Meet the Board: Rush-Henrietta’s Original Fab Five
Today, the Rush-Henrietta Board of Education consists of seven volunteer members. When the district was first established, however, only five people served in this capacity.
The original Board of Education was elected in November 1946. Its members were Raymond Bock, of Rush; William Gillette, of Henrietta; Jasper Howlett, of Henrietta; Eldred Koehler, of Henrietta, and Charles Roth, of Rush. They served during a crucial time in our district’s history.
To ensure all five board members were not up for re-election at the same time, these community leaders were assigned terms of different lengths. Howlett received a one-year term, while Bock was given two. Koehler began a three-year-term, Roth started a four-year stint in office, and Gillette was named to serve for five years. Here are some fun facts about these early leaders.
On May 3, 1950, William Gillette put the first shovel in the ground to celebrate groundbreaking for Rush-Henrietta Central School, now known as Roth Junior High School. The owner of an air-conditioner sales company, he was a member of the Rush-Henrietta Rotary Club and Asbury First Methodist Church. The former Gillette Elementary School was named after him. Gillette’s son, Denny, was a member of the R-H Class of 1955. He is remembered even to this day by his classmates because he often did a handstand and walked on his hands when he was near his destination.
Jasper Howlett was a well-known farmer. His farm, Jasper Howlett and Sons, was located at the corner of East River Road and Lehigh Station Road. The January 18, 1960, classified ads in the Democrat and Chronicle show Howlett offering a first cutting of hay. Howlett was a member of the West Henrietta Grange and the West Henrietta Baptist Church.
Eldred Koehler served as president of the Henrietta High School Board before the district was created. In Rush-Henrietta, he was re-elected to a five-year term in 1950, serving for nearly a decade before resigning in 1955. His name often was misspelled, appearing in the newspaper as “Kayler” and “Tayler.” He also was referred to as Edward. There was no spell-check then.
In a 1957 letter to the editor published in the Democrat Chronicle, a reader described Raymond Bock as having a “temperate and reasoned approach.” He was a board member for more than 25 years, including time spent on the Rush School Board before our district was formed. Bock, who lived on East Henrietta Road in Rush, owned a well-known local store there.
Charles Roth Sr. was a factory manager for Graflex for nearly 20 years before retiring in 1946, the same year the district was founded. He lobbied for centralization for many years. He left the Board of Education in 1958, in the midst of a third term, when he moved out of the district. Rush-Henrietta’s first building, Roth Junior High School, is named for him.
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