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Published: Friday, 1/28/2005

Bryan principal had ready smile for his students

BRYAN - Kenneth W. Rychener, who was an elementary principal for Bryan City Schools for 34 years and sold menswear part-time at the former Hawk's Clothing Store here, died Wednesday in Community Hospitals and Wellness Center of Montpelier, Ohio.

He was 79 and died of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease after four years of poor health, including a recent broken hip, his wife, Mary Margaret "Petie" Rychener, said.

Mr. Rychener's personality appealed to many of his students, said Sharon Carpenter, whom he hired to teach first grade at Bryan's former Pulaski Elementary School.

"He was quick with a compliment. Quick with a joke," she said of Mr. Rychener, whom she remembered spent far more time in the halls than at his desk during the school day. "A smile on his face all the time."

He was known for pulling loose teeth for students, his wife said. He would drop the teeth in an envelope and send them home for "the tooth fairy."

When the school district had a levy on the ballot, he often spoke to community groups. One of his biggest challenges, however, occurred in the 1970s when new federal programs awarded money to schools based on grant requests. Mr. Rychener applied for many, his wife said.

He was born in Fulton County's Pettisville community, the oldest of four children of William Henry Rychener, a B.F. Goodrich salesman who later became a Republican state representative, and his wife, Mildred, a Pettisville elementary teacher.

He graduated in 1943 from Pettisville High School, where he ran track, and then volunteered for the U.S. Navy. He was a yeoman, assigned to clerical work on the USS Humboldt and the USS Wisconsin.

After three years in the Navy, he went to Ohio State University on the GI Bill and studied secondary education. But before he graduated, he realized he preferred working with younger children.

His first job was teaching sixth grade at Whitehouse Elementary School. He then taught fifth grade at Archbold Elementary School in western Fulton County.

Mr. Rychner taught fifth grade in Bryan City Schools for three years and worked on his master's degree in school administration at night and during summers at Indiana University at Bloomington.

When he finished his degree, he became principal at Bryan's Washington Elementary School and then the former Pulaski Elementary. He retired in 1984, but returned to lead the district's Lincoln Elementary for a half year in 1985.

During summers when he was a teacher and again after he retired, he was a part-time salesman at the former Hawk's men's store. He also taught education classes at Defiance College briefly in retirement.

Mr. Rychener helped organize the Ohio Association of Elementary School Principals and was its first president. He belonged to the Bryan Lions Club for 45 years and served as its president in the mid 1970s.

He collected Nippon porcelain, which was made in Japan from 1879 to 1921.

"I called him an accumulator," his wife said, because he did not limit himself to a specific type of Nippon. "Whatever he liked, he bought."

He loved to read, especially biographies, and he worked crossword puzzles.

Surviving are his wife, Mary Margaret; son, William; daughters, Rebecca Brickell and Amy Carter; brother, John Rychener; sister, Edith Dent, and six grandchildren.

Services will be at 11:30 a.m. tomorrow in the Burr Funeral Home, Bryan, where the body will be after 2 p.m. today.

The family suggests tributes to Community Hospitals and Wellness Centers or Bryan City Schools.



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