If Walt Wicklund had his way, he'd be sitting on the sidelines watching Monday's Carthage Christmas Parade, but the organizers of the event had other ideas.

If Walt Wicklund had his way, he'd be sitting on the sidelines watching Monday's Carthage Christmas Parade, but the organizers of the event had other ideas.

The long-time Carthage High School math teacher and voice of the Carthage Tigers football and other athletic teams on the loudspeakers was named grand marshal of the Parade, and instead of watching from the sidelines, he'll be riding in the back seat of a convertible waving to crowds.

“You know there's usually a game or something going on the same night as the Christmas parade, so I haven't seen it in years,” Wicklund said in an interview with The Carthage Press. “But I know from the Maple Leaf Parade that the grand marshal is usually a state legislator or business person or someone important. I told Mark (Sponaugle, parade organizer) people are going to see me and say 'Who's that guy?”

There probably won't be as much of that kind of reaction as Wicklund thinks, however. Wicklund taught math at Carthage High School for 17 years, and taught math at other public and Christian schools for another 14 years before that, so thousands of students and their parents have spent hours with Wicklund learning and mastering their math skills.

Sponaugle said Wicklund was selected as the Grand Marshal based upon his years of service to Carthage students and his service to home and community.

“Walt has taught for 17 years at Carthage High School,” Sponaugle said. “He is committed to his church. I know he worked tirelessly all summer after the Joplin tornado helping members of his church clean up and start rebuilding. Walt has been a strong supporter of SkillsUSA as well as all student organizations. He has been the voice of Tiger Football for years. Walt Wicklund is just a great person and this was one small way to honor him and his service.”

Wicklund said he was starting to feel like the senior citizen at Carthage High School, so he decided it was time to retire.

Since retirement, he and his wife have taken a mission trip to help build houses on the Apache reservations of south-central Arizona.

“There's a ministry called the Arizona Reservations Ministries and they help build homes on those reservations,” Wicklund said. “We were there for a week, then we took our time coming back and traveled through the mountains of Colorado. We were there in October and the fall leaves were changing, the reds of the cottonwoods and yellows of the aspens were in full glow. We even passed through a couple of snow storms in the higher elevations and the yellow aspens, green pine trees and white snow made for beautiful scenes.”

Wicklund said retirement has also given him a chance to spend a lot more time with his five children and 11 grandchildren, all of whom live in Jasper County.

“It's a real blessing spending time with them,” Wicklund said. “I've spent some time with at least one or a few of them almost every day since I retired. I got my realtor's license in August. My son is a realtor and he wanted me to help him out. I can say that even in retirement, there hasn't been a spare — or a dull — moment.”

Wicklund said he enjoyed his years in the Carthage school system and was blessed to make a lot of friends. Wicklund has even been able to keep his hand in education, teaching a math class at Crowder College's program at Carthage Tech Center South.

“Carthage is such a good school system with so many dedicated teachers,” Wicklund said. “Carthage is famous for teachers who stay for their entire careers. I have so many friends and I enjoyed being the voice of the Tigers for those years as well.

“One thing that's thrilling for a teacher is when a student comes back from college or after graduating college or from a career and says you really helped and blessed them. I've made it a habit to do more of that myself, and I've had more students doing that to me, and it's a real thrill.”