Orvel Criqui came to Lawrence to work in elementary education, then became principal at the city's lone junior high school before moving on to open its newest school, South Junior High, back in 1968.
And throughout his 31 years working in the Lawrence school district, Criqui did it all with the utmost respect, care and high expectations for students, parents, staff and anyone else responsible for the future of the community, state and country.
"Dr. Criqui was always a gentleman, always a gentleman," said Dan Neuenswander, who was district superintendent when Criqui retired in 1986. "He treated his staff well, liked kids, worked well with parents - and he always made his decisions based on what he truly felt was best for kids."
Criqui died Wednesday at Brandon Woods at Alvamar. He was 84.
Maybe it was his military background or his deep voice, or simply because of his tall stature, but Criqui cut an imposing figure.
"A lot of people were afraid of him," said Margaret Akins, whom Criqui - then principal at Central - hired as a math teacher in 1963. "He looked like he could've been mean, but he wasn't. He was an absolute sweetheart. He cared. He cared about his staff, just like he cared about his family."
If a teacher became sick and had to go home or to the hospital, Criqui always made sure someone was available to help, said Gladys Sanders, who taught math at South while Criqui was principal.
"It was more like a small family working together when he was principal," said Sanders, who worked for Criqui for nine years. "It was fun going to work. He was an inspiration for me."
Randy Weseman, who will retire at the end of this year as superintendent of Lawrence schools, took over as principal at South upon Criqui's retirement. And he knew he was succeeding not only a strong educator, but also an exceptional person.
"He was a man of many talents," Weseman said. "He was a writer. He was a historian. He could talk at length about any subject, being well-read and having a real love of learning. He was just a real strong intellect and a great guy. :
"If Orvel could comment on his life, he'd say he accomplished what he wanted to accomplish and had a chance to experience the things he wanted to experience."