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Archived Story

Part II: A tribute to my hometown

Published 10:51pm Wednesday, June 6, 2012

By WILLIAM MITCHELL
Retired Niles High School teacher

Niles has such a rich and colorful history — Fort St. Joseph, the Chicago Road, the river town, the railroad town, the industries, the floods, the great fire, the great dust storm and especially the cast of characters and hardworking people who made this town — everyone from Montgomery Ward, John and Horace Dodge and Ring Lardner, to Dr. Fred Bonine, Rodney Paine, Judge Coolidge, Burt Luth, Russ Thomas, the Finley family, Sallie Moody, veterans of all our wars, Joe Szakas, Donna Ochenryder and the list goes on and on.

These people made a difference.

For a small town, what a history!

As for my teaching career at Niles High School, I started in September 1967 and found myself in the midst of “giants.”

These giants were educators and role models, not only of the students, but the community as well. They included Ed Weede, coach and physical education teacher; Clarence Moore, English; George Flora, choir and music; Harry Ahreas, band; Herb Helm, math; Will Dunham, industrial arts; Lowell McMillen, agriculture; Joe Whitwam, athletic director; Margaret “Peg” Parrott, physical education and student mentor; and my very good friend, Noble (Tobe) Lewallen, coach and counselor.

There were role models of integrity, duty and dedication. For me, they set the standard for excellence so high that I never achieved what they did in and out of the classroom.

There were other fine educators there in 1967 and more would follow, but those I mentioned helped me, and I will never forget them.

I was lucky enough to be part of a school system that provided a well-rounded education that was second to none. I had a wonderful career at Niles High School, mainly because of the wonderful students I had and the many people who helped me along the way.

My wife and I were so fortunate to have lived in Niles all these years. Our two sons were born and raised here and graduated from Niles High.

I know that Niles is not the town it used to be because of the economic downturns, but things like the Riverwalk, Riverfront Park and the Veterans Memorial are good steps forward.

In the end, it’s the people of Niles who have been the best part of our town today and yesterday.

I can never repay all the good things the city, the school system and my fellow teachers have done for me, but I can say I am proud of Niles, Michigan, and it will always be “my town.”

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