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OUR NEIGHBORS | Teacher says he's proud to be Marlatt Elementary's 'grandpa'

Thirty years at any institution brings a sense of family, and Chuck Hendricks said he felt proud to be the school’s “grandpa” this past year as Marlatt Elementary’s only male teacher.

Hendricks has been a sixth-grade teacher at the school for most of those years, but his duties were shuffled around and he taught fifth grade this past school year.

“There were some male student interns around, but I’m the grandpa here,” Hendricks said. “I’ve also been here the longest, so people know to come to me for anything they need, like boxes or rubbing alcohol or things like that.”

In addition to teaching fifth grade, Hendricks also taught math this past year at Marlatt. Usually, though, he teaches social studies and science.

“I like social studies and science because I like history and current events,” Hendricks said. “But math is enjoyable too because it’s real definite. It’s either wrong or it’s right, but there’s different ways of getting the right answer though.

“I enjoy reading myself, but I don’t feel like I’d be a very good language arts teacher,” Hendricks continued. “The good thing is we have other teachers who are great at that, and I enjoy watching them teach kids how to read.”

He considers himself very much a community man, having grown up on a farm just outside of Wamego, where he also attended middle and high school.

“I could say I’m a farmboy, but Manhattan is my home area,” Hendricks said.

Teaching runs in Hendricks’ family — his mother was a teacher at Northview Elementary for 34 years, and his wife, Kaye, retired from Amanda Arnold Elementary last year after having taught for 32 years.

His first degree was a bachelor’s in family and child development from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, and his bachelor’s in education and master’s in curriculum development from K-State came later.

“I did go to school at K-State, so I do like to claim it as my alma mater,” Hendricks said. “But I can say, ‘Go Big Red’ quietly in the hallways. My dad was never impressed with three degrees anyway. He said, ‘Thermometers have degrees, and you know what doctors do with those.’”

On a typical morning, Hendricks gets to the school at about 7:45 a.m. and grades papers until kids start to arrive at school. He gets his classroom ready, where a mish-mash of posters and objects — some of them from his students — adorn the walls and counters. They’re artifacts Hendricks has picked up from a 30-year teaching career. A box of ant lions is the latest addition from the class’s “lion hunting” trip.

After school, Hendricks has pulled driveway duty for years, guiding 400 kids to safety through the after-school traffic. During the winter sports season, Hendricks also coaches wrestling at Anthony Middle School.

Thirty years of teaching adds up to a lot of students, and Hendricks said it’s hard to go around town without seeing a former student. He’s had several students whose parents he also taught, as well as younger siblings of former students.

One of his former students is even a kindergarten teacher at the school, and Hendricks said he likes to tease her every now and then. And in the spring, he helped chaperone the high school prom, since his daughter is a junior on the prom committee.

“There were a lot of juniors and seniors I know from sports or from Marlatt, and it was fun to see all these people dressed up,” he said. “They asked me, ‘Mr. Hendricks, what are you doing here? I thought you were a fifth-grade teacher.’ Well yes, I am, but I was keeping an eye on them. I would have to ask them their names, since they were all dressed up and I couldn’t tell who they were.”

He regularly receives invitations to weddings, graduations and other events of that nature from former students, and he said that kids remember him because he had built a reputation as a tough teacher over the years.

“I had two rules in my class: listen and obey,” Hendricks said. “It’s not because I’m the all-knowing authority, it’s just because you need to be able to listen and obey and be able to pay attention and hear what the directions are. Some of the kids would tell me that I was always really tough on them, and thank you.”

But alongside the rules, Hendricks said he’s always tried to have fun with his students.

“I do puns, and I sing to the kids,” Hendricks said, singing a short line about tests. “The kids roll their eyes and tell me not to sing, but they remember things like that.”

After one year of teaching fifth grade, Hendricks will be back teaching sixth grade next year.

“It was a challenge for me to go down and teach fifth grade since I was at sixth for so long,” Hendricks said. “It was a challenge to get them to mature, since they were pretty much big fourth-graders. They were very immature at the start, but they’ve done a fantastic job of maturing through the year. Was it due to me? Hopefully a little bit. Hopefully I helped them to love learning.”

Reflecting on his teaching tenure, he said that the best part of his job was working alongside phenomenal teachers, and the most important thing he taught was how to learn.

“I love the fact that I was able to touch lives,” Hendricks said. “There’s so much information out there, I can’t teach the kids everything they need to know. But I can teach them how to learn and how to find the information. I can teach them how to love going out and looking and trying to figure things out.”

A love of learning is something Hendricks himself has embraced every day these past 30 years, he said. Much of the learning he’s done lately is from his coworkers and other role model teachers he’s picked up over years.

“I know I’m not the best teacher out there, but I have so many role models I try to emulate,” he said. “I’m still learning myself. I want kids to understand you can learn things all the time.”

Riley County commission grants $1.5M for RCPD firing range land and project

The Riley County Commission on Monday unanimously approved $1.5 million for the Riley County Police Department’s shooting range, but there are no specific plans for land purchases or construction yet.

County clerk Rich Vargo said the commission was simply making funding available for the project and any future land purchases associated with it.

Over the past five years, the county and RCPD have looked at possible sites for a new shooting range. A deal with Fort Riley to build a shooting range on military property was all but signed when it fell through after the county realized that military training restrictions could interfere with the police department’s needs.

In November, the commission considered using eminent domain to purchase the department’s current shooting range property, which the county leases from K-State fire equipment inspector James Seymour.

The commission voted instead for a one-year lease extension on the county’s previous 25-year lease on the property, which would have expired June 30.

At that meeting, Seymour’s brother, Roger, equated the potential use of eminent domain to theft.

“Had my father realized 25 years after signing this contract that the county was going to breach their trust with him, he would never ever have signed this,” he said.

If the county were to use eminent domain to seize the property, the district court would appoint a panel of private appraisers to evaluate the property, hold a public hearing and establish a market value for the property. The county would have 30 days to purchase the property at the panel’s price.

Currently, the county pays $1,200 in monthly rent, pays property taxes on the land and covers any maintenance and improvements.

Last week, the commission held an executive session, a meeting closed to the public, to discuss the acquistion of property.

Under Kansas law, government entities are allowed to meet in secret to hold preliminary discussions relating to the acquisition of real property.

Courtesy photo  

U.S. Army Command Sgt. Maj. Shawn Ludwig, assigned to 1st Infantry Division, looks on as George Shenkle, a WWII veteran formerly assigned to the 82nd Airborne Division, talks about his military decorations Saturday during a D-Day 75th anniversary book signing in Carentan, France. D-Day is June 6.

Photo courtesy Isiah Childs 

Wamego’s Isiah Childs received his first Division I offer on Tuesday, with Akron extending a scholarship.

Officials still on alert as Tuttle Creek Lake drains

Tuttle Creek Lake may be gradually decreasing, but the lake is still a bad rainstorm away from bringing back flooding as a significant concern, officials said Monday.

The lake level read 1,134.56 feet above sea level Monday morning. That’s down 1.32 feet since Friday night. However, it’s still 59.5 feet above its normal level.

Pat Collins, Riley County emergency management director, told the Riley County Commission on Monday that emergency personnel were scaling back emergency readiness efforts, including a reduction in operating hours at the local Emergency Operations Center, but officials will be on standby for a full emergency response.

“The water is going down, but we’re still not out of the woods yet,” Collin said. “I guess what I tell people is that in ’93, we saw this three different times before it actually got high enough to cause major damage. But we got over this hump.”

Outflows from Tuttle Creek Lake were finally lower than inflows over the weekend, causing the decrease. Lake officials had kept releases from the lake to a maximum of 200 cubic feet of water per second for weeks due to flooding concerns downstream as measured by a gauge on the Missouri River in Waverly, Missouri.

But last week, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers drastically increased releases as the lake reached 1,135.88 feet Friday night, just inches short of the top of the dam’s emergency spillway gates.

Lake officials said Monday that they had obtained permission for a “temporary deviation” from outflow restrictions, and that they expect to maintain releases at 30,000 cfs with the goal of lowering the lake to 1,128 feet, or about 80% of the lake’s flood storage pool.

The deviation also applies to Milford Lake and Perry Lake, which have outflows of 4,000 cfs and 10,000 cfs, respectively.

Brian McNulty, project operations manager for the Corps at Tuttle, said the lake is projected to reach 1,128 feet by mid- to late-next week depending on rainfall.

All releases have been from the dam’s stilling basin (also known as “the tubes”). Lake officials have said they would only use the dam’s emergency spillway gates if the lake threatened to overtop the gates.

After four tense days, officials lifted an evacuation advisory on the Northview neighborhood Sunday, and an American Red Cross shelter set up for affected residents closed Monday morning. The Northview area remains under a high water advisory.

RCPD Capt. Richard Fink said the department was not aware of any residential structures or city roadways that were affected by flooding, but that there was water on certain properties. The department will keep all of its emergency management assets in place.

“Folks should still stay vigilant,” Fink said. “If you live in a flood zone, this is more time to prepare, and if it doesn’t happen, good, but it still could. One good rainstorm could still put us up in a critical area once again.”

Fink said that while all officers and most first responders take emergency management training, nothing compares to practicing it in real life.

“Taking tests and doing tabletop exercises only does so much,” Fink said. “This was a learning experience for a lot of people, and I don’t think we could be any more ready for something like this in the future.”

Longtime car dealer Dick Edwards dies

Longtime car dealer Dick Edwards, 83, died Sunday.

Edwards started selling cars and trucks on May 13, 1963, the same day his daughter, Tanice, was born, according to a bio on the Dick Edwards Auto Plaza website.

“What a better way to inform your wife you quit your job and started a new career as a car salesman than as she lay there with her new baby,” the bio says.

Dick and his wife, Janice, moved to Manhattan with their three daughters in 1981 to open up Dick Edwards Ford after relocating from Augusta, Kansas.

Edwards opened his Junction City location on Grant Avenue in 1988. He later relocated into a new facility on the corner of I-70 and U.S. 77 in Junction City in 2013.

Edwards sold his Manhattan dealership in 2016 to Orr Auto Group, a Texas-based company, which is now named Flint Hills Auto.

Krystal Baldwin, who has worked as a sales consultant at the dealership for nearly a year but has known the family for years, said Edwards had a knack for selling cars and could even sell a new car within hours.

“I admired that man and his talent,” Baldwin said. “He had a long journey of life, and he built an empire of success with his family.”

Even in his later years, Baldwin said, Edwards still came around the dealership and met people.

“He truly enjoyed visiting with customers,” she said.

A Celebration of Life Service will be at 10:30 a.m. Monday at the St. Thomas More Catholic Church 2900 Kimball Ave.

Yorgensen-Meloan-Londeen Funeral Home is handling arrangements. The full obituary will run later in The Mercury.