For Ira Payne Washington Jr., guiding college students to academic success was a calling.
For nearly 50 years he was with Henderson Middle School on the north side of Richmond, where he taught, ran the school’s suspension program and served as deputy principal, a long illness forcing him to to retire.
“There are people who have a teaching job, but there are others who are teachers. He was my dad, ”said his daughter, Brandy W. Johnson. “He was my life teacher. Over the past few weeks, I have been able to consider the many things he has taught me and so much more about life in general. He was a hell of a guy.
Mr. Washington, who fought a long battle with cancer, died on Friday, September 13, 2019. He was 79 years old.
His life will be celebrated at noon on Monday, September 30, at Fourth Baptist Church, 2800 P. Street.
Born in Church Hill, Mr. Washington began his teaching career after graduating from Armstrong High School and his undergraduate degree from Johnson C. Smith University in North Carolina in 1962.
He was an outstanding football player at Armstrong and received a scholarship to play football in college. There was a time when he considered a career in the National Football League, his daughter said.
In addition to teaching, he worked for the Richmond Rebels football team during the team’s three seasons of existence in the mid-1960s.
After teaching in Goochland County and then at Henderson Middle School for seven years, he applied and became responsible for outfitting the Minnesota Vikings. But after a year, he returned to Richmond and resumed his post as a health and physical education teacher at Henderson.
Ms Johnson said her father kept his hand on the pitch by getting a second job outside of the classroom at the Richmond Coliseum. There, she said, he held the position of Events and Staff Manager for 16 years, ensuring the smooth running of sports and entertainment programs.
He first retired from school in 1999 after being diagnosed with cancer, but returned to teaching two years later after the disease went into remission. Ms Johnson said he started his second stint with Richmond Public Schools as a substitute teacher, was suspended from the school and then was promoted to deputy principal.
Mr Washington retired again more than two years ago when the cancer returned, his daughter said.
For two years, he also served as a driver for the Washington NFL team during his visits to summer camp in Richmond.
Mr. Washington was a member of the Kappa Alpha Psi fraternity, Thebans Beneficial Club, and the Jackson Ward 533 Club.
In addition to Ms. Johnson, survivors include her son, Michael F. Washington; and two other daughters, Stacy Lee Woodson and Tracey James; and a stepdaughter, Heather Strother.