Beloved Imperial Valley educator passes

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The last Wednesday in July, one of Imperial Valley’s most beloved community icons passed away as family and friends prayed him into heaven.  Herbert (Herb) Farrar first arrived in Imperial Valley to teach school in 1959 at Hedrick Elementary School in El Centro, his first job out of college. His aptitude for leadership and his knack of bringing out the best in others quickly led to various school administrative positions and eventually as County Superintendent of Schools where he was elected four consecutive terms for a total of 18 years.

“Dr. Farrar was not only a great leader,” said Dr. Todd Finnell, “but he was an extraordinary man that I’ve been blessed to have as a mentor, coach and friend.”  The current Superintendent of County Schools continued, “The Imperial County Office of Education is where it is today, in large part, to the direction and culture that Dr. Farrar set in motion.  We still have employees, including myself, that were hired by him.  All of us have fond memories of the man and everything he represented.”

Born in Wisconsin, Herb’s family moved out to California in the 1940s where he attended Bell Gardens High School and was the ASB president his senior year, said childhood friend Bob Smith.  “He met his wife Lou Ann in junior high school and they never dated anyone else.” commented Smith.

While in school, Herb excelled at sports and played football, basketball and baseball.  He attended and graduated from Long Beach State University in 1959, where he played on both the basketball and baseball teams. The baseball coach at Long Beach State, John McConnell, remembered Herb fondly and recalled that Herb started the first and only triple play in Long Beach State history.

“Herb was playing second base and leaped to catch a rocket line drive, then got up and threw to first base to catch the runner, then the runner on second base was caught off base as well and it all started with Herb’s great catch,” McConnell, the 90-year-old former coach, recalled with vivid memory.

In 1965, Herb also graduated with his Master’s Degree from Long Beach State. After college, Herb and his wife Lou Ann traveled to Imperial Valley to begin a career in teaching. His first job was at Hedrick Elementary in El Centro where people fondly remember him.

Retired Associate Superintendent, Butch Taylor, commented, “He was one of the most respected and beloved educators that I ever had the pleasure of working with. His integrity, special leadership style and skills were unsurpassed and he always had a very unique talent for bringing people together.”

Herb’s daughter, Susan Paradis, also recalled that Herb served as the Principal, Superintendent, Janitor, Bus Driver and night watchman at Verde School, south of Holtville. Verde school eventually merged with Holtville Unified, but not before Herb left his mark on students and families.

“Dad was principal or taught at Washington Elementary, Desert Gardens Elementary and Wilson Jr High, when I was little, if I couldn’t get his attention in public by saying ‘dad’, I would say ‘Mr. Farrar,’ and he would turn around and look for a student,” reminisced Susan. “He always remembered his students and staff by name, no matter how much time had passed. And it seems no matter where I go today, I hear a story from someone… ‘your dad gave me a swat in school’ – always followed up by ‘but I deserved it’ or ‘he always took time to make me feel special’.  I remember that paddle he had. Fortunately, I was never spanked by it… at least not the paddle,” chuckled Susan.

Retired Sheriff Harold Carter, a longtime friend of Dr. Farrar, noted that as police chief and later county sheriff, he would often seek advice from Herb.  “I always knew he had my best interest at all times,” said Carter, speaking of Dr. Farrar. “He was a friend, but became closer than a brother over time.”

As fellow deacons at Central Baptist Church together over the years, they and their families became close.  “I feel fortunate to have had such a close friend as Herb in my life,” said Carter.

Always striving for more, Herb received his Doctorate in Education in 1983. The “Over-The-Hill Gang” consisted of Dr. Joe Vogel, Dr. Jim Matherly and Dr. Lee Johnson. The four would travel over-the-hill to Point Loma every Wednesday for three years, spending the summers at NAU to receive their doctorate degrees.

Herb’s gift for leadership did not stop with education. He was a member of Kiwanis Club, serving as president; he was a Deacon and Music leader of Central Baptist Church for 38 plus years; and helped build a church in Holtville and El Centro.  He and his wife, Lou Ann, served in the ministry, as youth directors as well.

After retirement, Herb and his son, Craig, founded Farrar Golf, a great time for father and son to work side-by-side. Herb handled the administrative end, and Craig did the design and sales. Herb was very proud of that phase of his life.

Herb also served at La Jolla Community Church as President of the Board of their Pre-School.  When he had to “slow down,” he began ministering to memory care units. In Albuquerque, Herb gave brief messages and sang hymns with memory care residents while his daughter, Kerry, accompanied on piano. He continued to serve those in memory care after moving to Wesley Palms Retirement Community by leading sing-a-longs while playing the ukulele for residents there.

Herb was preceded in death in March 2016 by his wife Lou Ann, and in October 2016, remarried.  Linda Farrar was a widowed friend whose husband had also been a County Superintendent in Northern California. Ironically, Linda had attended Mt. Signal School as a child when her father served as the superintendent of the pioneer school district that is now merged with Calexico Unified.

Herb’s family came across his “Final Wishes” when going through his belongings. Herb wrote “If anyone asks how I want to be remembered, please say the following:  He loved the Lord and family and lived a life of service.”

 A memorial service for Dr. Herb Farrar is planned for 10 a.m. Saturday, September 9 at Christ Community Church in El Centro, to be followed immediately by a luncheon at the Central Baptist Church Family Life Center, a building that Herb helped build. In lieu of flowers, Herb requested that a donation be made to a charity of your choice in his name.

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