In more than a half-century at her front-office post, Trish Chrisman saw some 20,000 students pass through Parkview High School — and she never seemed to forget any of their faces or names.
Now, since her September death at age 86, the word most used to describe her is “unforgettable.”
Born Latricia Spurlock, Trish came to Springfield from her hometown of Ava in her late teens to attend Draughon’s Business College. Graduated in 1957, she was offered two local secretarial jobs. She talked it over with her recently wed husband, James Chrisman, and as she later put it, “We decided that Parkview would be the place to stay young forever.”
Hired initially as a general secretary at $167 per month in Parkview’s second year of operation, Trish soon became secretary to the boys’ and girls’ deans, and then secretary to the principal. By the time she retired in 2012 — her 55th year of R-12 employment — she’d worked with nine of Parkview’s chief administrators.
“Trish was a quiet force who kept things going,” recalls Mike Kohr, who came to Parkview as a Latin teacher in 1968 and 20 years later began a dozen-year run as principal. “She saved my behind I can’t tell you how many times. She knew who to contact to get things done — and they knew that if Trish called, they’d better do it.”
Judy Brunner, who like Kohr rose from a classroom teaching post at Parkview to become principal, agrees that while she was in the school’s top job from 2000 to 2006, “We depended on Trish a great deal. If we had a question about anything, Trish could quickly find the answer — if she didn’t know it off the top of her head, which she often did.”
Brunner is one of many who witnessed Trish’s astounding memory:
“My oldest brother graduated from Parkview in 1962, and another brother went to Parkview his freshman year before transferring to Glendale when it opened. I went to Glendale, too, so I didn’t meet Trish until I came to Parkview in 1980 as a reading teacher.
“When I told her my maiden name and about my brothers, she immediately knew them, knew who their girlfriends were, told me what sports they played — she had an uncanny memory.”
Gloria Gammel, who joined the Parkview faculty in 2004 and still is a science teacher there, marvels that Trish’s recollections were “generational.”
“If a kid’s parent had gone to Parkview, she would be able to tell them all about the parent when he or she was a student. It was remarkable. She would recognize people just on sight. It was a unique ability she had.”
In addition to her classroom duties, Gammel served a stint in charge of concessions at Parkview athletic events. Like the administrators, she benefited from Trish’s practical knowledge.
“Trish was immensely helpful. She knew all the vendors. If I needed something, or something needed to be fixed, I’d go to her and she always knew how to get it taken care of.”
STORY CONTINUES BELOW
Gammel had learned to count on Trish’s assistance early on because she’d started work in the middle of the school year and missed out on much of the new-faculty orientation.
“For instance, I was super, super sick one day, but I came in. Trish took one look at me and said, ‘You can’t be here. You need to go home.’ But I didn’t know anything about sick days or how to call in a substitute or anything like that. So Trish very patiently walked me through it — what number to call, how to leave sub plans. In fact, she probably could’ve written my sub plans for me!”
Later, as part of her concessions duties, Gammel needed several keys. “Everybody told me: ‘Don’t lose a key! Or if you ever do, don’t tell Trish! She’ll be so mad! Just hide it as long as you can!’.
“But I don’t know why everybody freaked me out about Trish and keys. Because my purse got stolen, and all my school keys were in it. And I thought, ‘Oh my gosh, I’m going to have to tell Trish.’ I was terrified. I thought I was going to cost the school a lot of money because they were going to have to re-key so many locks.
“But Trish was like, ‘No, we don’t do that.’ She was just super kind about it. She said, ‘It wasn’t your fault. What else did you have in your purse? Oh, you had a swipe card for the building? We’re going to need to get that canceled.’ She couldn’t have been nicer.”
Gammel admits that Trish was a stickler for following rules. “She had her expectations, but she was always kind, even when you were contradictory to those expectations. She’d give you her little look — her ‘Disappointed Mom’ look — but then carry on with business.”
Trish’s colleagues in the Parkview office also benefited from her knowledge and standards.
“She was always there to help if the need arose,” recalls Kay Hudson, who worked at Parkview for eight years. “She knew the ins and outs of every aspect of Parkview. She could remember every principal she worked with and also every student, teacher and office staff.
“She was a phenomenal person with remembering things. I mean, she remembered everything about everything! Someone would walk in who’d been a student years ago, and she’d immediately know who they were, what their parents’ names were, all sorts of things about them.”
Another office veteran, Carolyn Roderique, describes Trish as “truly a legend. She was definitely one of a kind. She remembered so many of the Parkview students. It was a pleasure to work with her.”
‘Her love for Parkview and the Vikings was beyond compare’
Former students also have fond recollections of Trish.
Kaylen Daniels, a member of Parkview’s Class of 1984, spotted Trish while working five years ago at Montclair Senior Living where Trish became a resident after James died following 50 years of marriage.
“She looked familiar — but it was Trish who remembered me! I had an identical twin sister, and I also have three older sisters who attended Parkview. Trish remembered my maiden name. We became reacquainted as friends right away. I think I became one of her favorite dining room servers because of our connection to Parkview.”
Trish’s daughter, Kim Percival, is well aware of her mom’s devotion to Parkview: “I’ve never known anyone as dedicated to a job as she was. She was definitely an awesome role model. Her love for Parkview and the Vikings was beyond compare.”
Trish’s younger sister, Carolyn Thacker, emphasizes that Trish also was devoted to family. She followed sports activities and other interests of her four grandchildren. She also enjoyed good times with friends, Thacker says, and Trish and James liked to shop for antiques and go to auctions.
“But, yes, her working career was a very important part of Trish’s life,” says Thacker, gratefully acknowledging the turnout at a Sept. 9 public farewell to her sister at Greenlawn Cemetery. “It was a close-knit group at Parkview, and that was quite obvious when so many who she knew from Parkview took the time to come to the graveside service.”
Kohr, her former boss, continued to keep up with Trish after they both retired. He sent her flowers on her birthday and occasionally joined her for lunch at the Montclair. It was a personal friendship forged in mutual professionalism.
“When I was principal, sometimes I would try to get in early in the morning, before anyone else, to get work done,” Kohr says with a chuckle. “But if I got there at 7, Trish would’ve gotten there at quarter-to-7. I couldn’t beat her.”
Fellow former principal Brunner says Trish could appear to be “no-nonsense — but underneath all that she had a wonderful sense of humor. She kept things in perspective, and she was very, very loyal to whoever sat in the principal’s chair.”
Brunner says she always suspected that if Trish cut her finger, she would bleed the school colors of green and gold: “She absolutely loved Parkview High School. She loved the students, she loved the staff, she appreciated a wide variety of people. She always was going to do what was best for the school.”
‘She loved the school song’
Trish had a soft spot in her heart for Parkview’s drum-and-bugle corps, the Lassies. “At homecoming, she would always wear a kilt in Scottish plaid,” says Brunner.
“And she loved the school song. The choir would come down to the office and serenade Trish at Christmas with carols, and they’d always conclude with the school song because she loved it so much. If something involved Trish, you’d know that at some point somebody would start singing the school song, and everyone would join in.
“Parkview was a better school because she blessed us there with her loyalty and her ability to serve the total school community.”
That sentiment is echoed by Matt Hudson, today the executive dean of career, technical and community development at Ozarks Technical Community College, who served in the administration at Parkview, including as assistant principal, from 2005 to 2013.
“Loyalty definitely is a word that comes to mind when describing Trish,” says Hudson. “You won’t find anyone who was more dedicated to Parkview than Trish Chrisman.”
Hudson, himself a 1996 graduate of Parkview who had worked with Trish during his senior year, said he’d been surprised by a phone message he received from her in December of 2011 during the Christmas break from classes.
“She’d shown no signs of letting up,” he recounts, “but she said she was in the hospital and that she wasn’t sure she could return to work when school started back up in January. It turned out that she had double pneumonia, and she was in the hospital for almost 10 weeks.
“It was so odd, because Trish never missed work for anything — and suddenly she was out of commission. Thankfully she recovered, but she had to retire.”
Hudson notes he “had the privilege of getting to plan and be a part of Trish’s retirement sendoff, but it also was my sad duty to have to pack up her desk.”
‘Always a Viking’
That 2012 retirement party was, according to Judy Wilson, who taught at Parkview from 1981 to 2008, “one of the best celebrations I ever attended. Students, parents, teachers and administrators who had depended on Trish’s care and leadership over the years came to show their respect and love for Trish. Parkview would not be the strong school it was and is without Trish.”
Hudson also was involved five years later in saluting Trish at a gala denoting Parkview’s 60th anniversary. A highlight was the announcement of the renaming of the paved lane linking Campbell and Grant avenues on the south edge of the Parkview campus.
For decades it had been informally dubbed Bumpy Road because of three speed bumps installed to discourage hot-rodding on the tempting straight stretch of pavement. With city approval of a request by the Parkview Parent-Teacher-Student Association, the lane was formally designated Chrisman Drive.
“Trish was one of those people who never looked for the spotlight,” says Hudson. “She was very much OK to be a behind-the-scenes supporter. But it was felt that naming the road after her was a fitting honor for someone who worked with the passion that Trish had — a recognition for our most dedicated Viking.”
While the street signage publicly declares Chrisman Drive, private signage is at least equally appropriate and meaningful to those who worked with Trish or otherwise were associated with Parkview:
When she wrote a thank you or any kind of courtesy note, says Brunner, “she would sign it ‘Always a Viking, Trish.’ And she really was that.”