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For teaching and coaching, starting venerable traditions, bringing honor to the school through career success and civic engagement, even birthing future Bearcat generations, the Hendersonville High School Alumni Association honored its 2012 Hall of Fame inductees on Friday night.
The honors began with the induction ceremony at the high school auditorium, recognition on the 50-yard-line during halftime of the Bearcat's homecoming victory over Mitchell and ended with a reception at the Cedars.
In remarks at the induction ceremony, nominators recounted the honorees' experience at the school and praised their contributions, drawing laughter from an appreciative audience of the Bearcat family with funny anecdotes.
Paul Goebel, a 1963 graduate of Furman University, came to Hendersonville High School in 1987 and almost immediately added to its list of achievements. He taught social studies and history and served as basketball and tennis coach and had two children at HHS, Paul and Mary O, who won state championships in tennis and volleyball. He left a lasting mark on HHS, said presenter Walt Cottingham, by starting the tradition of homecoming decoration, the senior politics and social studies symposium and the award-winning mock trial team.
Quoting Kaiser Wilhem II, Goebel said, "I am proud to call this place my second home and to be a member of this royal house."
Like all new teachers, Goebel started with "the hope, belief and trust that you can make a difference in someone's life," he said. "What I found here was an amazing student body, engaged and intelligent, a dedicated faculty and an administration that wanted you to succeed, expected you to succeed and did everything possible help you succeed."
The first time he ever attended the long and emotional graduate day Move Up ceremony, he watched as Skip Gibson led three special needs students to the platform and delivered a combination speech, lecture and pep talk about the graduates. Minutes later, he realized tears were streaming down his face. "I said, Paul, what are you doing, it's 8:30 in the morning and you're crying," he said. "Then I looked around at the other teachers, and they were all crying, and at the seniors and they were all crying."
When Kathy Streeter enrolled at Hendersonville High School, "the students thought she was a foreign exchange student," said Sally Moffitt. "She spoke a different language. She spoke 'New Jersey.'"
Kathy Morgan, who went on to graduate from Elon College and earn a masters degree from Appalachian State University, spent her career at her alma mater as a phys-ed teacher and coach. She thanked the parents, including one who volunteered early mornings to help her teach HHS students swimming; colleagues, "my bosses who gave me opportunities and the students, who kept me in perspective and gave me a few challenges."
Robert Cunningham, of the class of '56, was known as Bob or Bobby to many in the audience but known by Brad Cunningham as Dad. Cunningham, who died in 1996, earned business and law degrees from the University of South Carolina, served in the Navy and worked as a prominent lawyer in Jacksonville, Fla., before bringing his family home to Hendersonville, in 1973, and becoming an executive with the Olin Corporation. Active in charitable affairs, Cunningham would disappear on Christmas Eve, on a mission, his children learned later, to deliver a box of toys to a children's shelter, said Brad.
Active in Pardee Hospital fundraising, and the Daniel Boone Council of the Boy Scouts, the Rotary Club and other organizations, Cunningham received the Order of the Long Leaf Pine, North Carolina's highest civilian award.
Gene Norman, one of Hendersonville High School's best all-round athletes, has been involved in sports his entire life, said his son, Mike Norman, himself a retired teacher and coach at Hendersonville middle and high schools.
As city recreation director, Norman partnered with HHS to allow swim classes to be taught at Patton Pool. Where Bearcat teams went, the Norman family followed, "from Murphy to Durham," Mike Norman said. "There is not any breaks in Dad's support for Hendersonville High School."
An eighth generation native of Henderson County, Jon Harvey Laughter, '57, grew up in the Kanuga area and walked to Rosa Edwards and later HHS, said his friend Tom Orr, who has known him more than 70 years.
A graduate in civil engineering from N.C. State University, Air Force officer in the Vietnam War and engineer of many well-known subdivisions, golf courses and roads in his hometown, Laughter and his wife, Linda Connell Laughter, have four daughters, Stephanie, Cindy, Jennifer and Jessica — Bearcats all. He served 12 years on the Hendersonville School Board and one term on the City Council.
"Jon does not seek the spotlight," Orr said. "Rather he fills the role of support. He gets the job done. More than anything else, he is a man of character and integrity."
Cecile "Teal" Wilkins Sims, the daughter of a 1908 graduate of HHS, is the second link of a 104-year family chain of HHS graduates that most recently included her grandson, Sam, a 2012 graduate, HHS student body president and current freshman at UNC-Chapel Hill. Sims, who graduated in 1943, is married to B. Sims, a previous Hall of Fame inductee and dyed-in-the-red Bearcat fan.
"She's probably been to more football and basketball games than anybody," said presenter Grace Gaillard.
She and her husband, George, had five children: George, Jim, Bobby (the current HHS principal), Binky and Wendy Wilkins Bailey, who died of cancer in 1999. She has six grandchildren who are Bearcats.
"I was in the band five years as well as other clubs," Mrs. Sims said. "However, the best thing I have ever done for Hendersonville High School is give them the great principal they have now."