A while back in February, for those who are regular readers remember, I had a computer repair job at my old school superintendent's home. His name, was Jim Alexander -- Mr. Alexander to a whole lotta folks for a long time, and STILL Mr. Alexander to me. I rang the doorbell and after a bit, a tall, frail man with silver/white hair answered the door. Naturally, I recognized the big smile and he knew mine. His computer had "issues" and he just wanted to get them fixed because he LOVED reading his emails from his kids and former teachers.
He was slow, but steady -- he took his time getting from place to place in his house. But, when I was done we chatted for a bit and I left. As I stated before in a former post, he had slowed down. Not until last Thursday when he passed away, did I know he was 84.
I'll share a few stories, but FIRST, I'll tell you I was never on the wrong side of the desk with him, so to speak. While I had a few "chats" with Mr. Nelson, the Middle School Principal and Mr. Johnson, the High School Principal, Mr. Alexander and I were on good terms....well most of the time.
The first time I ever met the man, I was in 5th grade and our bus driver Lucy had some ruffians on the bus to Hansell. It was odd that when Mr. Alexander rode the bus one morning, you could have heard a pin drop...thus we had no more "issues" on the bus. He commanded respect.
Between my 8th and 9th grade, I received my Eagle Scout Award. He was not only at the ceremony, but had sent a very nice card with some thoughtful words in it. He was also invited to and attended my graduation reception in 1983 at the house. Another nice card, with thoughtful words.
From what I could tell after high school, Mr. Alexander had somewhat of a temper if he couldn't watch the Hawkeyes play football. When I was on the Hampton City Council he called the house and told me to "straighten out those morons" who ran our cable system. For some reason, the next week, the Hawkeye games were able to be broadcast on cable and I was happy to call him back with the news. His reply, "I knew you could straighten them out, Palmer."
In 2003 I had to go to Oelwein for work and ran into some people at the Yankee Scoreboard Hotel/Lounge, as I remember. Naturally small talk occurred and like everywhere I go, I tell them I'm from Hampton. The first thing out of the old timer's mouth who was behind the bar was, "Hey, I remember a Jim Alexander who moved there who was a damn fine ball player." So, we chatted about Mr. Alexander and sort of caught them up on what he was up to and that he had retired. I saw Mr. Alexander in Seven Stars Restaurant after that and told him the story, he just smiled.
In the spring of 2010, we both got called for jury duty. Judge Drew, also a former student, asked if anyone had any issues or conflicts and needed to be excused. Judge Drew also referred to him as "Mr. Alexander" when he raised his hand and was promptly excused from jury duty. No explanation needed.
In December of 2011, we didn't have a bad winter, but it was one of those windy days with just a bit of ice here and there on the pavement. I was at Kum & Go in Hampton and Mr. Alexander was just getting ready to walk out the door. The cashier looked scared as the wind had picked up and it really wasn't nice out. I saw him and asked him how he was doing and then I decided I'd chit chat with him and walk him to his vehicle. We both knew that he was not good on his feet, so I know he appreciated someone strolling to his vehicle that was out at the gas pumps. We took it slow and he went on his way, big smile, big wave.
After posting the notice of his death on Facebook, an outpouring of words came from people around Hampton to describe him -- Gentleman, Classy, Fair, Honest, Role Model, Wonderful, Tremendous -- It doesn't get much better than that.
Thank you, Mr. Alexander, you've made us all better people for having known you.