Serving the High Plains

Mr. Wood was a true role model

Portales lost one of the most kind and gentle men it has ever known this past week and heaven has inherited a wonderful grade school principal with the passing of Morris Wood.

He was my grade school principal and I guess I didn't know a lot about the man until I read his obituary.

I knew he had been an athlete and a good basketball player in his day. I didn't know that he'd been part of a Floyd basketball team that had won a big state championship in 1935.

I didn't know he was in the New Mexico Athletic Hall of Fame or that he had played in Madison Square Garden during his college career with New Mexico State University.

I knew he was a kind man who was reassuring and encouraging to scared children trying to decide if they were ever going to like the scary grade-school experience they were having or not.

I didn't know he learned how to calm human fears behind enemy lines in the Philippines in World War II. I knew he was some kind of soldier because I remember he had pictures in his office of himself and other men in uniform. I didn't know Capt. Wood had been awarded the Bronze Star for his bravery in extricating his unit from a messy firefight one night.

I didn't know he was a war or sports hero when I started going to his school but just having that tall gentleman to look up to in the halls made him a hero to me and 24 years worth of children at L.L. Brown School.

In a time when the cool thing for kids to do was to put the words "Old Man" or "Old Lady" in front of the teacher or principal's name when referring to them among schoolmates, I never could do that. He was always Mr. Wood and even as I got older I wanted to earn his respect and favor.

I have to admit my stay at L.L. Brown might not have turned out that way except for his brand of discipline. Yes, when I was a first-grader a teacher sent me from the playground to "Mr. Wood's office." I had seen that paddle that hung on his wall and I had heard older kids talk about getting sent to the office. I figured corporal punishment was what I had coming.

Instead I waited outside his office all through story period after recess (my favorite part of first grade) anticipating the worst. By the time he called me in I was a basket case and my day wasn't going too well.

I remember he called me around that big desk and either put me on his knee or in a chair next to him. He asked me to tell him what happened and I doubt he understood half the story through my sobbing.

He told me I needed to apologize to the other child and talked to me about being a good citizen. Then he sent me back to my class.

He was even-tempered and kind to a child in distress and this important person actually took the time to talk to me about the problem.

Mr. Wood was a true role model to those whose lives he touched.

Karl Terry writes for Clovis Media Inc. Contact him at: [email protected]