Hundreds of friends, parents, teachers, students, and former students filled the bleachers at Matthews Field Sunday afternoon to remember Upson-Lee High School teacher James R. “Jim” Argroves, who passed away at his home Friday morning. All had fond memories and stories of Mr. Argroves, one of the most beloved teachers at ULHS.
Mr. Argroves was in education for 30 years, with the majority of that time spent at ULHS. He taught Literature, English, the Arts, and foreign languages. It was decided to have the memorial service at Matthew’s Field not only for the large turnout, but also because Mr. Argroves directed the graduation ceremonies at the football stadium for all 19 years that Upson-Lee High has been open. Taking part in the service were ULHS Principal Tracy Caldwell, former ULHS Principal Clive Hendrix, Mr. Argroves’ brother-in-law Jim Barnes and niece Cheryl Duval, and retired ULHS teacher Adele Brinkley.
Tracy Caldwell related how he first came to know Mr. Argroves when Caldwell was a junior in high school and Mr. Argroves taught him American Literature. Caldwell said he and the rest of the students were amazed at how witty and smart Mr. Argroves was and his method of teaching them, calling them by nicknames and criticizing them.
“Mr. Argroves picked on everyone, but it was all in good, clean fun,” said Caldwell. “No one was ever safe in Mr. Argroves’ classroom, no one was ever safe around him. Everyone was fair game when it came to Mr. Argroves. But we all loved him for it. We all came to understand that was Mr. Argroves and we all came to love him for it.”
Caldwell said even when Mr. Argroves, 63, started having health problems this year, he refused to let his health keep him from his classroom and his students.
“Teaching is what he loved the most, and he absolutely loved his students,” said Caldwell. “He loved the relationships he formed with them and seeing the progress that they made each year. He made learning fun and he made it very challenging. But at the same time, he expected his students to work hard.”
Caldwell urged Mr. Argroves’ past and present students to honor his legacy.
“He taught us a valuable lesson. He taught us more than just how to read Shakespeare or talk German. He taught us how to work together, how to work hard, and most important, how to care for and love one another. I ask that we continue to honor that.”
Former ULHS Principal Cleve Hendrix stated that Mr. Argroves had an unbelievable connection with students and people.
“Jim Argroves was an absolute rock star,” said Hendrix. “He was a rock star to me. He was a rock star in the classroom. He was a rock star to the senior class. He was a rock star to his peers. He was a rock star to this school system. He was a rock star to this community. He was a rock star to his family. He is a rock star in Heaven today.”
Hendrix called Mr. Argoves the best teacher he has ever seen.
“I’ve been in education for over 30 years, and Mr. Jim Argroves is the absolute best teacher I ever saw. Mr. Argroves was a good man. He cared so much about kids and people. He was tough in the classroom. I have never heard one kid come back from college and say Mr. Argroves did not have him prepared.”
Retired teacher Adele Brinkley said she and Mr. Argroves were BFF’’s (best friends forever) for 15 years, and was one of a kind.
“I taught over 40 years, and in that time, I never met a teacher who was so well-liked by students.”
Brinkley, who retired two years ago, said she and Mr. Argroves talked often, and talked on the phone Thursday night for more than an hour. She said he was excited about his upcoming retirement.
“As we neared the end of our conversation, one of the last things he said was, ‘The years of teaching have been good to me, but it’s time for me to move on to the next phase of my life.’ Little did he and I know that within a few hours, he would move to the final phase of this life and cross this bar that he talked about so much in British Literature, and he would be walking on streets of gold and coming face to face with the Creator.”
Jim Barnes, Mr. Argrove’s brother-in-law, said he was a friend and mentor to everyone he met.
“A gifted and intelligent man, he used his life in the service of his country and his community,” said Barnes. “Many of you here today have had your lives greatly enriched because Jim Argroves was a part of it. I know that has certainly been the case for me.”
Cheryl Duval, a niece of Mr. Argroves, said his family was not spared from his sense of humor and that he had a heart of gold.
“We were lucky to have had him in our lives, lucky to call him uncle, lucky to have him as a role model,” said Duval. “I saw a Facebook post that read, ‘If dedication is the measure of a man, then Mr. Argroves would have been a giant.’ We agree. His dedication to his job, to his friends, to his family, is what made him the man he was. And in our eyes, he was a giant.”
Later Sunday evening, about 75 current and former students gathered in the Matthews Field parking lot for a candlelight vigil in memory of Mr. Argroves. They prayed, read Scripture, someone sang a song, members of the bands brass section played a song, and students took turns on sharing what Mr. Argroves meant to them.
An account has been set up at West Central Georgia Bank for donations to the James R. Argroves Memorial Student Scholarship Fund. The scholarship will be presented to a student at the Honors Night program, which Mr. Argroves was also in charge of.