For the past few weeks on days when the weather is nice, Stilwell Junior High social studies teacher Sherri Bogue eats her lunch in the school’s courtyard. It was her father’s favorite place to be while he served as principal for over 20 years.
“He would tell us stories about the courtyard and the family of ducks that were there,” Bogue remembered of a memory when she was younger. “The mom had baby ducks, and he liked relaying how the ducks were doing to us. He was proud of the courtyard. He loved having kids there and having green space.”
Earlier this year, Leslie (Les) Aasheim passed away in March. He was 82 years old, and his death was unrelated to COVID-19, Bogue said.
And today, thanks to the support of current and former Stilwell staff, a new dedication display—two benches and a peace pole—have since been placed in his memory.
“It's just nice to be somewhere where I know my dad was invested in and proud of,” a tearful Bogue said. “It's special to sit on those benches and eat my lunch, to have some quiet time. But in some ways, it’s also time with him.”
‘A Master At Gathering People Together’
Stilwell Principal Les Aasheim in 1977.
Aasheim served as Stilwell’s principal from 1977 until his retirement in 1999. Bob Woodard was the assistant principal during the final 13 years of Aasheim’s Stilwell tenure.
“He and I, we hit it off immediately,” Woodard said of Aasheim. “It didn’t take us very long for me to know where he was going—his train of thought—and him the same with me. That became a very valuable tool for the two of us.”
He added that even in moments of disagreement, it never impacted their relationship in and out of the school setting.
“He was always an extremely supportive person,” Woodard said. “He expected all staff members to do what they were supposed to and do as well as they could do it. There might be a few people who think Les was abrasive, but he had a huge heart. Les was that kind of person.
“He was the kind of person that I guess I would say I'd like to have as a father or brother.”
Julie Powell-Mohr was an English language arts teacher when Aasheim was principal. She called him “a master at gathering people together, at opening doors and building bridges across differences” simply because he valued each person's story.
“I will forever imagine him gathering all of us on the benches,” Powell-Mohr said. “All of us together telling stories, laughing together, comforting each other, sharing ideas, and holding a space for peace.”
Bruce Blecken, another former Stilwell employee, was a school counselor when he and Aasheim worked together. Blecken complimented Aasheim with the characteristics he possessed as a person, mentor, and leader.
"He had high expectations of staff and students and the desire to build a school environment where all students and staff were comfortable so they could learn and work to the best of their ability," Blecken said of Aasheim. "The respect he had for parents, students and staff as individuals and as groups was reflected in the learning environment that he led at Stilwell. And he earned the respect of those individuals and groups through getting and using their input when making decisions needed to create the best possible learning and working environment."