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School celebrates Danke spirit

The Greg Danke Memorial Committee unveiled the mosaic created by close friend and local artist Roger Evans. Each tile represents a different thing Danke loved. After the memorial program, his family hung his mosaic in the Meyer Middle School library. Left to right: MMS Principal Mike Johnson, Cindi Danke, Zach Danke, Hanna Danke, Roger Evans and former MMS Assistant Principal Pat McCardle. Debbie Griffin photo

Meyer Middle School held a Greg Danke Memorial Dedication Program May 22 to honor the late assistant principal.

In the months following Danke's Aug. 8 death last year, a committee formed and began to share ideas about how best to memorialize their friend and colleague who'd coined the now-famous phrase, "Do the Right Thing."

Interim Assistant Principal Pat McCardle explained the memorial concept and made introductions.

He explained that the memorial has multiple dimensions.

One is a newly remodeled section of library dedicated to Greg, where users will find books and magazine about the things he loved: Hunting, fishing, the outdoors.

An original mosaic created by close friend and local artist Roger Evans hangs in the new library section and itself includes elements that reveal who Greg was and what his passions were.

MMS Principal Mike Johnson explained each of the mosaic's tiles.

The piece bears the names of his family members, Cindi, Hanna and Zach; a dog; the Ducks Unlimited logo; a motorcycle; Meyer Middle School with the years he served, a drawing representing hunting and fishing; an image of the dish full of peanut M&Ms candy kept in his office and shared with everyone; the phrase "Do the Right Thing;" and a picture of Greg bordered by the words "educator, mentor, friend, father, husband."

Johnson recalled how Greg once told him he loved the smell of a wet dog in front of a fire after a trek through the swamp. Johnson said Danke often cared for puppies for the organization Ducks Unlimited. Sometimes he brought them to school for the kids to see, too.

Two students spoke about Danke's kindness, admitting they'd been "in trouble" a lot.

One boy said Danke would always make sure he knew he was angry with the boy's behavior, not the boy himself. The assistant principal told him often: "No matter what happens, I'll always care about you," which the youngster said still motivates him to do well.

The other young speaker recalled Danke always sharing his M&Ms and helping him through summer school. He said he learned from Danke that even when he was in trouble, he could always get past it.

The 8th-grade Madrigal Choir sang "God Bless the Broken Road," and the MMS Choir sang, "Circle of Life."

Greg's family members -- Cindi, Hanna and Zach -- presented 12 students with a "Do the Right Thing," award. Two students in each house of each grade received the honor for impressive improvement in all areas, not just academics.

Well wishers filled the MMS gym to capacity, many of them wearing custom-camouflage shirts with blaze-orange writing that says "Do the Right Thing." Many also wore bright-orange memorial bracelets bearing the letters "DTRT."

The final piece of the Greg Danke Memorial was installed Friday, presenters said. Cindi donated a memorial bench for a garden-type area outside Greg's former office window. He'd adopted the area, planted things there and made an effort to keep kids out of it.

Pat McCardle said, "I didn't know Greg was (also) a gardener."

He encouraged everyone to stop by and see the bench, which immortalizes another phrase Danke liked: "Nothing you do for children is ever wasted."