The Paper photo by Karen Zach
Steve Gentry has 37 years of teaching under his belt.
The Paper photo by Karen Zach Steve Gentry has 37 years of teaching under his belt.
My guest this week was the first of three sons to be born in a hospital (Evansville) near their country home. A sister arrived later. His father was a general manager over eight counties for a feed company. In high school (Booneville), a teacher influenced him to get involved in reading current events, an activity important to his life yet today. Even considers himself a “social studies nut!” Certainly, we have that in common!
Also during high school, he was heavily involved in music, playing an alto sax during concert band and drums in dance band. After high school, he headed to ISU. His educational time frame produced an oddity. Staying in the exact place, he attended Indiana State Teachers’ College, Indiana State College and Indiana State University, due to name changes.
Then, going to college was reasonably inexpensive at $5/credit hour plus he had a part time job in a Sub way, but not the places called that today: “It was more of a greasy spoon!” Completing his education, it was to Crawfordsville to teach. Glad he chose Montgomery County.
He was in his 37th year at CHS when he retired Dec. 22, 1999, nine days before he switched to another very important job. More on that later!
Also, he remembers the first time he visited Washington D.C. after a Puerto Rican terrorist attack. Visiting Congress was extremely difficult that year because of tight security. He would take many trips there and other places with students. In 1970, he and his wife accompanied 78 students overseas. This was when Eastern Germany was still there. Going East to West was like night and day. Scary, but more frustrating was a 15-year-old Jewish boy with them who constantly lost things. Get this! The owner of five clothing stores, in Delaware, our teacher had to keep a hawk-eye on the boy at all times.
Teaching at CHS was a wonderful experience, but he remembered sadly the ’84 shooting. He and Mr. Lebedeff both had half the boys, about 30 each. Mr. L. was the unlucky one to have the boys in his group. I interviewed Mr. Lebedeff not long before he passed away, and that was the first thing that he discussed with me. It was devastating, yet he and today’s guest both insisted that, “97 percent of our kids were great!”
Overall, they had lots of fun! One of those incidents involved Mr. L., who could get pretty hyper at times. One lunch hour, he was going strong about something. “Alex, you’re spitting your lunch all over me!” Everyone laughed, including Alex.
Our guest thoroughly enjoyed having speakers for his students. “If you can’t get the kids to go to the mountain, bring the mountain to them,” was one of his strong philosophies. His grin was wide when he told me that each time Senator Birch Bayh visited, he’d remember and always ask, “How ya’ doin’, Steve?” That in itself was awesome. Yet when Steve attended a 4th of July parade in LaPorte where his brother was a music teacher, he was waiting on the side of the road with his sister-in-law, watching for the band, and Bayh stuck his head out of his car window, waving and commenting, “How ya’ doin’ Steve?” Impressive!
He is quite proud of his students, including his minister at First Assembly, Rob Hughes. “I can’t go far that I don’t see a former student. If I don’t recognize someone, I at least know what era I had the person in class, because I was Mr. Gentry in the 60s and 70s; Mr. G in the 70s and 80s and by the time the 90s rolled in, I was plain ‘ol G!
On July 22nd, 50 years ago, Steve Gentry married Caroline Kostanzer, her family members being one of Montgomery’s most renowned early business owners. She worked briefly at RRD, as well as Bell Telephone, Saga Foods and was the New Hope Church receptionist. Caroline, although still able to get around reasonably well, has MS, so Steve is happily her care giver.
The Gentrys have one daughter, Katy. What a sweetie. Katy, is married to Greg McCord, a middle school teacher, and she is a Special Education teacher. If you remember Katy, you’ll recall her in many area plays. Hasn’t changed as she is ready to play the older of three Judy Garlands in Judy Garland: Beyond the Rainbow to be presented in the Center for the Performing Arts in Carmel from April 28 to May 14. Sounds fabulous. They live in Fishers, and are fostering a little boy, hoping to adopt him.
So, I told you there was more to come regarding a job Steve had, and most of my readers will know, anyway, that he retired from CHS to become mayor of Crawfordsville. Well prepared for the job, not only teaching Government, but serving the community as a City Councilman for over 20 years, he was however bombarded with problems immediately, having the Masonic Temple shift, for one. Two problems solved when the current city police station (which, Steve noted is one solid-rock building) was purchased and remodeled. The dirt from the police station was used to repack the hole of the Masonic Temple.
Other impacting happenings while he was mayor involved working out that the library stayed downtown; keeping Random House; finishing the lovely Park & Rec building; implementing preparedness after 9/11; and then the normal works of a mayor: throwing out the first pitch; various ribbon-cuttings; attending League of Women and other meetings, plus much more. Mainly, it was a wonderful experience, but sad times included losing Deputy Sam Dickerson, Russ Brown, board members, and witnessing a large fire.
For several years, he was on the board of the Red Cross; ASI and has been treasurer of their church for quite some time. His one long-time hobby has been refurbishing furniture which he dearly enjoys doing. Thanks so much, Steve, for allowing me the ATC interview. Enjoyed it greatly and glad you chose C’ville!
Karen Zach is the editor of Montgomery Memories, our monthly magazine all about Montgomery County. Her column, Around the County, appears each Thursday in The Paper of Montgomery County.