Friends, co-workers and family remembered former Gainesville High band director and Hall County administrator Don Rich as a man who devoted his life to education.
Rich died Sunday at age 96.
Heyward Gnann, who worked with Rich at Gainesville High after Gnann came to the school in 1960 as a history teacher, said Rich directed both the band and chorus at the school. Gnann played the trumpet in the military. When he got his discharge, he came to Gainesville High School, where he served from 1947-1966.
“He was a stickler for learning music the correct way,” Gnann said. “His musicians in high school were well trained. I always enjoyed going to his concerts, and his choruses were also well trained. He stayed busy with the young people who were interested in music. When they left, I think they were pretty well-accomplished musicians.”
In later years, Gnann attended concerts at the Atlanta Symphony with Rich and his late wife and the late Ron Evans, a former Gainesville and Johnson High band director, and Evans’ wife, Karyl.
“I played in a college band, but I did not pursue it,” Gnann said. “I would listen to their critiques of the music that was playing at the Atlanta Symphony. I always enjoyed asking, ‘What did you hear that I did not hear?’ They would tell me in a polite way.”
Lee Lovett, deputy superintendent for Hall County Schools, said Rich came to work in Hall County as the director of the Title 1 program from 1966-73 and was later principal at Oakwood Elementary and Johnson High before finishing his career working again with the Title 1 program.
“He was a real gentleman,” Lovett said. “He was sort of a quiet gentleman and very professional in his working relationships. He had a dry sense of humor.”
Rich’s granddaughter, Ann Rich Martin, remembered her grandfather as someone who valued a good education, appreciation for music and God.
“He always wanted us to have a good education and music appreciation because, to him, that built his character,” she said. “He certainly hit a home run with his life. He was just a really humble man.”
Larry Miller, who has been the band director at Gainesville High since 2000, said he sat in front of Rich at church before he knew who he was. He found out about their common love for Gainesville High music when Rich introduced himself.
“I still run into people who had band or chorus with Mr. Rich,” he said. “We just this past February celebrated 125 years at Gainesville and as such I talked to a lot of people who were here when Don was band director. They had nothing but great praise for him, the kind of man he was, the kind of teacher he was.”
Miller said Gainesville City Schools board member Sammy Smith would ask for recordings of the spring concerts to take to Rich.
“Every once in a while, I would get a little note from Don encouraging me and keeping up with the history,” Miller said. “He was a classy, classy human being.”