For nearly six decades, public education has been a centerpiece in the life of Walter Armes.

This year, the 78-year-old vice president of the Whitehall school board will step down after a quarter-century of service to the panel, capping a career in public education that began in 1960.

"I will, of course, deeply miss students, teachers and all those I've worked with and met -- (but) it's time," said Armes, citing his health as a factor in his decision not to seek re-election to the school board in November.

Aug. 9 was the deadline to file a petition to run with the Franklin County Board of Elections, but Armes announced earlier this year he would not seek another term.

"I've tremendously enjoyed being on the school board and thankful for all those who have seen fit to elect me to serve our district," said Armes, a past board president who first joined the panel in 1990.

Earlier this year, Armes' wife of 52 years, Jean, also retired from public education.

Jean Armes began working as a substitute teacher for the Whitehall City School District in 1969, then served as a special-education teacher in the district.

Later, she taught second- and fourth-grade classes until her retirement in 1995, but continued as a substitute teacher until last spring.

Walter Armes graduated from Cridersville High School, just south of Lima, and earned a bachelor's degree in political science from Ohio Northern University.

"I enjoyed being a student and learning," Armes said, a passion that he said evolved into his desire to teach.

Three days after graduating from Ohio Northern in December 1960, Armes began teaching in the Holmes-Liberty school district, which included the city of Bucyrus.

The district had one K-12 building, with separate classrooms for each grade.

Armes said he taught "everything" to upperclassmen -- including American history and world history, business law and typing -- and even drove a bus. He also coached track and basketball.

Armes also taught at school districts in Mineral Ridge, Winford and Painesville Township. He met his wife, Jean, at Kent State University, where Walter's sister and future wife both attended.

"I was friends with (Walter's) sister at Kent State -- that's how we met," Jean Armes said.

The newlyweds moved to Whitehall in 1968, the same year their first daughter, Christina, was born, and Walter Armes began teaching at Eastland Career Center, a vocational school that serves Whitehall and several other districts.

Armes, who has a master's degree in political science from Indiana State University, taught at Eastland Career Center until 1997, while his wife taught in Whitehall schools.

Jean Armes holds an undergraduate degree from Kent State University and a master's degree in early childhood education from Ohio State University.

But the education the Armeses imparted traveled well beyond the walls of classrooms and their own residence, where they raised two daughters, Christina and Rebecca.

The Armeses hosted 19 foreign-exchange students and two teachers in their home, leaving them with extended families across the globe.

They've attended the weddings of two of their former exchange students, one in Germany and another in Hungary.

"We're still in contact today with many of them," Jean Armes said.

During his tenure at Eastland Career Center, Walter Armes accepted an appointment to the Whitehall school board.

"Someone asked me to consider running for the school board," said Armes, and after confirming there was no conflict of interest, he accepted the appointment Dec. 12, 1990, to fill an unexpired term.

He was elected in 1991 to a four-year term but lost a re-election bid in 1995.

Armes said he believes his loss at the polls was fallout from the district's decision in June 1994 to close Robinwood Elementary School.

"We had a kind of money crisis then ... but not everyone was happy with the decision," said Armes.

The district's other three elementary schools -- Beechwood, Etna Road and Kae Avenue -- absorbed Robinwood's students.

In 1997, he was elected to a new four-year term and this year will complete his fifth consecutive full term.

Armes said he is pleased with the board's accomplishments during his tenure, including the launch of all-day kindergarten, the opening of the C. Ray Williams Early Childhood Center, and most notably, the five new school buildings constructed with financial assistance from the Ohio Schools Facilities Commission.

Whitehall voters approved a $23 million bond issue in 2008 that, coupled with $78 million from the commission, paved the way for the replacement of the three elementary schools along with Rosemore Middle School and Whitehall-Yearling High School.

The new Whitehall-Yearling High School opened in 2013 -- but a portion of the original high school remained, and in August 2015, it was renovated and renamed in honor of Armes.

The Walter Armes Learning Center includes several classrooms, an auditorium and a gymnasium.

A plaque dedicating the section of the school delineates in detail his service to the district and education.

Superintendent Brian Hamler called Armes "a great public servant" and said he has "given of himself for the children and families of Whitehall for many years.

"Whitehall City Schools is better because of the work performed by Walter and the many board members he led through the years," Hamler said.

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