The lessons people learn on the playground when they're children can be some of the most important they take with them into adulthood.
Henry E. Carlson, called Gene by close friends, was one of those who taught those lessons. As a playground aide at Woodstock Elementary School, 6015 S. 13th East, Carlson taught hundreds of youngsters aged 6 to 12 how to take turns, how to play fair and how high is too high on the tricky bars.Last year, at 70, his participation in a rousing game of baseball with the school staff and older students taught students too young to even realize it yet that you're as young as you feel.
Gene and his wife Jean - folks would joke that they could say hi to one Gene (or Jean) and include them both - were hired part time as playground aides seven years ago. But as far back as when their 43-year-old son was at Woodstock, the Carlsons have been volunteering to do something to help the school that educated their eight children.
So it seems fitting that even in death, Gene Carlson is continuing to teach some lessons of life to the Woodstock children. The PTA, with the encouragement of principal Paul Trane, planted a mulberry tree last week in honor of Carlson, who died in a gun accident three days after school let out last spring.
Trane told the children gathered at the tree-planting ceremony that when they dance around this mulberry tree, or laugh as they kick a soccer ball past it, they can remember the man they called "Daddy" at lunchtime break and how he used to look after them.
Jean Carlson will continue to work as a playground aide and carry on the teaching of those simple lessons. And a graceful mulberry tree will be a reminder to the students of an even more important lesson about life and love and death - and remembering.