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By JOSHUA COFFMAN
VINE GROVE — As Hardin County Schools resume today after summer break, it does so without a beloved life-long educator and community servant.
Ray Story, who worked in the county school system for 38 years, including more than two decades as North Hardin High School’s principal, died Monday. He was 69.
Story will be remembered as an advocate and mentor for students and teachers alike.
Former coworkers, some of whom also were former students, say he was fair to both sides in disputes and worked for mutual solutions.
He made tough decisions and stuck to his guns, but he smiled often and liked to sing.
“When I heard the news today, it just broke my heart,” said Nannette Johnston, superintendent of Hardin County Schools. Story was her principal when she graduated from North Hardin in 1977.
Johnston delayed attending college directly after high school, but she remained in the corridors, working as a teacher’s aide for the school band.
It was Ray Story who encouraged her to pursue a career in education and urged her parents to see that she pursued the career.
“He told them I was born to be a teacher and one day that was exactly what I would be,” she recalled.
He arranged for Johnston to remain an aide as she took courses at Elizabethtown Community College.
Story began his teaching career at Vine Grove Elementary School in 1960 before moving to a classroom at North Hardin in 1963. Two years later, he was named assistant principal, serving under James T. Alton, his mentor.
“If it hadn’t been for him, I wouldn’t have made it to this point in my life,” Story told The News-Enterprise upon his retirement in 1998. “He saw more in me than I saw in myself.”
Story took over as principal in 1967 and remained there until 1988, when he was named associate superintendent of personnel for the county school system.
Alton’s daughter, Louise Eubanks, worked as an assistant principal under Story. She said her father, who grew up in a large family in tough times, saw a piece of himself in his protog.
“I think Daddy had kind of groomed him for a while to be assistant principal,” Eubanks said.
The relationship between the two men transcended the schoolhouse, as the two families vacationed and socialized together.
And for Story as well, the relationship between principal and teacher often meant more than rulers and chalkboards.
He hired Ron Bevars as an assistant basketball coach in 1971 and named him head coach in 1975.
The two were honored together in January as the gymnasium was named after Bevars and the football stadium was christened with Story’s name.
“When he left (North Hardin), he wasn’t my boss anymore, he was my friend,” Bevars said. “He was a good person and that’s just about the best thing you can say about someone.”
Colleagues say Story often whistled or broke out in song as he patrolled the North Hardin hallways. Those who worked with him said he was stern and sought to keep order.
“He wanted everyone to reach their potential,” said Susan Cross, a former English teacher and librarian who Story hired after teaching English to her during sophomore year.
Eubanks recalled a time when a substitute let a class full of students out 10 minutes before the bell.
“He could move fast,” she said, retelling how Story herded students back into the band room before other teachers disrupted things further by letting their classes out.
“Not everybody liked him,” Eubanks said of the orderly principal. “But he knew that, and it didn’t bother him a whole lot.”
But for each person he left scowling, there were many more he left smiling.
His son, Mark Story, remembered a family trip to Bakersfield, Calif., where the family knew nobody — until a chance occurrence in a Burger King parking lot. Ray Story bumped into an old friend.
“He just knew everybody,” the younger Story said.
And he was always there for his family, helping Mark when he moved from home by moving furniture or helping deal with a broken-down car.
“He just had a way of showing up when I needed him,” he said.
He did the same for the community at large.
“He fought very hard for North Hardin to have equal footing with all the other schools,” Cross said.
“It’s a sad day,” Bevars lamented.
Story was a member of Vine Grove Baptist Church and Radcliff Rotary Club as well as the national and state associations of secondary school principals and athletic directors.
While principal at North Hardin, he served on the Kentucky High School Athletic Association’s governing board. After retirement, he continued to serve the community as a member of the Hardin County Library Board.
Honors he received included the Youth Service and Vocational award from the Radcliff Rotary Club, the Golden Educational and Presidential awards from the Radcliff Chamber of Commerce and the Community Service Award from the North Hardin Lions Club.
Other survivors include his wife, Sue, and son, Tim. Coffey & Chism Funeral Home in Vine Grove is handling funeral arrangements which were incomplete Monday evening.
Joshua Coffman can be reached at (270) 505-1740.