Long time residents and educators return as snowbirds

Photo by Matt McPherson
Alice and Rich Herold, award-winning Hemet educators, taught at HUSD schools for more than 40 years.

■ By Matt McPherson / Columnist

It was a late hot summer day in 1968 as Rich and Alice Herold ventured down through Lamb Canyon, emerging above the San Jacinto Valley, the city of Hemet sprawled out in the distance. Rich glanced over in a tone of comfort and assurance and said to his wife, Alice, “We only have to stay here one year.”
The Herolds made the long trip from St Paul, Minnesota towing a U-Haul trailer behind their car. Oscar Bloom, a long time employee of Hemet Unified School District (HUSD) had recruited many teachers from the midwest to come work in the steadily expanding city of Hemet. When he contacted the Herolds, Alice was pregnant and looking for a community that offered a comprehensive hospital. Dr Drier, an excellent obstetrical doctor here in the valley, helped Alice deliver a beautiful baby girl. Considering the City of Hemet provided everything the Herold’s were looking for, the choice was very practical.
As they descended down into the valley and made their way down State Street, they found themselves at the intersection of State Street and Florida Avenue (Highway 79 & Highway 74). They made the trip with very little furniture and noticed a furniture store, McPherson’s Furniture, on the corner. They decided to pull in after the long drive to acquaint themselves with the town they would now call home. In the parking lot they encountered a young Bob McPherson (my father) loading furniture onto the back of a truck; he was eager to help them inside the store to find a comfortable chair. Rich and Alice reminisce about the encounter as one that struck them about the ambiance of Hemet and its overtly friendly people who extended such a warm welcome. The first night in town they stayed at The Ramona Hotel and then the next day rented an apartment.
Alice was recruited to teach at the newest of the three Hemet valley elementary schools, Ramona Elementary, where she continued to teach for more than 40 years. Rich was recruited for Hemet High in downtown Hemet, and four years later moved with Hemet High to its new facility in 1972 on Stanford and Stetson, where it sits today. Rich also continued teaching for more than four decades and led the record-setting Hemet High Academic Decathlon team to numerous titles throughout the state and the nation. Rich said “Hemet High is kind of a paradise.”
Both Rich and Alice were honored as outstanding teachers in the district, the county and statewide. Alice explained, “We had perfect jobs that allowed us to serve on committees and take summer jobs.”

Photo by Alice Herold
Rich Herold overseeing one of his many award-winning Academic Decathlon teams. From left to right Ryan Fetbrant, Ken Shaw, Jason K. Chappell (killed in a car bomb blast in Iraq in 2004), Ray Zavala, Judi McPherson, Rich Herold.

The Herolds raised three daughters in Hemet, who attended HUSD schools. Kara, Kate and Kelly are all now university professors; their excellent education within the Hemet education system obviously prepared them well.
“We loved our time in Hemet and always felt fortunate that we landed here,” said Rich.
Rich and Alice recently moved back to their roots in St. Paul, but still consider Hemet their home, at least in the winter. They look forward to a winter with “NO ICE” says Rich. “When it’s minus 7 degrees in St Paul and 77 degrees in Hemet, it’s a no brainer.”
When asked what draws them back to the San Jacinto Valley they both responded, “The people is what the town is about.” They praise the friendships they’ve nurtured in the valley, which they acknowledge cannot be bought 50 years later.
According to the Legend of Tahquitz, whoever sleeps in the shadow of the San Jacinto Mountains, legendary home to Tahquitz Rock and Tahquitz Peak, will eventually return. Rich and Alice have spent 50 years sleeping in the shadow of the mountain and now return every winter as snowbirds, escaping the harsh winters of St. Paul, Minnesota.

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