CLAYTON — Family, friends, colleagues, and former students joined at Northmont Middle School on June 10 at 11 a.m. to commemorate the late Richard L. Shell, Northmont High School’s first principal.
Tables were set up in the gym displaying photo albums, certificates, medals, and memorabilia from Shell’s life. People soon gathered on bleachers and chairs at 11:30 a.m. to listen to the stories and memories shared about Mr. Shell.
Amongst the many stories about Richard “Dick” Shell, his former students remember seeing him in the hallways at Northmont, with crossed arms, and a penetrating look in his eyes. Despite his terrifying demeanor, students came to recognize the great leadership skills of Mr. Shell, which came from his military service.
“He was a man who looked like a Marine drill sergeant, because he was one,” proclaimed Mr. Emerson Keck, NHS class of 1964.
Keck went on to remind the crowd of the great respect Shell had earned over the years, in which students even after reaching adulthood would always refer to him as “Mr. Shell,” and never as “Dick.”
“We, his students, friends, family, and colleagues, had a very, very special principal who we knew as Superman, and we loved him,” concluded Keck.
Former students of Mr. Shell shared stories, in which Shell came to visit them or their families at their job, or in the hospital, because he took the time to do so out of kindness. He remembered the names of practically everyone he met, which showed how much he cared for people.
Mr. Howard Krisher, NHS class of 1965, refers to Mr. Shell as one of his true heroes, and one of the people he has tried to model his adult life after. He shared a story about Shell: “I saw him one time at the end of a one-hundred mile [bike] ride, sitting on the tail gate of his truck, checking his blood sugar.”
David Hoke from the class of 1964 shared a story in which he visited the Shell’s home for their seventieth wedding anniversary, and he recognized the paddle Mr. Shell notoriously used against his students. Hoke asked Shell if he still knew how to use it, and Shell proceeded to paddle him.
During the ceremony, Shell’s across the street neighbor, Ms. Nancee Desch, shared heartwarming stories of Shell and his wife Helen, as they were known to sit outside of their garage each evening to talk to anyone who stopped by. Desch remembered the Shells loving her dog, and she lightheartedly stated, “It finally dawned on me that the Shells were just using me to get to my dog.”
Ms. Beth Fuller, NHS class of 1965, mentioned that Mr. Shell would attend every class reunion to check on his former students, to see how their lives were going, and to ask how their families were doing. “The man was a legend with class reunions,” Fuller stated.
Emerson Keck described Mr. Shell: “Mr. Shell was respected, he was fair, he always looked sharp, he set a good example, he was consistent; he was tough minded. He personified the concept of truth, justice, and the American way.”
Ms. Robin Spiller recalled a story of her time as a softball coach, in which she had to drive her girls to Phillipsburg for practice. Yet, two years after an incident hitting a mailbox, a softball field was made. Spiller did not believe it was her hitting a mailbox that led to the creation of the field, stating, “He (Shell) was fair to everyone, and I think that was just him in a nutshell: fair.”
Jean Plunkett, Shell’s cousin, stated after an emotional speech, “Dick and Helen are enjoying their heavenly view of this wonderful celebration.”
To close the ceremony, Plunkett brought in a tray of Esther Price candy to share, in which she explained that Shell loved their chocolate-covered cherries.
Richard L. Shell’s legacy lives on in the hearts and lives of the people he touched.