By NJ Clausen
Kernersville is known as “The Heart of the Triad” not just because of the physical location between the cities of Winston-Salem, Greensboro, and High Point but because of the caring hearts of many of its residents.
This series will be about different members of our community who exemplify the very heart of Kernersville…. people who make a difference.
As you walk down North Main Street towards Mountain Street and look up, you will see a sign with Fitz ON MAIN above a distinctive canopy. The following is a glimpse into the man who brought great childhood memories into the present, David Fitzpatrick.
David was born and bred right here in Kernersville, to a mother from High Point, and a father who was born to tenant farmers on the Biltmore Estate. David’s father told stories of Christmas with the Vanderbilt’s and the huge Christmas tree that was laden with gifts for the kids on the farms. In his last trip with David to the estate, Pops was able to show the foundation of the home where he had grown up which was located close to the hotel.
When David was growing up, the population of Kernersville was under 5,000, and although some things have changed like size and traffic, he remembers the support of the community, strong community ties and that neighbors looked out for one another. That has not changed, and as we spoke on September 11, he recounted the infamous day that makes the date so unforgettable. David was Principal at Kernersville Elementary School, and he remembers with gratitude that Chief Neil Stockton and five cars with officers came promptly to the school following the breaking news.
One of his favorite places to go as a child was to ride his bike with friends to Charlie Snows, and purchase a 15-cent ice cream cone. Charlie also had one of the few color TV’s at that time and watching the World Series was a highlight. Before David retired, he bought this 1940’s diner of which he had such fond memories.
David and his father both held the position of Principal at Kernersville Elementary School at different times. When David took over as Principal in 1991, over a third of the staff that were there had been hired by his Dad. When people asked if it was hard following in his father’s footsteps, David responded that he was grateful that his Pops had made it easier by hiring a top-notch staff of dedicated professional teachers.
David is a second generation educator…during covid-19, we have been shown that technology can be helpful, but things will not return to normal until kids can get back into the classroom, and educators are also eager to return. School is not just about the classroom experience, but also about the cafeteria, riding the bus and all the other kinds of socialization encounters. Before report cards were computerized, the left-hand side had comments about social traits (for example: works well with others, good citizenship, listens well, etc.) and the right hand side had the academic grades. David believes that developing the child’s well-being is just as important as academics.
What David did not realize when he became a Principal was the role included being a ‘sort of Pastor’ which was also part of the job, and all the counseling, encouragement and fussing that was required. When asked to share his greatest joy, the immediate response was that there were too many to choose just one. After a moment, David did recall a special time, when a former student came in to let David know that he had changed his life around in an incredibly positive way. That is what he says puts it in perspective, the payment educators get–as they are underpaid and underappreciated—when they see someone they taught 10 years later and can say, “Yes, I made a difference.”
Throughout life, David has learned that human contact is very important. People come to the diner as much for the socialization as for the food. No matter what is going on in the world, people need people.
On days off, David feels that if you play golf every day it is not fun…but you have to wake up every morning with a purpose. David also enjoys sailing, and especially enjoys spending time with loved ones…that is the key.
Even though the town has become much more populated, what David maintains has not changed are the strong community ties and support, the quality of life and its strategic location. There is just something about this community that helps each other in times of need. It is the little things that make a difference.