ARLINGTON — It was a rock star moment.
Teens surrounded him.
They asked for his autograph. They sang to him. They took selfies next to him.
It was January. Richard “Dick” Post was turning 90.
Some of the Post Middle School students found it hard to believe they were meeting the man their campus is named after.
“He is so revered in this community,” said Kristine McDuffy, the district’s current superintendent. “What a dear friend and mentor he has been.”
Post died Oct. 19 at an Everett hospital, not far from where he was born Jan. 24, 1924.
He served as superintendent of the Arlington School District from 1971 to 1985. Only David Hartz — 1930 to 1947 — had a longer tenure.
“We will miss his wisdom,” Arlington School Board member Kay Duskin said.
In 1971, Post received three job offers to become a superintendent. A college professor friend advised him to stay away from Arlington because there had been friction in the district, turnover on the school board and a failed school levy. Post went anyway,
He is credited with bringing stability to the district.
When he died, his family was by his side. In a sense, the community was there, too. He fell ill a few days before his death. Two days later, he received a Post Middle School yearbook with get-well messages.
“Get better Mr. Post,” one student wrote. “We are taking care of your school.”
Richard Linn Post grew up in the Great Depression with a love for reading that would last a lifetime. Wherever he lived, books were everywhere.
As a child, he and his father, a railroad worker, would walk from their 21st Street home to the Everett library every couple of weeks where they’d each choose 10 books and then share them. Asked how many of the library books he figured he’d read, his answer was simple: “All of them!” By the time he was 11, he was working in the fields each summer to buy his school clothes.
In 1942, two days shy of his 18th birthday, Post gave the valedictorian speech for mid-year graduates at Everett High School. It was war time and he was ready to serve his country.
Post’s congressman, Henry M. “Scoop” Jackson, awarded him an appointment to the U.S. Naval Academy, but Post failed an eye exam.
Undaunted, he found another route into the military, memorizing and reciting an eye chart to get into the U.S. Army where, thanks to his math skills, he became an artillery instructor at the Aberdeen Proving Ground in Maryland.
After the war, he earned a degree in mathematics from the University of Washington and a teaching certificate the following year.
He was a teacher in Wapato, a vice principal in Aberdeen and principal in Port Orchard.
Along the way, he was known for his willingness to try to reach all students.
That’s how one former student remembers it. In a note to the family, she called Post a wise man.
“I should know as I spent second period in his office every school day,” she wrote. “He never lost patience with me and always encouraged me to do my best to rise above it all… Eventually I did… Mr. Post didn’t even flinch at Jack my rat who accompanied me to school!”
His three children and his colleagues said Post had the ability to help others help themselves.
“He was so genuine,” said former Arlington superintendent Linda Byrnes. “He never offered advice but if you asked, he had a gift for talking without telling you what to do.”
Byrnes once was Post’s neighbor and she remembers the times she’d knock on his door to soak in his wisdom when there were difficult decisions to make.
“He was more help than I ever could imagine,” she said.
A few years ago, when the middle school principal and vice principal were away, Byrnes talked Post, long retired, him into coming back and leading the school for a week.
“He had a ball and made new group of fans among the kids,” she said.
Post was king of the one-liners and had an encyclopedic knowledge of world history. He once was named the state’s school superintendent of the year. He influenced many teachers and aspiring school administrators as an adjunct professor at Western Washington University. Even in his 90s, his social calendar was full.
His son, Tim Post, remembers his dad working long hours and sometimes facing agitated people and difficult situations.
“I never heard him say a bad word about anybody,” he said.
His other son, Rick Post, recalls his dad meeting with a student and his parents when he was a middle school administrator in Port Orchard. The boy was being assessed for special education. His father quickly determined he was just behind and needed a tutor. He helped him. Years later, the boy graduated from college.
Post was asked to apply for superintendent in other districts, but never did. He loved Arlington.
In 2002, Dorothy Post, his wife of 52 years, died. Rick Post tried to talk his dad into moving closer to his family in Bellevue.
His father and his many friends in Arlington would have none of it. His ties to the community were too strong to sever.
“It’s not going to happen they said,” Rick Post recalled. “I told them, ‘Then you have to look out for him.’ And, boy, did they.”
Post attended Rotary meetings in Arlington for 42 years, selling thousands of Duck Dash tickets to benefit local charities during that time.
A memorial service to honor Dick Post is set for 4 p.m. Nov. 6 at Post Middle School, 1220 E. 5th St., in Arlington.