by her daughter, Casey Sanders.

Mrs. Alexander and her husband, Howard, moved to McDonald County, Missouri, in the late 1950's or early 1960's.  Although I was not in the school band, I remember her well from my years at Noel High School (1962-1966) where she taught music.   She usually enjoyed and drove sporty little cars, but she must have had a "family" vehicle as well, because I remember her taking a group of us from the high school to her home in Ginger Blue Village one day to listen to some special music on her stereo.   Casey was a toddler in diapers at that time.

My dad had an appliance store in Noel while I was in high school and for many years afterward.  I worked there some as a young man after the military when I returned to college in pursuit of a teaching degree.  It was during that time that I really got to know Mrs. Alexander's husband, J. Howard.   One of his joys in life was planning trips to Joplin to greet the arrival of the new foreign sports cars in the showrooms.  He and Pat Laurie, a retired army lieutenant colonel who had been my high school principal, liked to hang around my dad's store and tell stories that often involved each other.  Howard passed away many years ago, and Pat is also no longer with us.

I got that teaching credential in the late 1970's and moved to south central Missouri where I worked as a high school teacher and later as a principal.  In the fall of 1983 I returned to Noel as the principal of the little community school where I had graduated nearly two decades before.  By that time it had morphed into a K-8 feeder school for McDonald County High School in Anderson.    Much to my pleasure, Coradell Alexander was still on staff.

Sometime toward the end of the school year preceding my move back to Noel, but after I knew that I had the job, I slipped into town for a quick school visit and to gage what I was actually getting into.  As I was walking down a hallway, I spied Mrs. Alexander making her way across the schoolyard from the music building - heading directly toward my location.  She opened the door, looked up at me, and grinned.  Then she sort of ducked her head and said, "I always knew that one day it would come to this."  And I think we were both very pleased that our professional lives had crossed.

Coradell Alexander retired from teaching the following year, and I trust that it had nothing to do with me being her "boss."  As a tribute to this great lady that had given so much of her life to the youth of Noel, our staff and the PTA made a decision to name the small rock building where she had taught all of those years in her honor.  The new sign over the door read "Alexander Hall."   Her daughter, Casey, came up from Little Rock for the unveiling and celebration.

My memories of Coradell Alexander at the Noel School are profuse and cherished.  There were the countless times I watched her march her struggling little bands down Sulphur Street and out onto Main. The parents standing along the sidewalks could not have been prouder if their children had been marching in the Rose Bowl Parade.    The holiday programs that she put on in the gym or on the school stage were delightful.  Every child had a part, and every part was important.  The kids were guided and inspired by a great teacher!

After Mrs. Alexander retired, she was often at the school working as a substitute teacher.  She was one of our most reliable and best substitutes, and it was reassuring to know that whatever class she happened to be in that day would run smoothly.  She was also a good person to have around for special school events that required a competent piano player.  Years after I left the Noel School, she was drafted to play at my son's (Tim's) eighth grade graduation.  Her presence at the event made it all the more special for this proud dad.

Sometime after Coradell Alexander retired, I stopped out to visit with her at her home in Ginger Blue Village.  She met me at the door, and practically the first words out of her mouth were "Would you like a cocktail?"  And I thought that was a grand idea!  We sat outside in lawn chairs until late in the evening talking about our memories of life in Noel and the Noel School.  One of the things I remember from that evening was her account of the Kennedy assassination and how it had impacted the school staff.  The superintendent, Bill Spears, had gone to them for support and advice - but, like the superintendent, none of them knew what to do.  It was unchartered territory.  The decision was finally made to keep school in session for the remainder of the day, an then to close the school on the day of the funeral.  The students had been very emotional that afternoon in November of 1963  -  I remembered that clearly - but Mrs. Alexander had a few tears in her eyes forty years later as she told me that the faculty had also been distraught over the killing of the President.

The last time I saw Coradell Alexander had to have been five or six years ago.  I was working for the military at the time and living out of state.    Being home on a brief visit to see my dad, I was driving up Noel's short Main Street when I spotted Mrs. Alexander getting into her small sports car while lifting an oxygen tank in with her.  I pulled over and walked up to her car where we exchanged a brief greeting - a chance encounter that proved to be our last.

There are lots of ways to measure success in life, but I believe that the truest measure is the positive impact that we have on others.  By that measure, Coradell Alexander led a remarkably successful life.  I mourn her passing, but, at the same time, feel so fortunate to have known her.

Rest in well deserved peace, dear friend.

1 comment:

Don said...

This was obviously a woman worth knowing, cultivating and loving. I envy the years you spent with her.