How lucky my three children were to attend Taylor Elementary School in Arlington, Virginia, from 1976 – 1990. Principal Ralph Stone was a strong, yet tender Taylor Tiger. He hired and nourished great teachers, secured state-of-the-art equipment, and best of all, loved his job and loved the students. Dr. Stone died on September 5; at age 73, he just went to bed and never woke up. It was a joy to visit with his family and friends at a funeral home in Manassas last Tuesday. It felt good to tell his wife how much he had meant to my children and to me.
Dr. Stone was especially helpful when Shelby was in Taylor’s special ed preschool at age 2, coping with the surgeries that corrected her bilateral hip dysplasia. He already knew her older sister and brother and later wrote personal notes to Lilli and David when they were inducted into the National Honor Society at Yorktown High School. Dearest of all, he wrote a note to Lilli when, at 35, she was diagnosed with Hodgkins Disease. I was but one of many ardent volunteers at Taylor: field trips, piano accompaniments, Picture Lady discussions, and annually, the School Fair. Once I assisted with a science unit and Dr. Stone sent this note in his inimitable handwriting. Here are just a few of many tributes:
Janis Bumgarner, teacher: He was a wonderful person on so many levels. As just one example….I had an emergency call early one morning at school telling me that Ken had been in an automobile accident and was in the trauma unit at Fairfax Hospital. I left school immediately to be with him. After spending hours in the ER, I came out to find Ralph standing there waiting for me! He cared for all of us as much as we all cared for him. The world has lost a great man.
Sheila Smith, parent: Carl always remembers him in a tiger suit at the Halloween parade!
Joan Austin Yocum, teacher: He was the best principal for hundreds of kids and many teachers who thought he was the very best. He was! We loved him dearly.
Mike Salvatierra, my former piano student: I last saw him at a job fair where he interviewed me and helped me get my first job, teaching back in Arlington. He remembered my name, 12 years after I was a Taylor student.
Reade Bush, former piano student, and son my friend Suzanne: It was so clear to me that you cared about every single kid. You took time to get to know our names, talk to us, ask us questions, and just let us talk. You were at lunch, in the halls, at recess, and in the classroom. Virtually every day, you greeted us at the beginning of the school day in front of the school. Even after graduating, you took the time to send personal Taylor Pride notes when I made the honor role or some other accomplishment. I don’t know when you found time to write these, or how you even kept up with everything I did, but thanks for every note you sent. You remembered my name every time I stopped by the school, and showed up at my Dad’s funeral.