A Tribute to the Terry Dietrich I Knew

Terry Dietrich went to sleep in Jesus: March 19, 2020
November 4, 2020 would’ve been his 70th birthday

Stop bath. Acrylic paint. Motor oil. Well-known smells you knew you would encounter in the 1990s if you entered the I. A. Building—also known as the art, photography, yearbook, and auto body classrooms. For me, it set the stage for four special years working for and learning from Terry Dietrich at Forest Lake Academy—AKA: “Mr. D” or “Dietrich” to most who knew him. Ahhh, the good ol’ days!

One of my favorite work memories probably took place during my freshman or sophomore year. Dietrich came into his office early one afternoon and announced, “I’m going to be off campus for a couple hours running errands. While I’m gone, I want you to work on this mess,” he said. “I need to be able to work in here; and, right now, I can’t even see the top of my desk.” (LOL.) No exaggerating. Piles and piles of artwork, photography assignments, former yearbooks, and every shade of colored pencil, marker, and crayon hid all flat surfaces in his work area–hardly space for his office phone, much less a way for him to actually use it. As he exited the room laughing, I smirked at his jovial demeanor, knowing all-to-soon the joke would be on him. You see, I’m a highly organized person, but he hadn’t seen that side of me, yet; so he didn’t know how seriously I took his challenge. As soon as he left, I got busy.

Looking back now, I wish I had had the foresight to have a camera ready when Dietrich returned. Oh, the look on his face! Never in a million years had he expected what he walked into his office and saw. Yearbooks lined the back wall in chronological order behind his desk on top of the counter. Every colored pencil, crayon, and marker had been returned to its rightful case or placed in a jar at the far corner of his desk. Miscellaneous pens, protractors, and plastic or metal pica rulers had been housed in his top desk drawer. All assignments had been graded, organized, and stacked neatly in a pile either on the back counter or filed away in black labeled trays; and all nonessential items had been returned to designated locations, no longer cluttering his desk top. The floor had also been vacuumed and all furniture dusted. For all intents and purposes, he stood in a spotless office–as spotless as you can imagine an art room being.

For weeks, when I came into work, Dietrich would yell to the back of the room, “Lori, where did you put…?” We both had a good laugh when he finally decided, “Remind me to never ask you again to clean my office. You did your job WAY too well. I can’t find a thing.” *wink, wink* Compliment taken.

I have to say, Mr. D genuinely ranks as one of the best bosses ever. He never expected more from his workers than what he’d be willing to give himself, and he lived life well—even in the workplace. If there’s one thing I learned from Mr. D (and I learned a lot): God comes first, family and friends a close second. Everything else is just “stuff,” and God will get you through it. Rest well, my friend, we’ll meet again in Heaven!

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