By Josh Beavers
Richard Vander Noles was a man of God.
He never wavered in that faith, and he was often fond of reading the Good Book in times of joy and sorrow. Among those passages he took to heart was Romans 8:28 – “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose.”
Mr. Noles led a life of purpose and pleasing to the Lord for 79 years, and on Sunday evening, surrounded by friends and family, he was called home.
Born in Ringgold in April of 1942, Mr. Noles was father to five daughters: Karyn, Barbara, Courtney, Melody and Bethany. He was husband for 43 years to his beloved Mrs. Judy Harper Noles, and was adored by his five grandchildren: Jackson, Pierce, Carter, Graham and Adelaide. In addition, he was blessed with numerous nieces and nephews whom he loved like his own children.
One of those nephews is Johnny Rowland, who followed in his uncle’s footsteps as a teacher, principal, and now current superintendent of Webster Parish Schools.
“He was a life-long mentor, adviser, role model, and someone I turned to for advice quite often,” Rowland said.
One thing that needs to be noted, Rowland said, was that Mr. Noles always preferred to be remembered as an impactful educator who made a difference.
“Throughout all the positions he had in the education system, the one he was most proud of was the time he spent in the classroom,” the superintendent said. “But he went so far beyond that. He served as a counselor, in the parish special education department, a principal, a supervisor, and as superintendent. He literally bettered the lives of thousands and thousands of students across the parish.”
Rowland, along with his brother Jason, will speak at Mr. Noles’ funeral. He said he has been ruminating on what words to share with those in attendance, and he just keeps coming back to one theme over and over.
“All I have received over last few days are words expressing how good of a man he was, how great of a man he was,” Rowland said. “Why is that? Why do so many people feel that way about this man? I can tell you. It was because he had a kind and gentle spirit that resonated with people. They felt that in him. He was genuinely interested in your well-being, and how you were doing every time he talked to you.
“Respect, dignity and class,” Rowland continued. “That’s how he treated people.”
Mr. Noles’ life was not without tragedy. He had dark days and turbulent times; perhaps no days were bleaker than on the two occasions he lost those closest to him. In those moments of twilight, when he lost his wife Anita and daughter Bethany, he never wavered in his faith. He would quote Paul from Romans, as the apostle offered the promise of hope that no matter our feelings on a given day, loving God is part of what it means to live in Christ.
That’s who Richard Noles was. His head bloody by unbowed.
No man ever loved more or was more loved. Mr. Noles was a wise, Southern gentleman who cherished his family and the Lord with his whole heart. He reared his family on his beloved family farm in Heflin. The deed to the property purchased by his great, great grandparents in 1878 hangs in his home. His happiest days were spent on the farm, surrounded by his herd of red angus cattle, working until sunset. Over the years his children, grandchildren, and nephews worked beside him on the farm and will carry on the time-honored work ethic instilled in them by their Papa.
As an educator, Mr. Noles fueled a love of history and country within the hearts and minds of his students. As a principal he instilled hard work and self-discipline in students and was inspired by their curiosity and resilience. As a superintendent, he carried forth his love of all children to better our education system throughout Webster Parish.
“Richard loved his children at home and at school,” said Jerry Lott, the man who preceded Mr. Noles as superintendent of schools. ‘He was my counselor, my colleague, my friend. The love he had for his community was second to none. We worshipped together, went through good times together and bad times together. Through it all, Richard was always conscientious and dedicated to his family, community, and church.”
Mr. Noles served as Webster Parish Superintendent of Schools, a Board Member and Treasurer of Claiborne Electric Co-Op, President of the Association of Louisiana Electric Cooperatives, and President of the Bistineau Cemetery Association. He was a deacon and Sunday school teacher at Heflin Baptist Church for decades.
Services for Mr. Noles will be held at First Baptist Church of Minden at 2 pm on Thursday, September 2nd. Pall bearers will be Elijah Butler, Jeff Harper, John David Noles, Johnny Rowland, Jason Rowland, Cory Russell, Cade Woodard, Cody Woodard and Jody Woodard. Honorary pall bearers will be the deacons of Heflin Baptist Church, Fred Evans, Jon Guice and Jerry Lott.
Guests at the service are respectfully requested to wear masks. For those that are unable to attend the service, it will be streamed by First Baptist Church of Minden.
The family suggests St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital or the Heflin Baptist Church Building Fund for those who wish to make a gift in his memory.