When Lee Anne Cullen-Rudolph thinks of Jim Hale, she remembers a person who was larger than life.
“He had a presence,” she said. “He was an enthusiastic educator. He felt that it was a great privilege as educators to work with the future generations. His main focus was always, always the children.”
Hale, former principal of Walter Duggan Consolidated School, passed away last week after a battle with cancer leaving his beloved hometown of Westville and the education community mourning the loss.
Cullen-Rudolph said over the course of the year she would come to recognize the faces of the children in the school. But Hale knew not only the faces, but the names and took time to interact with the kids whenever possible.
“He was where the children were,” she said. “He was connected in a positive way.”
He also was a principal who showed great respect and care for the employees under him, she said. She worked with him at both Thorburn Consolidated and Walter Duggan Consolidated for years.
“Jim had a gift to sift through what could wait so we could focus on the children in front of us,” she said. “He was excellent at that.”
He knew a teacher’s main job was to help students and he did everything to remove the other obstacles from their path.
“He had a phrase here that he used that endeared him to all of us,” she recalls. “He said, ‘I have the easiest job of anybody in this building. You are the ones that are in front of the students. You are the ones that have the impact.’ He acknowledged and he respected the role of the teachers here.”
Alice Jollimore grew up in Westville with Jim and worked together with him for the last 11 years as a receptionist.
“You didn’t work for him,” she said. “You worked with him.”
She said it was clear that he loved his job and getting to be principal at Walter Duggan was a dream come true for him.
“Walter Duggan was his pride and joy,” she said. “He was very good to all of us.”
Gary Esling is a principal who came to know Hale through their jobs. Often they would travel to meetings together and became friends.
Hale was enthusiastic about education, he said.
“He was very well thought of by the other principals.”
Hale had a couple of aspects of education that he believed were particularly important, Esling said.
One was social justice. He recognized that not everyone had the same advantages at home and did his best to try to help those who might be disadvantaged. He also believed strongly that boys and girls learn differently and it was something he tried to make sure his staff knew about.
Bev Chennell knew Hale since high school where they hung out in the same group of friends. She describes him then as just being a really good guy. She got to know him again professionally when she was part of the group helping to pick the new principal for Walter Duggan.
“He was a very big personality,” she said.
He had a way too of making those around him feel comfortable. She got to see him during her own roles on the school advisory committee and how he interacted with parents and others.
“He always managed to make everybody feel good about things,” she said.