JOHN THE COUNSELOR

Got a very disturbing call the other day. It was from Bill Moyer, a former science teacher at the junior high school in Kutztown of which I was the principal. He told me that John Rohrbach, the guidance counselor at that time, was caught and rolled over by his car. He thought that he had put it in park, but did not. The car lurched forward, knocked him down, broke facial bones, ribs and pinned his left arm under the car for five hours before state police released him.
John had to have his arm amputated. It had been without oxygen for over five hours. He went to the hospital and is now in a rehab center outside of Reading, Pennsylvania. I went to visit John last week and he did not recognize me at first. Finally his long term memory kicked in. His short term memory is non-existent. His physical therapy is going well, but his understanding of where he is comes to naught.
I have known John for 40 years. I am in communication with this son Kurt on almost a daily basis. I have kept in contact with John since I left Kutztown in 1982. He has always been a friend and the finest guidance counselor I have ever seen.
Most people do not have evidence for their prejudices. The evidence for John being an incredibly great counselor resides in a statewide test that the kids took in the seventies. It was called the Test of Educational Quality Assessment. It was more than just reading and writing. It asked questions about the school and some personal questions from the students. In the section related to counseling, John came out in the 99th percentile. It was simply amazing. That was in my first year. As the years went by, I began to understand what all of that meant.
I recall some really funny events that marked John’s tenure with me as the principal. It was a rainy Friday in Kutztown. Andy Rump, one of more interesting citizens, decided to cut out of school. John and I were determined to catch him and bring him back. We ran out of the building down towards Main St. We were sopping wet as we increased our speed. When we got to Main St., we stopped. We looked at each other and both said, “What the hell are we doing here?”
One of our students had not shown up to school for a week. We tried calling and sending letters. We could not reach the parents at home or at work. We got the truancy officer to go to the house. He actually called the local police to come with him. Sometime during the day, John was called and told that the boy was in the trailer and would not come out. They thought that John and I would know the kid and have some impact on him. What they didn’t tell us when we went into the trailer was that the young man had a 12 gauge shotgun in him bedroom and was threatening everyone. John and I called to the youngster and finally got him to come out and sit down to talk with John. Once again we said to each other, “What the hell were we thinking?”
One of our 14 year old special education young ladies was very troubled. She asked to see Mr. Rohrbach in his office. He obliged her. There was kind of a very thin couch in his office. She beckoned him to come sit close to her. He obliged. She reached out grabbed his shoulder and placed her face near his ear, as if to tell him a secret and stuck her tongue in his ear. He came out of the office screaming. We did not get the full story till about 20 minutes later. The young lady could not understand what all of the fuss was about.
John was a real jokester. The butt of most of his jokes was me. One day in April, I came to my office and hung my coat in the outer office, as I always did. When I was ready to go home in the afternoon, I noticed that there were a number of small springs attached to my coat. I asked John what that was all about and he told me that he was concerned that I did not have a “Spring Coat.”
On a cold winter morning, there was nothing like a hot cup of coffee. I was accustomed to put milk and sugar in my coffee. The milk was in one of those small containers that you find in a school cafeteria I (yes, we paid for it). The container was in the refrigerator in the nurse’s office right next to John’s office. That morning I filled my coffee cup, put in my sugar and opened to refrigerator door. I would grab for the milk container. I did just that and spilled the milk all over myself. It had been tied to the shelves in the refrigerator. At least John and my secretary helped clean me up.
One day, I had to go to a one day conference at Lehigh University. I left from school in the morning and came back at about five in the afternoon. When I returned, I was shocked to see that my office had been completely emptied. I was astounded. I looked around everywhere in the building for my chairs, desk bookcases and such and could not find them. Next morning, they magically appeared in my office. John claimed that he had nothing to do with it.
John is still the jokester. Even in his foggy stage he told me that after his rehabilitation, he would seek a job as the 80 year old one armed man in the remake of the fugitive.
There is no one that I have ever met like John. I pray that he returns to us.

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One thought on “JOHN THE COUNSELOR

  1. How sad it is to lose someone like this. The world needs more people like John.

    The world also needs more people like you who take the time to remember the Johns, the Bills, the Harrys, and even the Pauls, who are out there contributing to the world in our own little ways.

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