The Prayer Lines Behind the Bylines
from a beloved educator on
the 3-Fs: Faith, Family & Fraternity
Ancient wisdom assures that when the student is ready, the teacher will appear.
But who knew that same teacher would reappear decades later when the student was
ready for advanced enlightenment?
Such a blessing was bestowed upon me shortly after my 40th high school reunion
when I was reunited with my Hippie-era English teacher: Stephen R. Toussaint.
It was September 2013 – roughly 45 years since I’d received my first homework
assignment from Mr. T.
I can no longer recall with accuracy whether the challenge was to probe more
deeply into why Thoreau went to the woods or what the Dickens Charles meant when
he observed it had been the best of times and the worst of times.
The important thing is that Mr. T inspired me to think, think, think rather than
to merely memorize, memorize, memorize and recite, recite, recite. As per a
related essay I penned about Mr. T for the Winter 1999-2000 edition of Saratoga
Living magazine (reprinted in the
version of this chapter) that
lesson alone had earned him an A+ in my book.
But as I sit at my keyboard in 2016, I’m grateful that our story didn’t end as
the sun was setting on the last century. For I was no more ready on the eve of
Y2K than I’d been on the eve of my Class of 1971 high school graduation to
ponder and pass along the greatest lessons my teacher had to offer.
Then it happened: The Saratogian invited me to prepare an advance story about
the fact that Stephen R. Toussaint was preparing to lead Knights of Columbus
Council 246 in a crusade to bring “solace to the saddened and sustenance to the
poor with love and kindness, consistency and understanding.”
With just days to go before his October 2013 installation as Grand Knight of the
450-member strong Saratoga K of C, Mr. T shared that he would be seeking “new
vision, new ideas and renewed energy” to deal with challenges that differ from
those that faced his late father William when he had been installed as Grand
Knight of the very same K of C Council 80 years earlier.
While the Order’s principles of charity, unity, fraternity and patriotism remain
constant, Mr. T had reflected that the work was just beginning in other areas.
Although he was only 19 when his father passed away, Mr. T said the example set
by the patriarch of the family of seven children had left an indelible
“My father was the primary mentor in my early years. He introduced a sense of
values to me for my personal and spiritual life, the understanding of respect
and love of life. There have been additional important role models and teachers
for me in every walk of life. I am who I am because of the people who have taken
an interest in me and my BE-ing,” said Mr. T.
“It is my belief that we are given this life to benefit others. It is most
rewarding to actively support the work and effort of others we meet along our
way through the years,” said Mr. T, who forged a distinguished career as a
teacher and a principal in the Ballston Spa Central School District for three
decades before taking an early retirement in 1999.
A member of the local chapter of the Columbian Squires during his teen years,
Mr. T didn’t become a member of the Saratoga K of C until 2007. This was in
large part because he and wife Suzanne, who celebrated their Golden Wedding
Anniversary in 2015, were so busy rearing their 10 children who have since
gifted them with 13 grandchildren and a great-grandchild.
Another reason: the former President of his fifth grade class at St. Clement’s
and three of his high school classes at St. Peter’s (now Saratoga Central
Catholic) has spent much of his retirement volunteering for secular causes.
Primary beneficiaries were The Prevention Council where Mr. T served for 12
years, six as President, and on the Saratoga Community Services Board, five
years, one as President.
Since joining the K of C, Mr. T’s assignments have ranged “from washing dishes
in the kitchen to being an inside guard” to serving as Council Warden and
Chancellor. “It has been my privilege to work alongside many dedicated,
action-oriented Knights,” said Mr. T, adding he would be doing his utmost as
Grand Knight “to be present, in support of, if not working for, everything that
Council 246 conducts.”
Mr. T’s chief goals as Grand Knight included “supporting the sick and disabled,
increasing opportunities for the growth of individual Knights in the focus areas
of the order, raising funds to continue supporting individuals and institutions
in our community” as well as “increasing charitable and fraternal opportunities
for our membership.”
At the time Stephen Toussaint was chosen as Knights of Columbus Council 246’s
Grand Knight in 2013, District Deputy Rich Gorman said he believed it was
“because Steve has a good understanding of people and good organization skills.
he is not afraid to move ahead into areas with which he is unfamiliar and
strives to realize the best results from situations that arise.” What was NOT
included in the piece I submitted to the daily newspaper three years ago was this
delightful excerpt from one of Mr. T’s literary pep talks to the Knights he was
about to commence leading by word and deed:
“It is with a humble spirit, a full heart and sincere determination that I take
on the role of Grand Knight for Council 246 this term. You can expect my very
best, persistent and sustained efforts to fulfill my responsibilities on behalf
of our Council. I am confident that I can count on the same from each of you
(as) ‘Many hands make light work!’ (and) ‘Too few, doing too much make the
brave, well-intended, weary.’ Know you are needed. Know that you are welcome to
do as much or as little as you can, when you can.”
I like to think Mr. T’s Dad was smiling from above as his read his son’s 2013
words as well as by those shared after Stephen Toussaint was chosen to lead as
2016-2017 Faithful Navigator for K of C Assembly 745.
In accepting his newest position, Faithful Navigator Toussaint vowed to do his
utmost to execute his newest duties in order to achieve the goals of the
Assembly -- most of which focus on our responsibilities as citizens and caring
for our nation’s veterans and their families.
PHOTO CREDITS: Top portrait of Past Grand Knight Stephen Toussaint
courtesy of Ginelle Toussaint; middle portrait of Principal Toussaint courtesy
of the Ballston Spa Central School District; bottom portrait of Mr. Toussaint's
late father, William R. Toussaint, by George S. Bolster.
TO VIEW PDF OF THE TOUSSAINT CHAPTER where you’ll learn more about the seasoned
public school instructor-turned-educational administrator whose legacy includes
having inspired scores of teachers and parents with the words: “Kids don’t care
what you know unless they know that you care.”
months after completing the preceding chapter honoring Stephen R. Toussaint came
news of the passing of his beloved wife Suzanne Bolster Toussaint. Please
to view PDF of a tribute to her inspiring life