Each year, National School Principals' Day is celebrated on the first day of May. The goal of the day is simple- to recognize and celebrate the men and women who take charge of our elementary, middle, and high schools to make them better for students, faculty, and staff.
On this National School Principals' Day, I want to take the time to honor a man that I (and many others) consider to be the absolute best. This is a tribute to Mr. Aubrey Pendley- who led Thruston Elementary School in the 70s and 80s. He was a remarkable man who was determined to "light up our lives" on a daily basis.
Those who knew and loved Mr. Pendley immediately got that reference. For those who need some background, here it is. Mr. Pendley was obsessed with Debby Boone's song "You Light Up My Life."
For him, that song was the embodiment of his love for the school and its students. That song was just as routine in our day as saying the Pledge of Allegiance. That song would play over the school speakers and we would all sing along with it from our classrooms. When Mr. Pendley passed away in March of 2018, I sent a flower arrangement to the funeral home. That arrangement was built around Debby Boone's album that featured "You Light Up My Life."
Every former student of Mr. Pendley has a special memory of that man. And, look! Some of those memories involve adulthood.  Mr. Pendley had the uncanny ability to recognize nearly every former student- even long after they had morphed into adults.
My personal favorite memory though goes back to the halls of Thruston. More specifically, my memory takes me right back to his office. No, I wasn't in the principal's office because I had gotten in trouble. I went there to see Mr. Pendley on my own free will. I specifically requested a meeting with him.
I was in the third grade and, in typical Chad fashion, decided that I was bored. I wasn't feeling challenged by the course work and I wanted to skip a grade. Yes! I went to Mr. Pendley's office to ask him him if I could go ahead and just move to the fourth grade. I still vividly remember this.
I went downstairs and asked Mrs. Tyler (Thruston's magnificent secretary) if I could speak with Mr. Pendley. She asked me why and I told her- proudly. I remember sitting in an office chair while she went behind closed doors to share my request for a meeting with Mr. Pendley. After a couple of minutes, Mrs. Tyler walked out of his office and told me that he was ready to see me.
I went into his office, made my case and guess what? Mr. Pendley listened. To every single word. I knew what I was asking was a long shot, but Mr. Pendley didn't react that way. He could have easily dismissed me or laughed at me, but he didn't. Instead, he took the time to explain to me why it was important that I remain in the third grade.
A few years ago, I recounted that meeting this way-
I remember having the ultimate respect for that man and, that day, he showed the ultimate respect for me. I was a student convinced that he had found his way in this world, but was in need of someone to get him back to the right place on the map.
Mr. Pendley was the greatest! He's been gone for six years, but National Principals' Day is a reminder of the impact he had on his students and the legacy he left at Thruston, where he presided for three decades. I think all of us are better adults because he was in our lives as children. As students around the country celebrate National Principals' Day today, I am joining them. The truth is- I and my classmates know we were privileged to have the very best. Though he's gone, each of us still carries a piece of Mr. Pendley with us. There's no doubt that he still lights up our lives.

Old Daviess County and Owensboro Schools and What They Are Now

Of the many old schools in Owensboro and Daviess County, some are still active, while others have been repurposed.

Gallery Credit: Dave Spencer

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