TALLADEGA -- Former Jacksonville and Talladega City Schools Superintendent Lee Messer passed away Tuesday at the age of 70.
According to his obituary, Messer participated in ROTC in high school and at Jacksonville State University, and intended to enter the military upon graduation. He met his wife, Elizabeth Skutt, of nearly 50 years while working in the JSU cafeteria.
He began his career in education by accepting a temporary position teaching general science at Jacksonville High School. While teaching during the day, he took night classes in education at JSU with a focus on chemistry, and often moonlighted as an adjunct professor afterward.
He eventually earned several masters degrees while working his way up the educational hierarchy at Jacksonville City Schools. He became assistant principal at JHS before being appointed superintendent.
Messer briefly retired, only to be hired as superintendent of the Talladega City school system, where he served until 2007.
Talladega City Board of Education member James Braswell worked with Messer from 2005 to 2007.
“What I remember about him was that he was very seasoned, very professional and had lots of experience to draw on,” Braswell said. “He was a good superintendent, very stable, very competent, through good times and bad times. They are all pleasant memories, and I believe I definitely benefited from serving with him for a couple of years.”
According to the obituary, he was also very active in his church as a Sunday school teacher and as a licensed minister. In the latter capacity, he officiated at the weddings of three of his children, and baptized one of them.
He was also a carpenter, camper, listener, mountain climber, eternal student and “purveyor of magnificent shenanigans,” according to his family. He was known as “Pa Bear” to his grandchildren.
His grandson Tucker Messer is quoted as saying, “Pa Bear is a great man, and he helped to make so many other people great, too.”
Grandson Adam Chapman added, “I think that Pa Bear is probably the closest thing there has ever been to a perfect man. He’s extremely intelligent but able to give practical knowledge. He is accomplished but modest. He always makes time to listen and never loses his temper. He has always been willing to help anyone who needed it.”
A celebration of his life will be held Sunday, July 7, at 2 p.m. at Riverchase Baptist Church at 2020 Crossville Road in Birmingham. Visitation will be one hour earlier.