She wore the prettiest outfits and smiled gracefully from behind the front counter at D.H. Conley High School.
Her light brown skin glowed, and her jet black hair was always primped as she peered through the glasses resting on her face.
Most of all, Mrs. Pearl Frizzell was a woman of compassion, humility and grace unlike any person I’ve ever met.
Mrs. Frizzell, Conley’s secretary and the face at its front desk since the school opened in 1970, died Nov. 23 at the age of 82. She worked at the school until her sudden death.
On a few occasions when I was short on lunch money because I had squandered it on junk food, Mrs. Frizzell still made sure I ate.
“How much money do you need baby?” she always asked me with a smile.
Then she’d rise from her chair and drag out her purse.
As she handed me lunch money, she never once griped about having to do so and never asked to be repaid.
For Mrs. Frizzell, feeding students was a great joy.
Whenever I ran into Mrs. Frizzell, she always asked me how I was doing and had an encouraging word to say, helping to keep me motivated as I thought I’d never survive high school.
During my high school career, I had a habit of calling home a lot and asking for my mom to let me go home for the day. And every time I went up to the office, Mrs. Frizzell always told me, ‘Boy, there’s nothing wrong with you’ and she always followed it with a laugh and a shake of her head.
The one time I was actually sick, Mrs. Frizzell vouched for me even though I had developed a reputation for crying wolf.
“Brenda, your boy is really sick this time,” I remember her telling my mother.
Little did I know, I was on the verge of having my appendix rupture and needed emergency surgery.
So in many respects, Mrs. Frizzell was not only a mentor but also a life saver.
My mother felt bad for not believing me, but I can’t blame her since I always told her “I don’t feel well today” or “I don’t want to go to school today.”
Despite my shenanigans, like my mother and countless others, Mrs. Frizzell was my cheerleader who believed that I could overcome whatever fears were sabotaging me from being a successful high school student.
It’s difficult to find mentors, and when you do, I’ve learned that you need to cherish those opportunities and make the most of them.
As a naive teenager who only wanted to play video games and hang out with friends, it wasn’t until I got older that I realized just how much Mrs. Frizzell cared for me and so many other students.
In addition to working at Conley for decades, giving her life to that school, and being a woman of great faith, Mrs. Frizzell genuinely believed in pouring into the lives of those who needed a little push.
She actually cared about people and told you what you needed to hear, but in a loving way of course.
And I’m better for it.
Recently, my mother called me to break the news that Mrs. Frizzell died, and I’m still trying to process the profound loss while also remembering just how much Mrs. Frizzell thought of me and how proud she would be to see what I’ve done since I graduated from Conley.
I wasn’t able to attend her funeral because I had the flu (I was actually sick) so I’m doing the next best thing, which is a small token of gratitude for a woman who forever impacted my life.
I can only aspire to pay it forward and hope that I can do it in such a way that makes Mrs. Frizzell proud of me.