Devastating news this afternoon.  If you went to Thruston Elementary School, you most likely have fond and beautiful memories of our beloved principal, Mr. Aubrey Pendley.  It's with a heavy heart that I share the news today that Mr. Pendley has passed away.

If you went to Thruston Elementary in the late 70's, this is potentially your most vivid memory of him.  See, Mr. Pendley was obsessed with the song "You Light Up My Life" by Debby Boone.   He literally had us sing this song every single day.  It was a Thruston ritual and was just a prevalent part of our day as the Pledge of Allegiance.

And today, I have been humming this song since I heard the news.  Mr. Pendley literally lit up my life . . . and the lives of every single student at Thruston.  He was a tremendous influence on all of us.  Every former student who hears the news of his passing will have his or her own specific and cherished Mr. Pendley memory.

This is mine.  I was in the third grade.  And, in grand Chad Benefield fashion, I was bored.  I decided that I wanted to go to Mr. Pendley's office and ask him if I could skip third grade and go directly to fourth grade.  I remember my trip to his office vividly.  I went downstairs, asked Mrs. Tyler, his secretary, if I could speak with Mr. Pendley.  She asked me what I needed and I told her.

Now, I have no idea what her conversation with him was after my disclosure, but I do know this.  He agreed to see me.  And he listened to me.  He let me plead my case, as ridiculous as it was.  But there was no indication from Mr. Pendley that what I was saying was ridiculous.  I remember him listening to me and taking in every word I had to say.  Then, he paused a second and proceeded to explain to me why it was important that I stay in third grade.  See, I was going to be in fourth grade soon enough and there were vital lessons still to be learned in third.  But the man listened to me.  He heard me out.  I remember having the ultimate respect for that man and, that day, he showed the ultimate respect for me . . . 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.

My goodness, did Mr. Pendley understand that map!  He knew the route to success for his students was strong relationships with each and every one of them.  Take this photo for instance.  My friend Kim Belcher ran into Mr. Pendley recently at Friday After 5. I love this photo and the way that it perfectly embodies his spirit.

Kim Silvers Belcher
Kim Silvers Belcher

I chatted with Kim this afternoon to share the news and discuss this photo.  Kim mentioned that Mr. Pendley remembered her at Friday After 5 . . . all those years later.  But, then again, of course he did.  That's who he was.  That's Mr. Pendley.

He was invested in us, all of us.  This sentiment is echoed by my friend Tiffany Calhoun, a fellow Thruston graduate who shared the news of his passing with me this afternoon.  We chatted on the phone today in complete disbelief.  We all were students, friends, the children in Mr. Pendley's Thruston family.  Every day he would refer to us by name, light up our lives, give us hope.  And, at Thruston Elementary School, he literally filled our lives with song.

He was an amazing man, leader and educator.  I am sure all of you are feeling like I am today.  I feel like a piece of my heart and childhood are gone.  But his light isn't going anywhere.  It lives . . . sings . . . in every single one of us.

As his granddaughter Larkin Carman expressed on Facebook today, "There are some who bring a light so great to the world that even after they have gone the light still remains."

That light remains indeed.  Shine on, Aubrey Pendley.  Shine on.

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