First of all, Dick Gettys seemed like one of those who would outlive us all. He had numerous health issues when I first met him in 1988 and he always seemed to come through every time. It is hard to believe he is not with us anymore.
He was the principal of Easley High School, training a great staff many of whom became top administrators themselves, when I first met Dick. I had just joined The Easley Progress as a reporter and was covering education. The first thing I learned was that he was a little bit of a scary man --- a gruff exterior that made me a little afraid that the wrong question might send me to detention.
I was able to get over that initial “fear of Mr. Gettys” through the help of a teenage girl, who was a student at Easley High at the time. “I don’t think of him as mean,” she told me. “The gruff exterior is an act. He really is more like Eeyore” (the donkey from the Disney Channel’s “Winnie the Pooh” show). I think it is all just an act.”
From that point on, I was not afraid of Mr. Gettys anymore. Instead, I pictured him saying “Thanks for noticing me.”
He invited me to begin covering meetings of the Combined Utility Board, where he served for decades. The meetings were mostly business, but I could always count on Dick to say something quotable that would make the two-hour meeting worth my time.
He turned out to be a great friend and a great source as I continued to cover the school district as managing editor of The Progress.
In fact, the only story in which I won first place for news writing came as a result of an investigative report I did on a search of students at Easley Junior High, a story that started with a memo and a tip from Dick Gettys. Later, he became the district’s first Director of Information Systems. It was a job he enjoyed, but he really missed the interaction he had in the schools. He got that a short time later when Gettys was selected to be Superintendent of Pickens County Schools.
He wasn’t always as willing to help me with those kind of investigative stories when he became Superintendent of Pickens County Schools, but he treated me with respect. I could live with that.
Sometimes, he didn’t come across as the most sensitive superintendent to his fellow employees. But, he did want the best education possible for the students of the Pickens County Schools.
Dick Gettys was one of those true public servants, not the ones who spend their lives working toward bigger and better things for himself. In his work with Combined Utility Board and the Pickens County Schools, Gettys was a man who came to work everyday trying to do his best to make life better for the people he served.
Eeyore, you may have had a gruff exterior, but we did notice the great contribution you made to your city. And Easley is a better place because of the time you spent here.
Thanks for noticing us. You will be missed my friend.
Norman Cannada was a member of the staff of The Easley Progress from 1988-1994, serving as managing editor of both The Progress and The Liberty Monitor from 1989-1994. He and his wife, Debbie, now live in Charleston, WV.