November 13, 2013 - If the essence of a community can be found in a single person, then Loretta Lee "Corky" Hallead was the epitome of everything good in the Oxford school district.
Sadly, Hallead, a lifelong Oxford resident who worked for the district for 37½ years, passed away on Saturday, Nov. 2, 2013. She was 76.
"Corky was a great friend and mentor to many people in the district and totally devoted to Oxford," said Carol Micol, who works in the district's human resources department.
"She had a great gift for making people feel important and creating positive energy and outcomes for the district. Corky was the go-to person for Oxford Schools for many years and will be missed by all who knew her."
Hallead's relationship with the school system began at age 5 when she started kindergarten at Daniel Axford Elementary on Mechanic St.
She was elected as Oxford's first-ever homecoming queen and graduated from the high school in 1955, back when it was located on Washington St.
Her career with the district began in 1967 when she started as a secretary at Oxford Junior High. She worked there and at the high school until 1976 when she went to work as Superintendent Roger Oberg's secretary.
Hallead remained at the district's central office and served as administrative assistant to five more superintendents until she retired in May 2005.
"She was extremely competent," said Dr. Mark Orchard, who was superintendent from 1988-93. "She was very caring and very precise with her work. Her job was done professionally and in an excellent manner."
Hallead was always there to pull the superintendent's "chestnuts out of the fire" whenever a problem arose, according to Orchard.
"I remember several times I was missing a document while making a presentation and Corky would lean over and hand it to me," he said. "She was always prepared."
On a personal level, Orchard said Hallead was always "very happy, excited and willing to help out" in any way she could.
"She was exuberant most of the time," he said. "Her nickname tells the story. She would bob up here and bob up there."
"She was a classy lady. We're going to miss her," Orchard added.
Lake Orion Superintendent Marion Ginopolis, who led the Oxford district from 1993 to 2000, spoke very highly of Hallead.
"She was a rare, rare, rare gem," she said. "She was very, very loyal to the community. She loved Oxford. It's just a huge loss to the community."
Professional is the "perfect word" to describe Hallead, in Ginopolis' view.
"She was extremely gracious to anyone who called," she said. "She always treated everyone with tremendous respect. She had that rare ability to treat everyone the same, regardless of what their issue was."
Hallead was always "compassionate" in her dealings with others and had "not a mean bone in her body," according to Ginopolis.
Above all, Hallead was "very discreet" when it came to her job. She wasn't one to gossip about the things she knew or heard around the office, nor was she one to break a confidence or divulge sensitive information.
"She could have given lessons to people (on how) to be a confidential secretary," Ginopolis said. "You could rely on her loyalty."
Having come from southern Oakland County, Ginopolis often availed herself of the treasure trove of local history and knowledge that existed in Hallead's mind.
"From the day I started, she really helped me have a good understanding of the culture and people within the district, things I needed to know," she said. "I relied on her very heavily. She really helped me understand what was unique about Oxford. It made me a more effective superintendent immediately."
Even though she was an outsider, Hallead instantly made Ginopolis feel welcome.
"She immediately embraced me," she said. "She treated me with such respect and kindness. A bond developed immediately (between) us."
Hallead wasn't simply Ginopolis' assistant, the two were good friends.
"I never felt like I was her boss," she said. "I felt that we worked as a team."
"She was a lot of fun," Ginopolis continued. "We did a lot of laughing."
Although she and Hallead experienced many funny and memorable moments together, Ginopolis shared a cute one involving the Leader.
Ginopolis used to write a column for the newspaper and she needed a new headshot to go with it.
But she was worried about wrinkles showing in the photo.
Hallead advised her to lay down on the floor, which would make the wrinkles "go back."
"She stood over me and took my picture," Ginopolis said. "She had my back and my front covered."
Longtime Oxford resident and Wildcat booster Helen Smith couldn't say enough nice things about Hallead.
"I can't even express how wonderful she was," said Smith, who served on the school board in the mid-1970s. "She was always just so kind. She was fun and a joy to be around."
"There's just not enough adjectives to describe Corky," she continued. "You could go all day talking about all the good things about her. I admired her."
As secretaries go, there were "none better" than Hallead, in Smith's opinion.
"She was just always so nice when you talked to her," she said. "If you called to ask her anything, she was right there."
Hallead is survived by her husband Terry and her sons Scott (the late Debra) Spiker and Brian (Alice) Spiker.
She's also survived by her brother Pete Earp; sisters-in-law Charlotte Earp and Bonita (Bob) Jones; grandchildren Joshua Spiker, Ashley (Tyler) Gucwa and Clayton Spiker; great-granddaughters Madison and Jemma; niece Paula (Hume) Miller; and nephews Perry (Amy) Earp and Steven (Mary Jane) Mathes.
Memorial services will be held at 2 p.m. on Tuesday, Nov. 19, 2013 at the Oxford Free Methodist Church (790 S. Lapeer Rd.).
In lieu of flowers, memorial donations may be made to St. Jude Children's Research Hospital or the Karmanos Cancer Institute.
CJ Carnacchio is editor for The Oxford Leader. He lives in the Village of Oxford with his wife Connie and daughter Larissa. When he's not busy working on the newspaper, he enjoys cigars/pipes, Martinis/Scotch, hunting and fishing.