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Robert Rasche, hero school manPosted Tuesday, November 29, 2011, at 3:30 PM
To quote Gray Ridge High graduate Ann Rice (Simone), Robert L. Rasche was more than just a great educator.
"He was a God-send," credits Ann, now a neighbor down in Murfreesboro, Tenn.
Like Ann, I would not have graduated from high school, if not for the patience and tender/tough intuitive guidance of the late Superintendent of Schools Mr. Rasche, who died the year following my graduation in 1962.
Ann's own words best describe his impact on her formative years: "I got married at age 14, and fell behind my class. When Mr. Rasche sought me out, and encouraged me to do make-up summer studies, he took it upon himself, without pay, to guide and grade my work, in order that I could catch back up and graduate with my class of 1960.
"He was a giant of a man in our lives," she confirmed. "I thank God daily for have Mr. Rasche at a critical time of my youth. I didn't know it at the time, Mr. Rasche came to our home to grade my papers while experiencing serious health problems.
Ann's life back in the Bootheel 1950s-era was that of a sharecropper's daughter.
"We were sharecroppers, but proud people, a loving family of eight siblings who have stayed close all these years, despite living in different states. But we all congregate back in the Bootheel several times each year...
"Ours is simply a story of a poor farm family, having little else but each other..."
She recalls living on the Trailback Plantation.
"We lived in a 'shotgun' house, and for the first time, we kids started hiring out as field hands," Ann shared. "The plantation had a competent nice 'straw boss foreman' named Beck Maddox.
"We lived in a row of tenant houses, with mostly black neighbors, except for the white Dykes family."
The Dykes brothers, Jimmy, and twins Roy and Troy, attended Gray Ridge High with Ann and I before it became Richland.
She recalls a "terrifying flood" childhood experience while living at the Trailback Plantation in Stoddard County.
"Water was every where, something like Noah's Biblical experience. Stumps were starting to come loose from the side of our roads. The flood water was making gurgling sounds, like where Little River empties into the Mississippi River.
"It was high drama, when our brothers found a plank to place above a big chasm with water that bubbled like a witches brew, complete with vapors rising when the warm rain met the cold earth and air. It was fascinating...
"We began dancing our way to spring, even daring one another to dance across that plank above the swirling water."
But then, someone missed Judy Rice, the youngest child who resides today in Sikeston, Mo.
"(younger brother) Jimmy let out a yelp: 'WHERE'S JUDY!!??"
"Brother Larry began to stammer and point, as sister Peggy started to cry...'There she is!!'...Judy's little brown head appeared, and then disappeared, covered by debris in the swirling froth and foam."
Judy had fallen into swirling cauldron, and was bobbing up and down.
"I paced back and forth, scared to death" Ann recalled. "because none of us could swim. But then, I recall some adult telling me that a drowning person goes up and down three times before they're dead. Judy was still alive.
"I had to reach her! So I laid down careful on my stomach, inching out on the plank, and sure enough up she bobbed, her hair swirling in the churning water. That hair saved her, for I grabbed two big handfuls, tugging with all my young might, never mind that big tufts of hair came out in my hands. Then brother Jimmy came around, grabbed on, and up she came!!"
At age eight, sharecroppers' daughter Ann had gathered her wits, and her courage to snatch her baby sister from certain death in the churning muddy flood waters.
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Retired recently as world-traveled newspaperman, career made possible by late Superintendent of Schools Robert L. Rasche, about to have Bootheel life book published by SEMO State University. Loved farm life, but knew at five years old, didn't want to be a "cotton picker" when I grew up.
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