GREENFIELD — When it comes to Steve Blue — a longtime local educator who died on Tuesday, Sept. 14, at age 76 — Stephen Burt has no problem coming up with stories illustrating what a kind and compassionate person his friend was.
Blue’s longtime secretary, Anita Workman, feels the same way. She laughed through tears this week recalling what an amazing friend and educator her former boss was.
Both Burt and Workman agree that Blue was a great gift to the community he served for nearly 40 years.
He filled many roles in the Greenfield-Central school system, including principal at Weston and Harris elementary schools. For a two-year period, he served as assistant superintendent while working as principal at Harris.
“He was just a great principal, and he always thought of the students first. He cared so much about the kids,” said Workman, the longtime secretary at Harris, who worked for Blue for 13 years.
“He didn’t care where you came from in life, rich or poor, or anything like that. He cared about the kids. He always tried to instill in them good character and respect,” she said.
Burt remembers Blue as a man who went the extra mile to make his students feel special.
“I remember one of the times we were going to go golfing after school, and he told me one of his students had asked to golf with him. So we picked this sixth-grader up and he went golfing with us. I always thought that was a pretty neat thing for him to do,” Burt said.
Blue was known for his love of golf, and could often be found hitting the links out at the Greenfield Country Club, later known as Hawk’s Tail of Greenfield.
“There was one day Steve was going to play golf, but he knew I was going to be putting up a fence in at my house. Rather than golfing, he came over and helped me build the fence. That’s the kind of giving person he was,” Burt recalled.
Blue also had a great sense of humor, Burt said. “He was a good joke teller and always had humor and laughter for everybody, but never at anybody’s expense,” he said.
Workman recalled how Blue would sometimes dress up in a silly outfit and walk the halls at Harris, stopping by classrooms to read the students the book “The Principal’s New Clothes.”
He dressed just like the lead character, which was quite a sight, Workman said.
“The kids thought he looked goofy, and he loved doing that. He’d break out in the character several times over the years, whenever he felt like the kids might need a little boost,” Workman said.
“He could be a goofball, but he was a neat, neat man. I will miss him very much.”
Workman said Blue was an engaging principal — one who always loved going around to classrooms and visiting with students.
If his school ever received less than an excellent rating, however, he was hyper-focused, researching the best ways to help teachers improve students’ scores.
“If he felt like we needed to do better, he would get right to it. He would find these new projects, new ways for the teacher to work on these things to get the students’ scores up. He would research a lot on what he could do to accomplish that goal and he accomplished it. He got the job done,” Workman said.
It was that mix of goofball and go-getter that made Blue so likable and so unique, she said.
One of Workman’s favorite memories is the time she had a pan of apple crisp set aside to take to a co-worker’s family funeral, and Blue snacked on it throughout the day, not realizing its intended purpose.
“We always gave him a hard time about that,” she said, chuckling at the memory.
Harold Olin, superintendent of Greenfield-Central schools, was a teenager when he first met the man who would become a trusted colleague. It was Olin who stepped in as principal at Harris when Blue retired in 2003. He knew he had big shoes to fill.
“Steve had created a strong foundation for the kid-centered learning that was going on in the building. I had the benefit of some of the teachers he hired and the structure he had put into place,” Olin said. “He did a really nice job for our corporation.”
Burt, who was also a longtime principal in the Greenfield-Central schools, said he was lucky to have a colleague like Blue, who he counted as a friend for many years.
“We had a good exchange of information and good brainstorming together. He was always willing to share his thoughts and ideas,” he said. The two men would often find themselves discussing the jobs they loved while playing a round or two at the local golf course. Blue’s love for his staff and students always shined through, Burt said.
“I appreciate and respect what he did in education. He had a heart of gold,” he said.