By Valerie Shelton, Editor
While the Christmas season is often a joyous time for families to gather together, it can also be a difficult time for those who have lost a loved one, especially those spending their first holiday without them.
This Christmas, the Prentice family and the Clovis High community are reminded of the loss of a great educator, counselor, husband and father, Gary Prentice.
Prentice passed away May 12 after a short and courageous battle with leukemia. He served Clovis Unified at Tarpey, Temperance-Kutner and Fancher Creek Elementary schools, Alta Sierra Intermediate School and Clovis High School for 35 consecutive years. His last role, from 2000 to 2015, was as a counselor at Clovis High.
The impact Prentice had was vast, touching those who only had the opportunity to meet him once or twice. One person he touched was Nick Meyer, who operates the Christmas tree lot on Herndon and Fowler. Meyer said he didn’t know Prentice well, but knows his wife, Renae Prentice very well as she was the kindergarten teacher for all three of his children. Meyer said Renae and Gary both impacted his and his children’s lives and he wanted to do something special in his memory.
“I wanted to do this because we’re in the middle of the Clovis High area and he was part of Clovis High so I decorated this tree with the Clovis High colors,” Meyer said. “He was such an inspirational man to people he didn’t even know. He did a homeless food ministry, he did a less fortunate kids toy drive, he organized the Kids Day newspaper drive and he was just an awesome man. I know his wife very well, she has taught my 13-year-old, my 9-year-old and my 7-year-old. She’s a kindergarten teacher at Fancher Creek so I knew of him through her and she is a powerful Christian lady and the impact their family has had on my family alone is incredible, but then there are all these other people he impacted and some of the things they’ve said about him are amazing.”
Meyer said people from all walks of life have come to his Christmas tree lot having heard about the tribute tree, just so they could sign the book and share their memories of Gary Prentice. Many, Meyer said, are former and current Clovis High students, some were in his classes in elementary school and others knew Mr. Prentice through his wife, one of his three children—Aimee, Adam and Anthony—or through one of the charity organizations he was involved with. Clovis High and Clovis Unified School District personnel, as well as friends of the Prentice family, have also come to sign the book which Meyer intends to give to Renae close to Christmastime.
Some of the messages inscribed in the book include:
“I wouldn’t be the man that I am today if it wasn’t for Mr. Prentice.”
“He was an amazing man, he touched so many lives and left behind a humble legacy.”
“He will forever be in our hearts.”
“Loving husband, father, educator and man of God. God bless this holiday season in his name.”
“Mr. Prentice was an amazing man. I had the pleasure of attending Clovis High School where he was a counselor. He dedicated his time to helping others. He was an extraordinary man.”
“You are a big part of my life. Thank you for everything. Love you always!”
“In loving memory of Mr. Prentice. I only met him once, but I knew who he was because I was one of his wife’s students. We love and appreciate the Prentice family and all they do for students.”
“Heaven has a special angel this Christmas. Always in the hearts of family, friends and students.”
“The impact Gary has made on all of our lives is unnumbered. He will be with us always.”
Meyer wrote: “An earthly man spends his life building monuments for and to himself. A Godly man spends his life building up the less fortunate and enhancing the kingdom. Renae, we love you. Thank you for sharing Gary with us.”
Meyer said he really felt compelled to do something for Mr. Prentice and although he was nervous about it at first, not knowing how the family would react, he is glad he decided to follow through on his idea, as it has touched many who knew Mr. Prentice.
“There are ladies who have come in here and they’ve started crying,” Meyer said. “One lady came in the other day and I thought I was in trouble because she asked ‘Who is responsible for this?’ and I said “I am” and she asked “Can I hug you?” and I told her of course. We stood here and cried. The other night, his son’s girlfriend and her family came in and they stood here for 45 minutes just reminiscing and thinking about him. It is touching. I have people coming in not for a tree but because they heard this was here and they wanted to write something in the book.
“I didn’t want to do this until I knew it was OK emotionally for Renae but when I asked her best friend what she thought, she told me Renae had said she was so worried that people would forget what Gary did. So I went ahead and did it and came up with a nice saying. I wish I could say more about what he’s done in people’s lives…I can’t say enough about him. He was such a powerful man and the kids just adored him.”
Last Christmas season, Meyer said, Prentice was kind enough to help him secure a couple workers at the Christmas tree lot.
“Last year I was looking for two elves because we had a big ta-do out here with a train and Santa and I asked his wife since we’re in the Clovis High area if he could get me anybody from the school who would like to work and he sent me over two hard workers,” Meyer said. “He picked the two kids and sent them over and we paid them. He was always doing selfless stuff. It was never about Gary Prentice, it was about, what can I do for you? It was unspoken too. He would do things and you didn’t know it was him. You didn’t know he was involved in any way and he didn’t want any credit. He didn’t want to be known. He just wanted something to be done for the next generation and he did leave a legacy.”
In addition to giving Renae a book full of people’s memories of Gary Prentice, Meyer is also giving her a figurine that reminds him of Mr. Prentice.
“This figurine reminded me so much of him because it is a man teaching a child, so I’m going to give this to his wife and I think that will be very touching,” Meyer said.