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In Memoriam: Mr. Frank Guidroz, Mentor to Many

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By Mia Freneaux

    Mr. Frank Guidroz, known to many personally here in Central, passed away on Sunday, February 13.  He was the beloved husband of Mary Jane Guidroz, his wife of 57 years, and father to 4 daughters – Sonia, Brenda, Linda, and Mona.  At the time of his passing, he had 12 grandchildren and 2 great grandchildren.  “It is amazing how many lives he touched,” his family shared.  Mr. Guidroz came to this community while still a young man, and began teaching industrial arts in 1955 at the age of 25.  He came to Central High School mid-term, and taught Ken Montgomery, prominent Central builder, that year.  “We were friends from then on,” Mr. Montgomery remembered.  “He treated me like a son, took me under his wing, and helped me get in the building business.”  Mr. Guidroz mentored many young people during his tenure at CHS.  His family counted among his students a veritable Who’s Who of Central leadership –  Mac Watts, Doug Welborn, Bodi White, Gordon Rogillio, Clif Richardson, Bobby Dale Callender, the list goes on and on.   Mr. Guidroz was recognized for his amazing skills with young people, winning East Baton Rouge Parish Teacher of the Year in 1965.  He also won the prestigious Louisiana Vocational Association Merit Award that same year.  “He was a very stern disciplinarian,” former CHS principal and Assistant Superintendent Ronnie Devall shared.  “ You knew he did it to help you succeed.  His classroom was always very orderly and disciplined.  I always looked up to him.  He was a great person and a great role model for a kid to have.”  “He didn’t say much, but he was a good man,” said Ken Montgomery.  “He touched a lot of people.  He did a lot of stuff behind the scenes.  There were lots of young boys that Frank helped to straighten out.”  Mr. Guidroz eventually became a guidance counselor, then became principal of Central Middle School in 1973.  It was there that he mentored attorney Larry Murray in 1975.  “Not everyone is capable of being a friend and a disciplinarian,” Mr. Murray shared, “but he could do both.  He was more than just an administrator, he was a real friend.”  Mr. Murray reminisced about the time Mr. Guidroz was trying to discover why several students seemed to always be short lunch money.  The truth came out when one of Mr. Murray’s “salesmen” had the top come off of the bottle of cinnamon toothpicks he was selling.  It leaked through his pocket and started burning his leg!  Mr. Murray was sent to Mr. Guidroz’ office, where he confessed to getting the cinnamon oil innocently from his father, John Murray, who owned Murray’s Pharmacy.  It was Larry Murray’s idea to turn it into a financial opportunity!  Needless to say, the outcome wasn’t pleasant.  Every time Mr. Guidroz saw him afterwards, he would ask if he was still in the cinnamon toothpick market!  Mr. Guidroz never did find out about the time Mr. Murray stuck a folded towel in his pants and thus avoided the worst of retribution.  “He knew how to nurture kids in difficult moments,” Mr. Murray stated.  “He could paddle you on Thursday, then have his arm around you on Friday and comfort you in the loss of the football game.  He knew when you needed a boost, and when you needed swatting, and he did both.”  Mr. Guidroz retired in 1981 officially, but immediately took on another challenge.  David Starkey, one of the founders of Starkey Academy, shared how he was trying to find a solution to the bussing that was prevalent at that time.  “Frank told me if I could get him the property – he would build a school.  It was his concept and idea.”  Mr. Guidroz got Ken Montgomery involved, and they built Starkey Academy in 72 days!  Mr. Starkey said it was the perfect partnership, “It was a happy coincidence – our need combined with his desire.  We had 4 board members initially – Frank Guidroz, Ken Montgomery, Jesse Gurney, and myself.  We also had an active group of Charter Members.  Frank knew what it took academically to run a school, the rest of us handled the business aspects.”  Under Mr. Guidroz’ leadership, Starkey Academy grew tremendously.  “Frank brought on great teachers.  They all loved him.”  100 plus families had students attending Starkey Academy in the beginning.  “Frank just loved kids,” Mr. Starkey stated. “ He had a way about him.  He was big-hearted, he wanted to help all children, to help mold them.  He did a great job.  He did it by caring.”  Mr. Guidroz would remain principal at Starkey until 1990, then remained on the board for another decade.  It is impressive to consider that while Mr. Guidroz was a full time teacher, administrator, and family man, he also found time to teach drafting at Southeastern University and pursue his hobbies of hunting, fishing and carpentry.  “He taught me the value of a good work ethic,” Larry Murray shared, “hard work, honesty, and really caring about people.  That last is probably the most important thing anyone can do.” Frank Guidroz would surely agree.

4 Comments

  1. Ray

    March 5, 2011 at 4:34 pm

    I remember my father telling me before I started middle school in the mid 70’s that he knew the principal at the middle school well and that he wouldn’t hesitate to call him if I were a problem. He told me that Mr Guidroz was his Industrial Arts teacher and they would hunt and fish together after school and on weekends. I remember Mr Guidroz walking the halls between classes and remember his high pitched voice addressing students; quit talking and get to class, hey sweetie to most of the girls, i got my eye on you to some of the guys,or specifically addressing students with, if your teacher tells me your running your mouth in class again I’ll see you in my office, you better have your homework today, I see your grades are improving, keep it up. If you spoke to him he always gave you a smile and hello, and most times he acknowledged you first. I was amazed at how much he seemed to know about the students in the school. I was sent to the office once and was relieved that He and Mr Hooper were not there at the time and had to see Mr Williams. I received an afternoon clinic for the following week. I was able to avoid Mr Guidroz for the remainder of the day and thought maybe he would not find out. The following day between classes he is walking down the hall amongst the students in my direction. I remember putting my head down and walking along the lockers right by him thinking he didn’t see me until I hear, “Ashford you hiding from me”. I turn around and he is facing me in the middle of the hall twenty feet away. He walks beside me and puts his arm around my shoulder and escorts me to class.” I see your dad signed your pink slip so I don’t need to contact him. It’s probably best that you saw Mr Williams yesterday because I would have used the paddle on you and then called your dad. I’m disappointed in you” and he walks off. The following week during clinic, he steps in the class and looks around until he spots me.” Ashford, you don’t belong in here with this group. If there is a next time, which I know there won’t be, it want be spent in here.” I remember wondering like many other people, how he could be the father of such pretty daughters. Later as an adult when I would see him around he would not let you just say hi and leave, he made a point of asking questions about you and your family. Ray, call me Frank he would say. I couldn’t do it.

  2. mia freneaux

    March 8, 2011 at 7:20 am

    What a great story! I’m sure there are many others out there with similar ones. Hope they’ll post them too. Thanks for sharing!
    -Mia

  3. Dirk Arnold

    March 10, 2011 at 7:47 pm

    Wow, I just heard that Mr Guidroz passed away. Mr Guidroz was my principal at Central Middle and Starkey Academy. I became very familiar with that paddle of his at Starkey Acadamy. I had become so familiar with it that I kept a towel in my booksack. Everytime I got sent to his office, I would ask to go to the bathroom right before I got there. I would wrap that towel around my back side and slowly walk to his office. Sometimes I would luck out and not catch a spanking but when I did get one I had to act like it hurt when it really did not because of the towel. How he never knew because everytime it hit me the sound was clearly different. Of coarse with Mr Guidroz he probably did know and just let me think I got over on him.
    I left Starkey Acacdemy after my 9th grade year and went to Central so I could play football. I can remember Mr Guidroz talking to me about being able to adjust because going from a small school to a larger school could present a problem for some kids. But I wanted to go and I did. Well I was not there long and I ended up getting Expelled from Central for fighting.( short period of time but long story ). Well I was pretty much screwed because I would of failed that year. Well my parents called and talked to Mr Guidroz and he said he had to talk to me before he made a decision on letting me back at Starkey. I went to meet him and of coarse he asked what happened and before we finished talking, Mr Guidroz asked me, “Dirk if I let you back at Starkey or you gonna go back to Central next year to play football”. And just before I told him no sir, he said ” Dont you lie to me “. So I put my head down and said ” yes sir I am “. He looked at me and said ” Go to Class “. He called my Mom and Dad and said I was back in.
    Mr Guidroz is a huge part of me being able to Graduate with my class and I will never forget that…

  4. Bobby Potts

    December 18, 2014 at 4:57 pm

    I recently found this site for the Central Speaks paper. I have long left Central and the Baton Rouge area. I reside in TN now. And now I have discovered the news of Mr. Guidroz passing by searching the archives. And even though it has been over 3 years and no one may read this, I feel compelled to add to this man’s legacy.

    I was a student at Central Middle School while Mr. Guidroz served there. And I was always fearful of him. I respected him. I only attended Central Middle School for my sixth grade year. The busing issues had come up and my parents enrolled me in Starkey Academy the following years. That is when I got to know Mr. Guidroz.

    There are probably many stories about the man. I will share two.

    Starkey offered baseball for us and I was ate up with it. But in my tenth grade year, my grades fell and due to one class, and I was no longer eligible to play. It was my first “F” ever! I was devastated and it was increasingly apparent that I would no longer be able to play baseball for the varsity team.

    One morning while in class the PA speaker came on in the classroom and the office was calling for me to go to Mr. Guidroz office. I had no idea why. I had never been in there before. I generally stayed out of trouble. So I was nervous to say the least. Mr. Guidroz was sitting at his desk and asked me to take a seat. When I did, he leaned back and slid the top drawer open and pulled out a file. It was my file and it had my report in it for my grades. He opened it and pointed to the failing mark. Then he asked me how I felt knowing that I could no longer play baseball? I shared my concerns about it and how it upset me. He then took out a pencil and erased my grade and wrote in a “D”. I was shocked! He then looked me dead in the eye and said, “Get those grades up. Not just this one, but ALL of them. Now get back to class, and enjoy the rest of the baseball season.” I never said a word to anyone about it. I was so grateful.
    I went on to play baseball, basketball and I even joined the swimming team. Grades were on track and I had a great year and I lettered in every sport!

    My eleventh grade year was hard on my parents. The job market was touchy and money was tight. I tell everyone that I grew up poor. And that year, my parents could no longer afford Starkey. I left there and started attended Baker High School. It stunk. I didn’t like the large campus. I was always struggling to make it to class on time. So many books to carry and my locker was all the way across the school. So dropping books off was not an option. I hated it. And my grades reflected it. But I was starting to not care about my grades. I just wanted to get through the year.

    Now, I don’t know how it came to be but my parents were able to get me back into Starkey. They knew Mr. Guidroz and I don’t know if they contacted him or what. But I was allowed to return and Mr. Guidroz, once again called me to his office. He explained how he understood my parents’ hardships and that my grades were not going so well. He told me that I would be allowed to return in exchange for chores. He arranged it so that every day after school, I would clean the gym floor and fill the drink machine. That’s was it! My tuition was a couple of chores! Unbelievable! I did those chores every day for the remaining year. I also went on to play sports and at the end of the year, I was awarded the SPARTAN award. The highest award an athlete could earn. I was so happy to be back at Starkey.

    Sadly, I did not attend Starkey for my senior year. My family moved to the Atlanta area where I attended Meadowcreek High School in Norcross, GA. It was another big school with all of the same issues I found at Baker High School. But I was better equipped to deal with it by then and success was eminent.

    I owe it all to Mr. Guidroz.
    He truly cared about the kids and set us up for success.
    He helped mold me into who I am today.
    He’s just one of those men you never forget.

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