By Eileen Persike
After more than four decades of answering telephone calls and student questions, fetching ice packs for skinned knees and keeping records neat and orderly, Rhinelander School District secretary Sue Edwards has retired. All but one of her nearly 42 years were behind the main desk at James Williams Middle School; the last, at Central Intermediate.
“It was very surreal this morning when I woke up,” Edwards said Wednesday. “This will be my first summer off. In the fall it will probably feel even more surreal.”
Edwards began her career with the school district in December, 1974, two months before doors to the the brand-new James Williams Junior High were opened.
“When I started, we moved over to the new Middle School from the old Junior High on the hill by Saroka Park,” Edwards recalled. “And the kids carried their desks. They didn’t have big trucks for that sort of thing, so they carried desks, chairs, everything over.”
Everyone who went through the Rhinelander public school system knows Edwards. Generations of Hodags, in fact – the grandchildren of those students who carried their desks to the new school, have gotten to know Mrs. Edwards.
“I’m a Rhinelander native and I come from a big family,” she said. “We know a lot of people, but the majority of the people I know came through the schools.”
To be sure, Edwards has seen a lot of changes over the years in students and families, and has had to adapt.
“I think the changes were just due to the times,” Edwards said. “Split families became more common and kids weren’t always sure whether they were going to mom’s or dad’s. And I had to remember to mail the same information to both parents. But that’s just part of the job.”
Also a sign of the times and part a school secretary’s job is buzzing in everyone who enters the school during the day, at least 50 times a day she said. But, she added, these days schools have to “protect the kids…and the staff and be really careful.”
Like many new retirees, Edwards and her husband Dennis have a list of projects around the house to tackle, and there is plenty of golfing and boating to do, too. As difficult as it may be to leave the job she has loved for so long, Edwards said Central will be in good hands. Current Pelican Elementary secretary Robin Germer is moving into Edwards’ former spot; someone who will “be a really great transition” for the staff and students.