By David Fong
TROY — Chuck Barrett always downplayed the impact he had on the lives of the students he taught and the players he coached.
The outpouring of love and support professed on social media following the news the former Troy Junior High School and Troy High School teacher and coach had passed away Wednesday at the age of 69 would suggest otherwise.
“He never believed he was making a difference; hopefully seeing the Facebook posts from above, he will realize what a great job he did … besides being a wonderful brother,” said his brother Bob Barrett, also a former teacher, coach and principal in Troy.
Hundreds of former students took to social media soon after news of his passing to share their memories of the beloved teacher.
“Mr. Barrett was absolutely one of my favorites!” wrote former student Nikki Jones, who now teaches art at Troy Junior High School. “I was his student aid my senior year and my favorite memory was doing my community service project at his house. Somehow I managed to lock myself and his dog (a golden retriever) out of the house! So my solution — drive both myself and the dog to school and interrupt his classroom to explain my debacle!! His laughter — the best! I never lived that one down! So very sad to hear of his passing.”
“I am who I am and a teacher because of Mr. Barrett,” former student Nicolas Britt wrote. “He pulled me aside one day after class my my senior year. I was slacking off and he knew it. He challenged me to complete my 12th grade proficiency in civics and get honors; I would then be allowed to skip the final. His final words to me were, ‘I believe in you.’ He was the catalyst for me turning a life around.”
Before going into teaching, Barrett had a distinguished military career, earning the Bronze Star and several U.S. Army commendations while serving his country in Vietnam.
“My junior year I had him for history,” former student Stephanie Watern said. “That’s when Operation Desert Storm was going on. My brother was over there at the time as a medic in the Army. Every day at the beginning of class he would show video of the goings on over there.
“He would always say to me before class started that if at anytime I felt uncomfortable that I could get up and leave with no questions asked, followed by asking if my family had heard anything. Every day he did that without fail. I always stayed and 95 percent of the time my answer was, no we had not. The few times I said we had I think he was more excited about it than I was. He was without a doubt the most caring teacher I ever had during my high school years.”
Following his military career, Barrett would graduate from Miami University in 1972 and would earn his master’s degree from the University of Dayton in 1977. He began his career with Troy City Schools at Troy Junior High School in 1978, teaching history. He would spend 10 years there before moving on to Troy High School, where he taught history and government. He would teach at Troy High School until his retirement in 2004.
He was just as beloved by his fellow teachers and administrators as he was by his students.
“He was a great man,” said former Troy High School teacher John Terwilliger, who taught and coached baseball alongside Barrett. “He was enthusiastic about what he did, because he cared so much.”
“It was very sad to hear this news,” said Troy City Schools Superintendent Eric Herman, who served as Troy High School principal alongside Barrett before moving into his current role. “He was a very good teacher who helped any time I asked. He was always supportive of Troy City Schools. His classes were always very large, but he never had a complaint. He helped me personally make the transition from junior high school to high school.
“When I asked a question, I got an answer — it was never sugar-coated. I always knew I would get an honest, frank answer and that I could do the same with him. In his government classes, he worked with all students. His retirement was well-earned, but sad for us at the high school. He was very consistent and solid. I could count on him every day. He helped an incredible amount of students and I was fortunate to work with him.”
In addition to his storied teaching career, Barrett also was a well-respected coach at the high school for nearly three decades, serving as an assistant football coach, junior varsity baseball coach, interim varsity baseball coach and, later in his career, boys varsity golf coach.
One of his former baseball players was Heath Murray, who went on to pitch in the major leagues for the San Diego Padres, Detroit Tigers and Cleveland Indians.
“He really pushed me over the hurdle, mentally,” Murray said. “He finally got me to realize I was pretty good — he didn’t make me cocky, but he made me confident. He made me have confidence in myself, which, at the next level, is what you need to really be successful.”
Murray said he’ll always remember Barrett as a man who was universally beloved by athletes and non-athletes alike.
“He demanded respect, but he also respected you,” Murray said. “I think that’s why every kid loved him so much — because he was always fair to everyone. You always hear people talk about leaving the world a better place than it was when you came in? Chuck Barrett definitely did that.”
Contact David Fong at [email protected]; follow him on Twitter @thefong