by Lisa Tome
When Leon Alexander, Sr. manned the cafeteria at Perryville Middle, students without food ate anyway, and anything students didn't want went from the school to help the homeless.
That was one of the memories shared by students recently as Perryville Middle unveiled the tree and plaque honoring the life of Alexander, 57, the school's guidance counselor, who died February 13, 2016.
"He was a joy to work with, a kind heart, a generous soul - an asset to the community and the children. He inspired me daily to search and find what's best for the children everyday," said Dara Montgomery, guidance secretary. "He took this job very seriously - that our role in guidance was to help the children. He's greatly missed. I miss him and his positive spirit. He was very dedicated to serving our students. He started the weekend feeding program. He was so passionate."
Montgomery's son, Herbie, 12, has grown up at Perryville Middle. He attends another school but goes to the school every day to wait for his mother. "He (Alexander) was fun. When I came into the school, he'd give me a snack and a hug, or shake hands. Every night when I was leaving he'd ask me what's for dinner," said Herbie Montgomery.
As part of the formal ceremony, choral and band students provided music. Teacher Michele McKay read a poem she wrote in tribute to his life.
Assistant principal Holly Spangler explained the impact Alexander had at the school since being hired in 2002. "He would talk to students and praise them. He was an active listener. He did not judge or interrupt. His laugh was contagious...," Spangler said tearfully. She also explained that Alexander was passionate about feeding children on weekends and started the program where those in need would take food home on weekends. Now, the school has Mr. A's food pantry and that program will continue.
"He loved his family. He would talk about his Friday night date nights with Linda (his widow). He loved to talk about food, shopping, and he took pride in his appearance and set an example," said Spangler. "Leon and his music. He would play the piano and could not read music...I miss Leon. We all miss Leon. He is in heaven and he is whole again."
Linda Alexander and Spangler unveiled the memorial plaque which has his name and the word "Honorable".
Students, who stood at the after school event, talked about Alexander. "He was a very nice man. He was always a nice person and never did anything mean," said Matthew Saylor.
"Mr. Alexander was really inspirational. He would be in the hallways greeting people. After he died, I found out he would take all of our extra milks and stuff to a homeless shelter," said Mikey Olszewski.
"He taught me the key to a good life is kindness," said Trent Powell.