By Tippi Rasp
After 40 years in education, a long-time Enid Public Schools administrator and his wife are moving closer to their grandchildren.
Larry and Mary Jane Mendenhall are both retiring from EPS at the end of the school year and moving to Bartlesville where they will make their home. Their daughter lives in Bartlesville and their son is an administrator at Tulsa Union Public Schools. Their have four grandchildren within 40 miles of their new home.
“I want to be a part of their life and my children’s life,” Larry said.
Larry, who is retiring as Emerson Junior High principal but who has spent 24 years in the district as an administrator, teacher and coach, said he is looking forward to focusing on the activities of his grandchildren.
“I had invested in everybody’s kids but my own,” he said. “I want to be a part of their life.”
Mary Jane has worked at the district’s central office since 1985. She is an administrative assistant for the special education, transportation and maintenance departments.
The couple moved to Enid in 1982 after stints in several Oklahoma towns. The Mendenhalls already have bought a home in Bartlesville and spend weekends at their new home.
Larry said he has enjoyed his career as an educator, first as a teacher and coach and then as a long time elementary principal.
“As a principal you are still focused on the kids, but ... you are teaching teachers,” he said. “When academics or discipline improves you get a rush out of it.”
Although they describe themselves as active, retirement, they both hope, will bring them relaxation. Larry said he just wants to rest for a while, without any schedules.
“I want to get bored,” he said. “By September, I’ll have all of that I want.”
Mary Jane said she is looking forward to traveling in the fifth-wheel, doing some camping, and visiting other parts of the country.
“I can’t imagine doing nothing,” she said. “We don’t want to sit. Very possibly we’ll work again.”
Larry said he is proud of his students. Although they haven’t been perfect students, he said they have turned into productive adults.
“Even our worst (behaved) kids, they turn out OK,” he said. “Poor choices now don’t necessarily mean poor adults.”
The Mendenhalls also are looking forward to spending more time together. Mary Jane remembers a conversation the couple had decades ago when she realized they had a true partnership. They were overdrawn in their checking account, and they decided to go into business on the side to supplement their salaries when he was a teacher and she was a teacher’s assistant. What followed was a successful wallpapering and painting business.
“We’ve had a good life,” she said. “We’ve been very blessed.”
The Ponca City childhood friends have been married 40 years and have been through a lot together. Larry remembers a conversation his wife had with a friend years ago.
“She said ‘He’s as comfortable as an old houseshoe,” Larry said, ribbing his bride a bit.
Mary Jane said: “I meant it as a compliment.”
As they move to the next chapter in their lives, they know there will be more adjustments. They plan on approaching each new challenge like they have for years.
“Larry and I are friends,” Mary Jane said. “We’ve been friends from day one.”