By Jennifer Kotila
HOWARD LAKE, MN Fred Nus, the superintendent for Howard Lake-Waverly Schools from 1964 to 1980, passed away Aug. 29.
A memorial service will take place Saturday, Sept. 29 at 1:30 p.m. at Swanson-Peterson Funeral Home of Howard Lake, with a time of fellowship immediately following the service at the middle school cafeteria in Howard Lake.
Those who worked with Nus when he was the superintendent for the Howard Lake-Waverly School District remember him being a laid back, calm person who wanted the very best education for his students.
“He didn’t get too excited, regardless of the situation at the time,” recalled John Scheveck, who was the high school principal when Nus was superintendent. “His mind-set was, ‘OK, we’ll take care of it the best we can.’”
Early in his tenure as superintendent, the country schools were closing, and Howard Lake and Waverly were coming together as one district.
Curt Levang was hired to be the elementary and middle school principal in 1970. He shared that sentiment with Scheveck’s assessment of Nus.
“You didn’t have to worry about him coming down on you for something,” Levang said.
Nus placed Levang in charge of overseeing the consolidation of Howard Lake and Waverly in 1971 and ‘72.
“He turned it over to me, and expected me to take care of it,” Levang recalled. “That’s the kind of superintendent he was, he didn’t get in the way of getting things done.”
Although he checked everything over, and kept informed with what was happening, Nus expected Levang to be capable of completing the project with little supervision.
“He told me I could get all the glory, but also take the bumps if something didn’t work out,” Levang said.
Being a principal at HL-W was the first experience Levang had in administration, and he noted he was very lucky to have Nus as the superintendent when he started.
“Superintendents have a lot of garbage coming down on them,” Levang said. “[Nus] could take it and leave it on the desk, and not take it personally. I learned a lot about that from him.”
Scheveck remembers Nus as being an outstanding educator, who wanted the best education possible for the children attending HL-W, despite the financial constraints the district faced.
When Nus didn’t have the answer, he was willing to ask for help, even though that can be difficult sometimes, Levang noted.
“And he was always willing to listen to ideas, and was able to express what would work, and what would not work,” Levang added.
A few years ago, a number of long-time teachers who worked under Nus retired, Dave Metcalf being one of them. In the article about the retirements, Metcalf summed up Nus well as a superintendent.
“Nus, as superintendent, was generous to a fault. He wanted so very much for our students, and never wished to deny them any educational opportunity,” Metcalf said. “Under his guidance, some exceptional curricular, co-curricular, and extracurricular programs were established, encouraged, and nurtured until they flourished.”
“Though the constraints of controlling the purse strings required that he make tough decisions, Nus always did so with a ‘students first, education foremost’ attitude,” he added.
Although Nus put students and education foremost, he also liked to joke, remembers Judy Salonek. “Mr. Nus was a gentle giant with a big smile,” Salonek said. She was his last secretary, working for him for two years before his retirement.
“He didn’t mind being the brunt of his own jokes, and for years he was compiling stories of his life experiences where something usually went wrong and it was always humorous,” Salonek said.
For instance, one year Nus had ordered a number of desk tops to replace those that were worn out they were all left-handed.
Nus brought one of the desk tops with him to a meeting of fellow superintendents to see if any other schools could use them, who all had a good laugh over it.
“There were few takers for the desk tops, but a new award was born,” Salonek said.
The superintendents would vote on which of their peers had made the biggest blunder, that name was engraved on a plate attached to the desk top, and the superintendent had the privilege of displaying the plaque for the year.
“Well, needless to say, Mr. Nus came back with the award more years than not, and he displayed it proudly in his office,” Salonek said.
There was a Mr. Ness who was superintendent at Dassel-Cokato School when Nus was superintendent at HL-W. Once in awhile, Nus would get Ness’ mail.
“One day he came out of his office and he said, ‘I don’t mind them misspelling my name but this is the worst one yet.’ The letter was addressed to Mr. Fred Nuts,” Salonek said.
Two years before his retirement, community education was started in the district, and Margaret Marketon was hired as the director.
However, what she remembers is coming to help clean up after the fire that struck the school in 1975, when she was in college.
“That was really a big task, and Nus did a lot of work accommodating students and coordinating the Humphrey Hall addition,” Marketon recalled.
Following Nus’ retirement, he began substitute teaching at both the Howard Lake-Waverly-Winsted and Dassel-Cokato schools, which he did until 1998.
Many of the students who had him as a substitute teacher may recall how happy they were when they walked into a classroom Nus was teaching.
They knew they were in for a treat, because as soon as their school work was completed, Nus would round out the day by telling them an interesting tale.
“Mr. Nus had a great rapport with student and staff, and I believe his Laker Spirit echoes throughout the halls, even today,” Salonek said.