LeCompte leaves legacy with books
Program donates reading material to school children
The late Michael LeCompte will be remembered in many ways throughout the community, but recently his memory was brought close to home — in his daughter’s classroom.
Victoria Henbest, LeCompte’s daughter, teaches a kindergarten class at Cassville school district. On Friday, she and other teachers in the primary building sent their students home with a book to keep as part of a memorial for her father.
Jill LeCompte, Michael LeCompte’s wife, said she always knew she wanted to be in education. In fact, her aunt is Eunice Thomas, for whom the primary building is named.
“When I was hired as an educator, I realized how important it was to have a class library,” she said. “Back then, my salary was only $15,000, but Michael and I would put aside even $10 a week to buy books for my class.
“Michael knew, even in 1988, how important it was for children to have a book in their hands.”
Jill said Michael was always a big reader.
“He loved Stephen King and anything about history,” she said. “But he had a real passion for current events. He loved to read about the economy and politics.”
When Michael passed away on Nov. 4, 2020, many people reached out to Jill to discuss a memorial of some type.
“People mentioned a bench on the greenway or other things like that,” she said. “None of it sounded right. I talked to our children, and one day Catherine Weaver, a good friend and the Cassville primary principal, came over.”
Jill said it was really Weaver who suggested the book memorial.
“We chose the primary because that is where Victoria works,” Jill said. “In the obituary we put in, ‘In lieu of flowers, please feel free to contribute to the Cassville R-IV Primary School – Michael LeCompte Memorial Book Fund.’”
Jill said donations started coming in as quickly as Nov. 15 and continued into January and February.
“Each classroom got books, and each child got a book to take home,” she said. “Dr. [Richard] Asbill, [Cassville superintendent] came up with the sticker that went inside each of the books.”
The memorial sticker reads, “Presented in Memory of Michael Zane LeCompte. November 3, 1964 - November 4, 2020. Husband, father, pappy, brother, businessman and friend.”
The memorial sticker ends with a quote from Harry S. Truman, “Not all readers are leaders, but all leaders are readers.”
“That is very fitting for a memorial of Michael,” Jill said. “He was so supportive of me when I became an educator, and he was so proud of Victoria for becoming teacher as well.
“Leaders are readers — Michael would have really loved that.”
The LeComptes are passionate about the community and the school district.
“I am so humbled that so many people thought enough of Michael to give money for these books for the children,” Jill said.
Weaver said through this memorial, each classroom from Kinder Academy to second grade got 100 books for a classroom library.
“Then, we purchased a book for each student pre-K to second grade to take home to keep,” she said. “This is incredible and amazing. Even though he isn’t here, his legacy is continued in this.”
The books were all ordered from Scholastics, who gave the district a good deal, Weaver said.
“Michael’s legacy will continue year after year,” Weaver said. “He will continue to impact students coming after this year, and the next year, and so on, because they will get to use these classroom libraries for many years to come.”