By Michael D. Clark
The Cincinnati Enquirer
MADEIRA - Even an untimely death couldn't stop beloved Principal Roger Slagle from doing what he did while alive - bring people together.
As Monday's early morning sun lit up a dewy field behind Sellman Middle School, hundreds of students, parents, clergy and Madeira community leaders formed a giant circle with everyone grasping part of a long blue ribbon. Speakers described the 34-year-old father of two, whose wife, Heather, is expecting, as a dedicated educator whose loving heart extended far beyond his family circle.
"It was so powerful," said the Rev. Tom Sweets of the Madeira Silverwood Presbyterian Church, one of many religious officials from the Hamilton County community at the short school ceremony.
"This was an exceptionally young and vivacious person. This was a guy who hugged kids and called them by name. He would toss footballs with them on the playground during recess.
"The community has pulled together very strongly."
The gathering, inspired by a similar idea of Slagle's to comfort his students in the wake of America's Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, left many students and parents in tears, but grateful to have the chance to publicly mourn and celebrate together the educator's life.
"Everybody thought they were his best friend because that was how he made you feel," said Sellman parent Susan Kucewicz as she dabbed her eyes. She said that when her family moved to Madeira, Slagle was the first school official to greet her son Andy, now a sixth-grader at Sellman.
"My son still describes Roger as his first best friend in Madeira."
Slagle, a graduate of Beechwood High School, died Saturday of an apparent heart attack while playing in a church flag football game. The Madeira school veteran had worked at all three of the district's schools, lived with his family in Fort Mitchell and was a member of Fort Mitchell Baptist Church.
Sellman school hallways were quiet Monday. Some teachers took their students outside to sit and reminisce about their principal's playfulness and good nature. Some youngsters smiled when recalling Slagle, others sniffed back tears; all the while school counselors stood at the ready for anyone needing to talk.
"When the kids first came to school they were in a daze," said Madeira school psychologist Rosemary Becher. "But the ceremony really helped. Now the kids are working it out."
Stephen Kramer, Madeira superintendent, announced Monday that all Madeira schools would be closed on Wednesday to allow students, parents, staffers and community residents to attend Slagle's funeral.
Slagle's funeral will be 3:30 p.m. Wednesday at Fort Mitchell Baptist Church with visitation starting at 12:30 p.m. and continuing until the service. Donations may be made to the Roger Slagle Children's Educational Fund at any Fifth Third Bank branch.
TOP LOCAL STORIES
Proposal: Combine levy votes
Three settle with diocese
Fairfax can't raise money to buy flood-prone homes
'Miracle child' returns to school
Fire union awaits action on fired chaplain
Pulfer: Prayers, power tools lay Father Jim's foundation
Howard: Good Things Happening
Korte: Hypocrisy abounds when council votes
Mideast solutions explored
CPS approves designs for Withrow, Millvale
Madeira school remembers principal
United Way recruits women
Revised condo design gets OK
Forum puts boycott front and center
AROUND THE REGION
School, hospital ready to team up
Monroe sloppy with money
In The Schools
UC's Anthony Grasha a top psychologist
Orville Morgan, church founder
Bioterror bill alters access
Court asked to consider drunken driving evidence
Ohio Moments: Tireless researcher made history with book
Plucky kids get ready for first strings concert
Officials: Dog thieves likely not in ring
Lewis and Clark papers displayed
Boys & Girls clubs get $100K
Around the Commonwealth
Patton orders fiscal review