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A lasting legacy as lead secretary
January 29, 2020
When the sky is still dark, WHHS Lead Secretary, Joan Kuethe, makes her way into the school. Passing under the dome, framed by fading stars, she pushes open the door to her office and switches on the light.
The fluorescent brightness that fills the room is softened as Kuethe turns the dial on her radio, sifting through static until music flows out. Sounds of keyboard clicks, phone calls and voices start to swell as WHHS wipes the sleep from its eyes. The radio disappears into the background.
When the bell sharply cuts through the noise, daylight is starting to peek out of the sky. The volume of the school fades and Kuethe takes a deep breath as a smile fills her face. She then turns to her computer, ready to face the day.
Having served in this role since 2013, Kuethe is accustomed to the sounds and sights of life at WHHS. However, on Dec. 20, she walked into her office and prepared for her final day.
After her 30-year-long secretarial career, Kuethe retired from WHHS.
Her career began in 1989. With a love of kids and a desire to have the summers off of work, Kuethe was drawn to the profession.
Kuethe also had children of her own, providing experience working with school-aged kids.
“I’m a mother first,” Kuethe said.
Working at schools around Cincinnati, it wasn’t until 2013 that Kuethe began at WHHS. When Kuethe arrived, she served as the secretary for former principal Jeff Brokamp until 2017, when he retired. For the past three years, Kuethe has been Principal John Chamber’s secretary.
Over her time at WHHS, Kuethe’s wooden desk has become covered in trinkets given to her by friends, family and former student helpers. A framed picture sat next to stacks of paper and a sky blue sign that read: “I believe kindness changes everything.” Keuthe embodied this philosophy in her work, greeting everybody that she encountered with a smile.
This smile allowed her to build connections with many of the students and staff of WHHS.
When janitors, Moses Harris and Mylon Lowe, came into her office looking for AA batteries, Kuethe supplied them with both the batteries and a couple minutes of easy conversation.
“I love our custodians,” Kuethe said.
When the nurse, Mary Jo Rose, was in need of saltine crackers for sick students, Kuethe began saving all of the crackers she acquired from eating out. Once she had gathered enough, she put the crackers in a bag and delivered them to the nurse.
And when the school’s Treasurer, Janet Fine, stood at Kuethe’s desk to talk, the pair’s discussions flowed naturally. This time, she looked at Kuethe sadly.
“I’m going to miss her more than anyone else,” Fine said.
With great responsibility
A self-proclaimed “office manager,” Kuethe’s main duty was to coordinate Chambers’ schedule.
However, her work encompassed more than just the office. Overseeing shadowing, providing building access and organizing the payroll included just some of Kuethe’s responsibilities.
Kuethe also handled morning announcements. Handing them to Chambers, he inquired about a meeting. As Kuethe searched for information, Chambers turned around and laughed, good heartedly.
“Look at all the things she has to do for me,” Chambers said.
What comes next?
As Kuethe’s time at WHHS came to an end, her feelings were bittersweet.
“I do love it here,” Kuethe said.
However, after retirement, she will be able to spend her time differently. Kuethe has plans to travel and connect with her grandchildren.
Kuethe’s role was filled by WHHS’ former twelfth grade office secretary, Shelli Daniels.
At the end of the day
By the time Kuethe walked out of the doors of WHHS, the sky had opened up, afternoon sun beaming down. The school was quiet once again.
As she departed for retirement, Kuethe left not only her job, but a legacy of kindness in her role.