By SHANNON WATKINS
Elmer Huff, who passed away this week, was an educator in various Southwest Virginia school systems for 36 years and spent most of his career in Pulaski County. An only child, he took care of his elderly mother until she passed away, did not marry and left few relatives. He was an educator in various Southwest Virginia school systems for 36 years and spent most of his career in Pulaski County.
“I would say he was married to his profession,” said Dewey Wilson, who was a close friend of Huff’s since they went to school at Radford University together. “He just had the finest relationship with students. He spent a lot of time with them.”
Wilson continued, reminiscing, “He had a special way with students. They just kind of sought him out. He always made himself available. He wasn’t one to park himself in the office.”
Born in June 23, 1929 in Coal Wood, W.Va., Huff graduated from Sylvatus High School in 1948 and received a B.A from VPI in 1961 and a Master’s from VPI in 1964, also studying at Radford University and the University of Virginia, and taught in Wythe, Floyd and Pulaski counties.
Wilson said his friendship with Huff started when the two met at Radford University while pursuing degrees. Wilson said Huff assisted him, “to get to know the classes I should take and the order I should take them in. He helped me with that.”
A Southwest Times article from 1964 about Huff obtaining his Master’s quotes him as saying, “Teaching at Pulaski High School is most enjoyable. The faculty is most cooperative and student body is one of the finest. We have a school of which we can be justly proud.”
Huff appeared in the news occasionally, and was, according to Wilson, a key figure in helping the transition from Pulaski High School to Pulaski County High School go smoothly.
A newspaper article from June 9, 1974 says of the event, “Huff said the biggest menace of the last day in PHS’s history was water guns. He said there were no firecrackers nor smoke bombs, but water guns were nearly everywhere.”
His retirement was covered in the press as well. In a Southwest Times article about his 1996 retirement, Huff said of students, “Basically there’s not too much difference than when I started. They still need help with their problems. They still need someone to listen to them and help them.”
Chris Fisher of Draper, a former student of Huff’s, became his caretaker three years ago. Fisher said, “I was friends with him since I was 15.” Huff had a farm that, according to Fisher, included such animals as, “bighorn sheep, goats, these exotic birds. That’s how I got to know him, working on his farm [in Carroll County].”
Fisher said that another former student of Huff’s told him that once, when she was under his tutelage, he had taken a group of students, including herself, to New York, and that this was typical of his warm, generous nature.
Darlene Shaver, Fisher’s mother and also one of Huff’s final caretakers, said that he had a failing memory is his last years, but remained interested in those around him.
“When me met young people he would always ask them, ‘Did I teach you?’” Shaver recalled. “He was a man of excellent character. He was such a gentleman. Even in declining health, everything that you did for him, he was just so appreciative. He would ask, ‘Am I doing alright?’”
Wilson said, finally, of his old colleague, “He was certainly a fine gentleman, educator and friend. He certainly will be missed.”