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Claud Kitchens, school: A fitting linkage for a gentlemanly educator

November 30, 2008

To the editor:

I made a fool of myself recently, which seems to happen more frequently as I grow older. I stood in front of my Rotary Club and tried to say something profound about Claud Kitchens who passed on Nov. 17, and with a huge lump in my throat, all I could do was stand there and weep quietly.

Oh, I wasn't crying for Claud. You see, my faith reminds me that the "good ones" go on to a better place - and make no mistake, Claud Estes Kitchens Jr. was one of the "very good ones."

No, I cried for myself because I have lost a good friend, a mentor and neighbor. I cried for all of the Rotarians in the room - even the ones who didn't know him - because they also have lost a friend.

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Finally I cried for all of the folks in Washington County, their children and children's children, because we have lost a great community friend and educator.

One of my Rotarian buddies smiled as he read from Claud's obituary: Claud earned a reputation on the basketball court at the University of South Carolina as a "cool, calculating piece of long-range artillery."

Who else but Claud Kitchens could bear that fearsome reputation while being the epitome of civility with parents of school children and sensitive even to a lonely 6-year-old brought to the principal's office for discipline. Claud was quite a man!

I hope my friend Lou Scally will not be angry at me for relating one more apropos moment relating to our friend Claud.

About 10 minutes after I played the fool, Lou approached me to brighten my mood. He related that last week he saw Claud, slapped him on the back and said: "Congratulations on having that school (Fairview) named after you. You know they usually don't do that until you 'pass on.'"

To which Claud replied with his quick smile and a wink, acknowledging Lou's caring thought. Lou then went on to quickly say to me "I know how you feel Art. I will miss Claud, too, and particularly just the way (in that genuine southern drawl) he said the word 'school.'" How appropriate, Lou - Dr. Claud E. Kitchens Jr. and "school" in the same thought.

God bless you Claud, and may God continue to bless us all with knowing the "very good ones" like you.

Art Callaham

President

Hagerstown Rotary Club

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