Edinburgh community remembers longtime school secretary

There is one phrase people remembered it came to Edinburgh Community School Corporation’s longtime secretary: The Bechtel Way.

For 35 years, Cindy Bechtel was a face everyone saw when they came to school in the morning. For generations of students, she was there practically every day, even when battling cancer. That was The Bechtel Way.

On Jan. 14, that disease took her life. Bechtel retired from her post at the end of the school year in June. The 63-year-old was able to spend the last seven months of her life primarily with her husband, Rick Bechtel, who retired at the same time she did.

For 25 years, Bechtel worked across Debbie Behnke, another secretary at the combined middle school/high school building. Bechtel was someone she could count on seeing five days a week throughout the school year, through good times and bad.

“There’s a big void with her being gone and I miss her terribly,” Behnke said. “She worked probably a lot longer than she needed to. She always had on a brave face and she was gonna see me tomorrow, she wasn’t going to be beat down. She’s one of a kind, she was a gem. We lived life together five days a week.”

Bechtel also shared the main office with Edinburgh High School/Middle School Principal Kevin Rockey, who worked alongside her for 17 years. Rockey became familiar with not just Bechtel, but her husband, Rick Bechtel, who worked at Edinburgh Community High School, and their two kids.

Along with being a dedicated worker, she had a vibrant personality. Bechtel was an avid St. Louis Cardinals fan, loved the song “Brandy” by Looking Glass and hated “Yesterday” by The Beatles. When she laughed, she did so heartily, Rockey said.

“She would always get tickled, that’s what she would call it,” he said. “I could hear her laughing and she couldn’t stop laughing if something struck her. It would go on for the afternoon because she would start again thinking about the same thing.”

Bechtel was also dedicated to life outside of school. She was a member of Plainville Christian Church, the Edinburgh Wright-Hageman Public Library board and did volunteer work with Tri Kappa. With Tri Kappa, she helped run the Fall Festival Queen Contest, encouraging students at Edinburgh schools to enter, and took part in an initiative to distribute books to East Side Elementary School students multiple times a year, said Janet Totten, a friend and fellow Tri Kappa member.

She also recruited scholarship candidates for the American Legion Auxiliary’s Hoosier Girls State program, Totten said.

“I’m sure there is hardly anyone in this town who she hasn’t helped from a child’s standpoint,” she said. “She was very generous and very family-oriented as well. Almost all holidays were spent at her house and she did all the cooking and had her whole family over.”

Totten remembers Bechtel for their trips together to Las Vegas and Gatlinburg and for her love of books and basketball, she said.

It was basketball that brought Jo Anne Hollenbeck, a retired East Side Elementary School teacher, and Bechtel together. At one time, their husbands coached the high school boy’s basketball team together. Bechtel was someone you could count on when the going got tough, Hollenback said.

“We sat together at a lot of ballgames, we took vacations together and I became part of their family,” she said. “They were by my side when I lost my husband in 2011. We’ve been through lots of good times and bad times, too. Just was genuinely caring and concerned about what was going on with my family and seemed like she wanted to connect.”

Chris Hoffman, director of the Edinburgh Public Library, worked with Bechtel on the library board, where she worked for 16 years. Hoffman, however, knew her well before that. He was a childhood friend of her oldest son, Brett Bechtel.

“I’ve known Cindy since I was about seven years old,” Hoffman said. “Cindy was someone who was always there for you. If you were part of her circle, she cared about and loved you and there were no conditions on that. She was the most supportive person you can imagine. She was not just willing to help, but wanted to. She went out of her way and did more than was necessary to make your life better.”