As the community gathers to honor Mr. D., we want to share one of our favorite memories with him. On November 4, 2021, the school board decided to honor Mr. Denison, Sr. by naming the road on campus between the preschool and district transportation building after him. Fred Denison, Sr. has left a wonderful legacy at Southside and we are so grateful for the reminder of it on our campus.
Southside School District Honors Long-Time Educator, Fred Denison, Sr.
“If there was ever one person who incorporates all of the characteristics of a ‘true’ Southerner, it’s Fred Denison, Sr. His lifetime service to the district is unmatched and second to none,” says Brad Cummings, School Board President.
I challenge you to find someone who thinks differently.
Fred Denison, Sr. was a part of the very first class of full time first graders at Southside school. Upon graduation, he came back to teach for 38 years. Our school prides itself on the fact that our walls hold numerous teachers who put the students’ needs first, and Mr. Denison, Sr. is a treasure among them. He instilled more than Math or Shop knowledge, but values that helped form students into who they would become.
“Nobody compares to D Sr. He saw the good in us all, even when other adults didn’t. He made me feel important and special. Which is a hard thing to do for any teenager. I have so many memories of him, but I will always remember that feeling of never wanting to let him down,” Kelley Ward states.
Darin Martin remembers, “He never gave up on me even when I wanted to give up on myself.”
Multiple people vividly remember the special nicknames Mr. Denison, Sr. appointed them. “Squares, Lil’ Lydia, Willy Walley, Bruiser Brodie, Spaghetti-O Ravioli-O, Bullyards, Slayden, Lampshade, Barbed Wire, Slab, and Googenhammer,” are just a few of the many. The nicknames reflected Mr. Denison, Sr.’s sense of humor and care for his students.
Mr. Denison, Sr. had a colorful way with words,” Amber Welsh remembers. Colorful words were not the only thing Mr. Denison, Sr. graced his students with. “I also loved all his colored polyester Levi’s,” Amber Foree added.
Stories of Mr. Denison, Sr’s time as a teacher continue to roll in, but a notable memory comes from his son Fred Denison. “My dad loved teaching industrial arts. He would spend countless hours after school helping kids finish their projects (gun cabinets, crossbows, cedar chests). I had him as my general shop teacher in 9th grade, and my best friend and I were given the electrical board to work on. We had to make connections for a doorbell, a two-way light switch, and such. So I played a prank on my buddy and he got shocked pretty good. So my friend decided to get even the next day and I got shocked back as well as popping a couple of light bulbs. My dad decided to get us both by making us do the hand woodworking project, which was very time consuming and you could not use any power tools. Well I started laughing. He asked me what was so funny, and I told him that I had already done that project. So he laughed and said you haven't done this one - leatherworks. I had to take a strap of leather and make these intricate cuts and indentations all over it in order to complete it. It took me the better part of 6 weeks of classes to complete it, and I found out later that I was the only one to have to do that project in the last 5-10 years. He always got the last laugh, and he loved to tell jokes and laugh. I wound up taking him for woodworking my senior year and I made a 6 foot corner shelf that my mom still uses today. A lot of us that took his classes still have the cutting boards, hammers, and other stuff that we made there and still have the memories of the fun times we had in his classes.”
Mr. Denison, Sr. did not let retirement from teaching derail his commitment to continuing education for students. He may not have “chalk covered hands and pants” anymore, but he spent 16 years on the school board. Vonda Halford believes that “Mr. D was definitely our Board Historian. And while this was not an "official" elected position, he was (and will continue to be) our "go to" man! When I joined the Southside School Board some dozen years ago, Mr. D quickly became my mentor! The things he taught me range from the importance of having a top-notch Pre-School, to the need to maintain a good fleet of school buses and even more so, great bus drivers who care! Mr. D has been a Southerner longer than anyone I know! From being a student, to educator, to board member, he brought a unique perspective to our Board and he will be greatly missed. I know retiring from the Board is bittersweet for him, but what a positive impact he has had on our District!”
The biggest contributing factor of why so many people have fond memories of their time with Mr. Denison, Sr. is his authenticity and commitment to people. Tom Martin states, “There is nothing Mr. D wouldn’t do to help a student or former student. He helped me build kitchen cabinets in our first home and wouldn’t accept anything but thanks. One of the best humans I’ve had the pleasure to call friend.”
Upon his retirement from the board, the administrators and board members wanted to honor Mr. Denison, Sr. by naming the road on campus between the preschool and district transportation building after him. Superintendent Dion Stevens believes, “This specific road is the obvious choice to be named after him because of the importance he puts on the Pre-School, and his desire to keep our kids safe with quality transportation for our students.”
Mr. Denison, Sr.’s career as a Southside educator may be drawing to a close, but he will forever continue his role as mentor, friend, family member, and caring human being.