Neighbors: Celebrating a special former educator, friend


  • Turners Falls High School graduates convened at the school on Saturday for a birthday caravan in honor of retired Vice Principal Stanley Dobosz, who turned 80 last week. Staff Photo/Anita Fritz

  • Turners Falls High School graduates convened at the school on Saturday for a birthday caravan in honor of retired Vice Principal Stanley Dobosz, who turned 80 last week. Staff Photo/Anita Fritz

  • Retired Turners Falls High School Vice Principal Stanley Dobosz was honored with a birthday caravan on Saturday. He turned 80 last week. Staff Photo/Anita Fritz

Staff Writer
Published: 10/18/2020 2:48:06 PM

Good morning, neighbor.

As most of you know, I grew up in Turners Falls and am a proud 1976 graduate of Turners Falls High School. I’ve got some really nice memories, but unfortunately, there’s one that I missed out on, as was evidenced by talking to fellow graduates on Saturday.

Retired Turners Falls High School Vice Principal Stanley Dobosz turned 80 last week and if nothing else was clear to me after talking with everyone participating in his birthday caravan on Saturday, including Stan, it was that he is an amazing man and was a great school administrator.

I arrived in the high school parking lot at around 12:15 p.m. on Saturday. People were just starting to arrive. In the end, there were about two dozen vehicles, a couple of police cruisers and a fire engine.

What I kept hearing over and over was: “He was firm but fair,” “He meant a lot to all of us,” “He let you make mistakes,” “He cared so much” and “He didn’t hold a grudge.”

Class of 1992 graduate Matt Pelis said he would see Mr. Dobosz everywhere in the halls all day long.

“He knew what was going on with each of us,” Matt said. “It was a no-brainer that we should celebrate him like this.”

Class of 1992 graduate Ebony (Stewart) Forand of Agawam grew up in Turners Falls.

“I was one of only a few minorities growing up here at the time,” she recalled. “It didn’t matter — our community was one big family, and Mr. Dobosz made every one of us feel special.”

Ebony said that while Stan was “wonderful and kind-hearted,” if you were a jerk, he’d let you know.

“He was fair and honest and full of integrity,” she said. “He was a foundational person in my life. I’ll always respect him, and he always gave respect if you deserved it.”

Every person I spoke with — all his former students — said it was “hysterical” to hear him in the school hallways.

Tina (Booska) Dempsey said she’d be walking down the hallway and she’d hear Mr. Dobosz yell out from across the building, telling some unfortunate student to meet him in his office.

“He’d use his index finger to point at you and his thumb to show you the way to his office,” she said. “I got the index finger, thumb and yell one day. I was scared, sitting along the wall of shame outside his office. He invited me in, slammed the door so that the metal blinds started swinging and told me to sit down. I had no idea what I had done.”

Then he said to her, “I’ve had it with your brother.” She laughed. “He just wanted to ask whether he should call my mother or father.”

My cousin Nicole (Hawkins) Kelly, who told me about the caravan, graduated in 1990. Her memories are only the fondest when she talks about Stan Dobosz.

“He was the most fair of anyone,” she said. “You’d hear him bellow, and you were just glad it wasn’t at you.”

Even if you did something wrong, he just wanted you to understand what you did and why you shouldn’t do it again, she said.

Class of 1991 graduate Chanda Waryas saw Stan walking in June and yelled out, “Hey old man, get moving.” He looked up and answered, “Hey, not doing so bad for almost 80.”

That’s when Chanda said she contacted Stan’s son and set up the birthday caravan.

“I really wanted to do something for him because he’s done so much for the community,” she said.

Chanda not only knew Stan when she was in high school, but 25 years ago, when he was the district’s special education administrator, he hired her. She’s been there ever since, working in special education.

“He was always so supportive,” she said. “He’d ask what the students needed and he’d say, ‘Let’s make it happen.’”

I talked with several more people, and they all repeated everything I’d already heard. As everyone finished decorating their vehicles with blue and white balloons and streamers — my alma mater’s colors — it not only brought back some beautiful memories of my time at that wonderful school and in its band, but I realized I should head to Stan’s house to not only watch the parade, but watch his reaction and talk with him.

Police and fire sirens could be heard in the distance as Stan walked out onto his porch, down his front steps and sat in the chair his family had decorated with colorful balloons.

A beautiful, cool autumn day, the sun shining bright, only a few fluffy white clouds slowly drifting in the bright blue sky, was the perfect backdrop as the caravan turned the corner.

Stan rose to his feet when the first police cruiser turned the corner to lead the rest.

The reason I missed out on those shared memories was because Stan started as vice principal in September 1976, a mere four months after I had graduated.

“I always tried to start each day as a new one,” he said. “If I had to suspend a student, when he or she returned, we didn’t talk about it again. It was like it never happened unless, of course, they didn’t learn from it. It was all over, and most of them did learn from it.

“I’ve been retired 20 years, but I still miss the kids the most,” he said. “I had the greatest kids, just wonderful. And, of course, I miss the staff. We had a great staff, as well.”

Stan said he spent a lot of hours — probably more than his family would have liked — at the school, but it was his second home.

“It was so nice that I could talk things out with students and their parents,” he said. “It made the job easy.”

Stan said he’s so proud of his time at Turners Falls High School.

“I’m so lucky that I can say I saw a fire chief, a police chief, a plumber, a furnace repairman, so many through high school,” he said. “Not everyone can say that, especially when they all stayed here in their hometown.”

Stan said he feels blessed, and if he were 10 years younger, he might have thought about going back to do some sort of work in the school. Instead, he sits on his porch, visits with family, rakes leaves and, every now and then, runs into a former student and reminisces.

“I still do what I used to as a school administrator — I start each day as a new day,” he said. “That’s what gets you through.”

Yes, Stan, that is what gets us through. I’m so envious of your former students, but I must say that I learned a lot from you in the short time we spoke. Happy birthday with many more happy and healthy ones to come. I hope we run into each other again.

Senior Reporter Anita Fritz grew up in Franklin County after moving from Spokane, Wash., when she was just a few weeks old. She covers Greenfield and does regional and COVID-19 reporting for the Greenfield Recorder.

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