By Todd Martin
Special to the Daily Herald

Thanks for the memory. Tardy bell at 8; never being late, perfect attendance may have eluded you but I guess it was just fate, how lovely it was …

In a surprise serenade at the Killeen Independent School District’s annual retiree banquet Wednesday, Superintendent Robert Muller provided a musical tribute to 53 employees set for retirement.

After distributing plaques to each soon-to-retire employee, Muller apologized in advance for what was coming, then launched into his original version of Bob Hope’s classic rendition of “Thanks for the Memory.”

At the end, the retirees and their guests at the Killeen Civic and Conference Center stood and cheered.

Thanks for the memory. Students that you love, always quick with a hug, they didn’t always get an A but you were the person they dug, how lovely it was …

The superintendent and the Killeen ISD Board of Trustees honored a diverse group of long-serving bus drivers, classroom teachers, education assistants, band directors, campus principals and various campus and central office administrators.

Muller read biographies of each as the retiring employee walked to the front, accepted their plaque and congratulations from a board member and posed for a photograph.

“I stand in awe of this group,” Muller said after awarding all the plaques. “I think about the thousands of lives made better because of you. You leave us a better district. You made a difference.”

You remind us of school, who knew that you were so cool, I wonder if you’ll enjoy the retirement thing, oh well that’s life I guess, just know that to us you really are the best …

Among the retirees was Eastern Hills Middle School assistant principal Charlie Guidry with 26 years of service as a teacher, coach and assistant principal.

His biography included thanks to the KISD family for compassionate support following three brain surgeries and three cancer surgeries.

“We’re all pretty blessed,” Guidry said of the special occasion, as he looked around the ballroom at his fellow retirees-to-be. “The amazing thing about KISD is you see so many people with 20 and 30 years of experience all in KISD. If that doesn’t say family, I don’t know what does.”

Another longtime KISD employee, Becky Smith, was thinking on a similar theme. She is retiring as the director of special programs following a career in teaching and campus administration, including 12 years as an elementary school principal.

“It’s absolutely the people,” she said of her most important memories of 37 years in education.

Though the school district is large and transient, Smith said its values are steadfast.

“People talk about the transience, but there is such a core belief in children and doing the right thing,” she said. “It’s been a joy.”

Thanks for the memory. You did your work so well, you worked long past the bell, a difference was made because of you and to us you’re super swell, so thank you so much.

2011 KISD retirees

Laura Adams, East Ward Elementary cook, 28 years

Louise Bachman, Brookhaven Elementary teacher, 29 years

Sandi Blair, Willow Springs and Harker Heights instructional assistant, 21 years

Richard Blomquist, Rancier Middle School band director, 35 years

Judy Carnes, Harker Heights High School librarian, 28 years

Barbara Carroll, Union Grove, Rancier and Fairway teacher, 37 years

Gwendolyn Caviness, Sugar Loaf Elementary teacher, 28 years

Juliann Chaney, Smith Middle School teacher, 28 years

Sandy Childs, Mountain View Elementary teacher, 17 years

Sandra Frazier, Meadows Elementary cafeteria manager, 38 years

Steve Gilliam, teacher and curriculum specialist, 32 years

Ernesto Gonzales Jr., alternative education behavior assistant, 22 years

Charlie Guidry, Eastern Hills Middle School assistant principal, 26 years

Sharyn Hall, Killeen High School student activities coordinator, 38 years

Jo Ann Heckathorn, accounts payable technician, 26 years

Terry Hickman, Live Oak Ridge assistant principal, 13 years

Susan Humiston, high school instructional leader, five years

Raymona Hunt, Nolanville Elementary teacher, 36 years

Betty Hurt, Meadows Elementary teacher, 26 years

Marva Jones, Cedar Valley Elementary teacher, 17 years

Clare Kroeger, Meadows Elementary teacher, 13 years

Scott Kroeger, Liberty Hill Middle School teacher, 16 years

John LaGrone, instructional technology consultant, 33 years

Alan LaTart, Rancier Middle School teacher, 10 years

Sonia Maldonado, Clarke Elementary teacher, 34 years

Pat Martin, secretary, 20 years

Jerry McGuire, Duncan Elementary technologist, seven years

JoAnn McKinney, graphic arts teacher, 21 years

Carol McKissick, Meadows Elementary teacher, 22 years

Keith Moore, Hobby Elementary principal, 17 years

Jimmy Morgan, Iduma Elementary teacher, 14 years

Patrick Neault, Nolan Middle School band director, 34 years

Mary Ann Perry, resource teacher, 13 years

Antonio Remigio, transportation, 17 years

Jim Segars, Willow Springs assistant principal, seven years

Janet Sisko, media center technician, 32 years

Becky Smith, special programs director, 37 years

Fred Stansbury, positive behavior support teacher, eight years

Joe Varnell, bus driver, 12 years

Vicki Vaughn, Harker Heights Elementary teacher, 11 years

Kenneth Watts, Clarke Elementary assistant principal, 38 years

Sharon White, West Ward teacher, 26 years

Linda Wilkins, special education assistant, 25 years

David Wilson, special education teacher, eight years

Sam Wink, attendance officer, 39 years

Eltra Youngblood-Abernathy, Manor teacher, 40 years