June 15, 2003
Daily Press & Argus
by Jim Totten
Teacher and Principal
with a connection to Hartford Michigan
Bob Scranton will ride
high on July 4
Bob Scranton is
a living legend in Brighton. And so is his size 13 gym shoe.
When students at the old Brighton Middle School on the hill, now the BECC
Building, managed to get into trouble during the '50s, '60s, '70s and '80s, they
faced an imposing principal. Scranton stood 6 feet, 4 inches, weighed 250 pounds
and spoke loud and clear.
His motto for treating students was "Fair, firm and friendly."
When it came to being firm, Scranton kept a size 13 gym shoe in his office to do
the talking. He would give the troublemakers a single whack on the buttocks with
the gym shoe and send them on their way.
This shoe was given to Scranton when he retired in 1983 after working 31 years
for the Brighton school district. He served 29 years as principal at
Brighton Middle School, which was
re-named Scranton Middle School before he retired. The school moved 10
years ago into a new building on Maltby Road.
Scranton, who is 84 and lives in Green Oak Township, will receive special
recognition next month when he rides as the grand marshal in the annual Fourth
of July parade in Brighton. He will be accompanied by his wife, Mildred. They
have been married 52 years and have two grown children.
Although Scranton's health has declined recently - he has suffered three strokes
and uses a cane while walking - he's still passionate about three things. He's
crazy about students and the University of Michigan Wolverines; he's also
During his years as principal, Scranton watched students grow up and have their
own kids who would attend the middle school where he reigned as principal. Not
only did Scranton teach and serve as principal, he coached many students and
single-handedly ran a summer recreation program that taught about 5,000 kids how
to swim and play little league baseball.
Many former students and former co-workers have a tremendous amount of respect
for Scranton. As they came to know Scranton, they discovered his bark was worse
than his bite. His true love was teaching and guiding students.
"He had a heart of gold for the kids," Brighton resident Jere Michaels said. He
said Scranton was his science teacher and coached him in football, basketball
and golf during the 1950s. Michaels, who served 12 years on the Brighton school
board, said Scranton was principal when his kids went to the middle school.
Michaels said many of the former students come back and visit Scranton.
"I don't know if anybody has given more to the (Brighton) community," Michaels
Current Scranton Middle School Principal Ken Hamman said Scranton was the one
who hired him as a teacher-coach in 1975. Hamman taught four years and served as
assistant principal for four years before replacing Scranton as principal in
"I was scared to death," Hamman said about the first time he met Scranton. He
said it was his first job interview and Scranton was an "imposing figure."
"I'm not a small guy, but I was small next to him," Hamman said. The interview
went fine because Hamman and Scranton had something in common; both of them were
from the western side of Michigan.
Hamman described his mentor as friendly, very honest and forthright. He said,
"You always knew where you stood with him."
Hamman said his former boss was well-liked by the students.
"Compassion, I think compassion was his greatest asset," Hamman said. "He taught
me the value of looking at what was in the best interest of the kids and always
to base your decision on that."
Scranton is a huge Wolverine fan because he attended U-M and received his
master's degree. He's been a fixture at football and basketball games for the
past 40 years. He served as an usher at football games for over 40 years and at
basketball games for over 30 years.
What many residents might not know is what Scranton went through to make him so
His World War II days
Scranton grew up in Paw Paw, a small community in southwestern Michigan. He
played football and baseball in high school and went on to play football at
Western Michigan University. When he was drafted into the U.S. Army in 1942, the
25-year Scranton soon found himself fighting in Europe.
He fought in the Battle of Bulge and was captured by the Germans in December
1944. He spent the next few months on a forced walk across 540 miles through
Czechoslovakia and Germany.
Scranton said he and his fellow soldiers lived on raw sugar beets and potatoes
that they stole from nearby farms. The sugar beets were raised for cow feed.
He remembers asking a buddy why everyone was calling him "slim." According to
Scranton, his buddy said, "Look at yourself, you're skin and bones."
Scranton said he lost over 100 pounds during the walk, and his 6-foot-4-inch
frame had dropped to under 150 pounds. He said many guys couldn't keep walking,
and the Germans picked them up and supposedly took them to a hospital. He said,
"Those guys just disappeared."
Of the 300 soldiers who started out on the march, Scranton said only 30
Scranton said he wasn't scared during this time.
"I had a strong faith in God that I would make it," he said. Scranton kept a
small Bible with him and read it every night with whatever light was available.
Scranton received a Bronze Star for his service.
A lifelong educator begins his work
When Scranton returned home in 1946, he
became a teacher-coach at Hartford, a small town near Kalamazoo. He coached
football, baseball and basketball and became a very popular person.
One young girl, an eighth-grader, even had a crush on Scranton. She told her
older sister, Mildred, about this wonderful teacher and kept talking about him.
Mildred decided she would have to meet this Mr. Scranton. Her younger sister
arranged for them to meet at a dance after one of the games.
Scranton was a 1943 Hartford High School graduate.]
Mildred liked him immediately. "I liked him because he was in charge and
knew what he was going to do with his life, there was no indecision about him,"
Scranton was equally impressed with his future wife. "She had good looking
legs," Scranton said, grinning.
Scranton said he ended up in Brighton
because the school superintendent, H.G. Hawkins, told him about an opening in
the district. Hawkins [Hawkins at HHS 1944-1947] knew Scranton from when they worked together at Hartford.
Scranton took on his responsibilities in what was then the small town of
Brighton and never left.
"Brighton has been good to me and my wife and my two kids," Scranton said.
Scranton has been a longtime member of the Brighton Rotary Club and the American
Legion Post 235. He served as president of the Rotary Club.
Bob Sweeney, former Brighton community education director, worked with Scranton
for 10 years. Sweeney retired this year as community education director after
working 29 years.
Sweeney said four of his kids went through Brighton schools, and two of them had
Scranton as a principal.
He said Scranton had a great sense of humor and a "booming voice." "You
always knew where Mr. Scranton was," Sweeney said.
He said Scranton was a kind man but one whose authority was clearly evident when
he entered a room. "He never minced any words," Sweeney said. "When he had
an opinion or thought, he would let you know."
Sweeney said the longtime principal helped students become better.
"He really tried to hold people to a high level of success and have them realize
you're not going to go too far in life if you don't take care of business,"
Mark Binkley, co-owner of Cooper & Binkley Jewelers in Brighton, has known
Scranton for many years since both are members of the Rotary Club and Brighton
First Presbyterian Church.
"I know he's fiercely patriotic," Binkley said.
He remembers seeing Scranton seated in a wheelchair at a U-M basketball game
earlier this year. "When the National Anthem played, he stood up," Binkley said.
"Although he's not able to get on as he used to, he had the class to stand,"
passed away on April 29, 2009.
Daily Press & Argus
by Reporter, Leah Boyd
Former School Principal dies at 90
Robert Scranton, the
former school principal for whom Brighton's Scranton Middle School is named
and who survived as a prisoner of war during World War II, died Wednesday. He
was 90 years old.
Family members said Scranton, a sports lover who spent
decades actively volunteering and serving Brighton Area Schools, died from
complications of kidney disease at a nursing home in Ann Arbor.
He is survived by his wife of 58 years, Mildred, two
children, and three grandchildren.
"He had a tremendous zest for life, but the body just
gave out," said Mildred Scranton of Brighton. "He really enjoyed people and
Robert Scranton began working for Brighton Area Schools
in 1952, and served for 31 years in roles including teacher, coach, athletic
director and middle school principal. The district Board of Education named
Robert L. Scranton Middle School in 1977 to honor Robert Scranton after 25
years in the district.
Friends and former colleagues said Robert Scranton was
highly respected as an administrator.
"He was an institution all on his own," said Peg Siford,
a former Brighton teacher. Siford said she knew Robert Scranton for 50 years
and, in her younger days, worked with him to run a recreation program for
Brighton Area Schools.
Joyce Powers of Brighton said her late husband, Lyle
Powers, a former Brighton High School principal, also worked with Robert
Scranton for many years. Four of her children had Scranton as a principal. "We
could always count on Bob," Powers said. "People ran a tight ship in those
days and that was good. He was highly respected."
Robert Scranton, born Nov. 8, 1918, in Paw Paw, was
also known as a World War II veteran who was captured as a prisoner of war in
Belgium during The Battle of the Bulge. The battle, fought in the winter
months of 1944 and 1945, was the Nazis' last major attack on the Allies. More
than 76,000 Americans were killed, wounded or captured during the attack.
Ken Hamman, current Brighton High School principal,
said Robert Scranton shared several war stories with him during their years
working together for the district.
"He made me appreciate what their generation went
through," Hamman said. "He shared a lot of his stories of survival."
Hamman said Robert Scranton escaped as a prisoner
and was eventually found by the Allies. He spent 50 years as a member of the
American Legion and served as commander of Brighton Post 235.
Robert Scranton was involved in numerous community
activities and had a passion for sports. He served as a football, basketball
and golf coach during his career at Brighton Area Schools and was an
enthusiastic University of Michigan sports fan, family members said. His wife
said Robert Scranton spent many years ushering at U-M football and basketball
He also was a member and past president of the Brighton
Rotary Club and served as a deacon at First Presbyterian Church of Brighton.
Family members said Robert Scranton was a family man
who loved to dance. He and Mildred Scranton married in 1950. Scranton had been
the teacher of his wife's younger sister.
to Brighton, Robert Scranton was a teacher in Byron Center and Hartford. He
taught English, social studies, biology, and U.S. history throughout his
He earned a bachelor's degree from Western Michigan
University and a master's degree from the University of Michigan.
Robert Scranton is survived by his wife; son, Clare
Scranton of Pinckney; daughter, Karen Kierpaul of Westland; and three
grandchildren, Eric Scranton of Pinckney, and Aaron and Kassandra Kierpaul of
Visitation will be held from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. today at
Herrmann Funeral Home, 600 E. Main St. in Brighton. A funeral service will be
held at 12 p.m. Saturday at First Presbyterian Church of Brighton, 300 E.
Grand River Ave. Following the service, a burial will take place at Brighton
Memorial contributions for the Robert L. Scranton
Academic/Athletic Fund can be sent to 9441 Old Lee Road, Brighton MI 48116.