Ben Fouts wasn’t known for being a talker, but he made an impact that has his former co-workers and students in Hall County remembering him fondly this week.
Fouts, principal at North Hall High School from 1974-80 and Lanier Elementary from 1980-95, died Sunday. He was 79.
Kathy Lovett, who worked with Fouts at both schools, said Fouts “led with a fairness and a calm, kind manner that could well be a model for others to follow.”
She recalled Fouts sitting on the edge of the low stage in the Lanier Elementary lunchroom during lunch on many occasions quietly observing the students. One day, a gifted kindergartner walked up to Fouts and asked, “Do you do anything here?”
“Though I don’t know his reply, I’m sure he chuckled,” Lovett said. “He obviously did much at Lanier, but he always did it with a calm, humble spirit.”
Margaret Fritchley was principal at Sardis Enrichment School and would sit in on meetings with Fouts, where the conversations were serious. Then, she said, Fouts would make a humorous comment.
“We would all laugh so hard,” Fritchley said. “And it was just what was needed at the time to lighten the mood.”
Ann Dayton worked as librarian at North Hall High when Fouts was principal, and his mild-mannered nature had some of his co-workers teasingly calling him “gentle Ben.” Dayton saw it as a compliment to Fouts’ approach.
“I always thought he was fair and very consistent in dealing with the public, the students and the teachers,” Dayton said.
Fouts’ obituary said he “loved the outdoors and all its beauty,” later adding, “Ben was the first documented barefoot skier on Lake Lanier.”
He served in the Navy in 1961, according to his obituary, after being called into active duty from the Naval Air Reserves during the Berlin Crisis.
Charlie Jones, who worked as assistant principal with Fouts at North Hall and was later a principal himself, said Fouts was “easygoing” and “always levelheaded.” They canoed a couple of times together on the Nantahala River in western North Carolina.
Don Hill, who worked with Fouts at North Hall, called the former school administrator “a very compassionate and caring person” who “didn’t say much, unless he had to.”
Fouts is survived by Marjorie Jones Fouts, his wife of 54 years; two children and five grandchildren. His funeral is set for 11 a.m. Wednesday in the chapel of Gainesville First United Methodist Church, where he was a member. Dr. Terry Walton, who will officiate the funeral, said Fouts was a man who wanted to do something in God’s name for the good of the world.
“He was just a guy that served behind the scenes and didn’t want or need any accolades,” Walton said.