FHS to honor alumni Oct. 7Graduates to be enshrined on Wall of Honor are Fred Behner, Mark Shafer and George Estle
It’s that time of year again, and the new Fairfield High School Wall of Honor inductees will be revered at 9 a.m. Oct. 7 during a special assembly in the FHS Auditorium. This year marks the second that the Wall of Honor will coincide with homecoming week.
The assembly, which brings together community members, FHS students, faculty and staff, will be preceded by breakfast for Wall of Honor inductees, selection committee members, school administrators and others.
Former FHS English teacher and Iowa Teacher of the Year Scott Slechta crafted a poetic tribute to each honoree. Former FHS secretary and Wall of Honor committee member Judith Ward will orate it.
“I think it’s a great opportunity for our students to get to listen to people who have gone through FHS and have been successful,” FHS principal Brian Stone said of the assembly. “It just shows them that it really can happen, although sometimes it can be challenging for students to see that. This is a good way for them to see people becoming extremely successful [after] walking out of the doors of FHS.”
The FHS Wall of Honor was established to recognize distinguished graduates, and it is funded through private donations.
This year’s inductees include Mark Shafer, George Estle and Fred Behner. Behner will be honored posthumously, and retired FHS teacher and coach Ron Hunerdosse will speak on his behalf.
“He was such a generous person giving of his time, and he didn’t expect anything in return — that’s the kind of person he was,” Hunerdosse said of Behner. “He was very, very proud of his community, but he was even more proud of the school that he graduated from.”
Hunerdosse spoke about Behner’s commitment to the community, as a funeral home director, but also as a community builder.
“He was in all kinds of service associations,” Hunerdosse said, adding that Behner also enjoyed playing basketball and coaching others.
“He was well known for being one of the Popsicle board,” Hunerdosse said, adding that he would bring Popsicles to the neighborhood children who played ball at the park.
Hunerdosse said he had heard that Behner would have been a coach and a teacher if he wouldn’t have been needed at his father’s funeral home.
“He made a conscious decision to go to mortuary school; it takes a special person to do that,” Hunderdosse said. “This isn’t a big town, so you’re going to know 90 percent of the people filing through that funeral home for a loved one who died. He was grieving sometimes himself.”
Arnold Weirup, who worked alongside Behner for 23 years, had similar things to say about him.
“He did a lot of things for the community behind the scenes that he didn’t want to be recognized for,” Weirup said. “He was a great guy.”
Behner graduated from FHS in 1964. He graduated from Kirksville College in Missouri in 1967, Southeast Community College in 1968 and the Mortuary School of Science in Milwaukee, Wisconsin in 1970.
Throughout his life, Behner was a member of multiple organizations, such as the Fairfield Kiwanis Club, the Fairfield Rotary Club and the Greater Jefferson County Foundation to name a few.
Shafer and Estle will address the audience about their accomplishments, education and life experiences.
“I am thunderstruck!” Shafer said of his induction. “When Ralph Messerli called me, the first thing I thought was ‘it’s not April Fools Day, so I know it’s real.’”
Shafer, who graduated from FHS in 1967 and taught art and special education at the school from 1973 until 2008, said he couldn’t believe that he was selected for the honor. He said he had always assumed honorees had to have moved away and accomplished something really great.
Shafer is a sixth-generation resident of Jefferson County. He was the youngest charter member of the Fairfield Art Association in 1966, and his works have been included in such exhibits as the White House Bicentennial Exhibits of 1989; Iowa Artists “Art Across America” exhibit—VSA Gallery, Washington, D.C., in 1990 and the Touring Arts Team in 1991.
Shafer was also the Iowa presenter at the “Very Special Arts” International Fest in Brussels, Belgium in 1992.
“I think I’m the first teacher to ever receive it,” he said, commenting that he and his students designed the coat-of-arms on the FHS Wall of Honor around a decade ago.
However, Shafer’s wife Susan wasn’t surprised that he was selected for the honor.
“When I look at Mark, I see a man who has really overcome a lot of challenges,” she said. “It’s amazing that he’s done all of that; most of us haven’t accomplished that much. One of his secrets is that he’s kind to everybody.”
Estle graduated from FHS in 1969, and he is the brother of long-time Fairfield resident John Estle, who is now deceased.
George Estle is attributed with creating Iowa’s first psychiatric medical institution for children. He founded Tanager Place Mental Health Clinic in Cedar Rapids, where he has been the CEO for 33 years.
According to a press release from FHS, Estle has pioneered treatment models that created better access and outcomes for children with mental health and behavioral issues.
He is also credited with developing an expressive arts therapy program, Tanager Place research center, a hemophilia and diabetes summer camp and he founded a child and family policy center.
Among other honors and awards, Estle is the recipient of the Nonprofit Leadership Excellence Award by the Greater Cedar Rapids Community Foundation.
“My first reaction was surprise to hear from someone from Fairfield I hadn’t heard from for many years,” Estle said. “I’m incredibly honored. I’ve been recognized and honored in other situations, but to be recognized by your hometown in the school system where I started from kindergarten through high school [was special]. I think John nominated me. I wasn’t aware of the program, but I think John thought I should be honored for the things that I have done, but I never thought I would be selected for this honor; I was pretty shocked.”
“One of the great thing about the inductees is that most of them continue their involvement with the community,” Stone said. “This is another great thing for students to see.”
For more information about the Wall of Honor assembly or to donate, contact FHS at 472-2059.