Part roast, part career eulogy, a retirement reception Thursday for Columbia County school Superintendent Charles Nagle was mostly in fun.
Coworkers, friends, family members and community leaders gathered at Be My Guest Catering and Events in Evans for a sendoff session for Nagle, who steps down this summer after serving as superintendent since 2007.
“He hates attention,” said his successor, Deputy Superintendent Sandra Carraway. “But he’s going to get it today.”
A succession of speakers, ranging from school board members to Nagle’s three daughters, offered respectful comments about his 37 years in education and took gentle digs at his professional and personal life.
Regina Buccafusco recalled that she became board chairwoman the same year Nagle replaced Tommy Price and said at first they often were at odds – but learned to work together.
“It was bigger than a marriage,” Buccafusco said. “We were stuck with each other. We started out as colleagues, but along the way we became friends.”
The board’s longest-serving member, Roxanne Whitaker, read the acrostic she’d created using the name “Charlie,” with the letters representing such character traits as “compassion,” “humility” and “integrity.”
She also noted Nagle’s penchant for outspokenness. “If you don’t want Charlie to tell you the truth, don’t ask him,” she said.
A humorous highlight came from Nagle’s daughters, who called themselves “his three greatest fans” and joined forces to share what it meant to attend schools where their father worked. That included such indignities as strictly following dress codes, having a future husband sent to in-school suspension and knowing someone else always would be named student of the month.
“When your dad is a teacher, coach, athletic director, principal and superintendent, you know he is the smartest, toughest, fairest, loving man that has molded you into being the best you can be,” said daughter Lindsey Albright.
In addition to the praise and gentle ribbing, Nagle received a crystal Coca-Cola bottle from Gwen Phillips of longtime school sponsor Augusta Coca-Cola, proclamations from the state Senate and House, and a gift from the system’s principals.
He also received a new harmonica from Blue Ridge Elementary teacher and Lakeside High soccer coach Dave Morgan, who performed on the harmonica before coaxing Nagle to join him to play.
Nagle joked that he took up the harmonica as a Boy Scout, but learned only one song – the theme from Bonanza. He’d really wanted to play saxophone and once tried out for his high school’s band director for a part in the marching band.
“I didn’t even get through half an audition before he asked, ‘Don’t you like sports?’ ” Nagle said.
Thanking the gathered friends and colleagues, Nagle paraphrased poet Robert Frost.
“Some people are willing to work; some people are willing to let them,” he deadpanned. “I’m ready to let them.”
“I’m stronger for my relationship with every one of you,” he said. “I hope this community knows how much I love them, and how much it’s been part of our lives.”