“That school was just the center of his life,” said Bill Fargason, his oldest son.
Also the son of a school principal, Burt Fargason grew up on a farm in south Georgia. He attended North Georgia College and entered the Army after graduation and served in Korea. When he got out of the military, Fargason began his education career teaching biology at the Georgia Military Academy.
Although Fargason’s passion was working in the classroom, he decided that he needed the salary of an administrator to raise a family of three boys, Bill Fargason said.
“He loved teaching,” he said. “That was his passion, working with the kids.”
As the elder Fargason moved from the classroom to the office, Georgia Military Academy became Woodward Academy, and Fargason became lower school principal.
He took over as headmaster of Anniston Academy in 1971 and continued there until 1986.
During his tenure, the institution which would become known as the Donoho School in 1976 expanded considerably, adding new sports programs, buildings, and a lower school that boosted enrollment.
In his efforts to grow the school, he put in long days.
“He would work so hard,” recalled John Fargason, his middle son. He said his father tried to be at every school event and frequently worked 12- or 14-hour days. “I can remember him getting home at 10 or 11 o’clock and he’d just kiss me on the cheek or forehead, tell me he loved me,” he said.
As a father, Fargason was a positive motivator, said Bob Fargason, his youngest son.
“He always encouraged us to do our best, and he was our greatest cheerleader,” he said.
Fargason’s military background made him a strict disciplinarian, but he was always fair, according to his sons.
John Edwards, president of Donoho’s board for a time during Fargason’s tenure, said he never pulled any punches when it came to disciplining students, and the school was stronger for it.
“He was real big on right or wrong,” said John Fargason, who once had the unfortunate luck of flying a paper airplane as his father walked by in the hallway. “I had to clean the campus for two weeks after that,” he said.
Despite the difficulty of being the headmaster’s son, “it was neat for Dad to shake our hand and give us our diploma at the end of the journey,” Bill Fargason said.
After suffering a stroke and realizing it was time for his own journey at Donoho to end, the headmaster had a hard time letting go.
“He wasn’t really ready to say goodbye to the students and the teachers because he loved them,” Bill Fargason said. “He had to really adjust to what was next.”
But he kept busy as a financial consultant with Communication Associates in Oxford. For the past eight months, Fargason lived at the Col. Robert L. Howard State Veterans Home in Pell City.
Donoho School President Jan Hurd said she respects Fargason’s dedication to high standards at Donoho. “He had high expectations for everybody,” she said, adding that it can be difficult when trying to grow enrollment to keep that line drawn in the sand.
Hurd said Fargason was set to be honored for his contributions to the school next month as Donoho celebrates its 50th anniversary.
“It’s going to be a sad day without him at the Founder’s Day program,” she said.
In addition to his three sons, Fargason is survived by Shelby Fargason, his wife of 57 years.
Fargason’s family will hold a private service to celebrate his life. In lieu of flowers, donations can be sent to the Col. Robert L. Howard State Veterans Home at 7054 Veterans Parkway, Pell City, AL 35125.
Staff writer Paige Rentz: 256-235-3564. On Twitter @PRentz_Star.