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Loving the Lindahls: Theater Couple Takes Final Bow at Brookwood High

Educators Ken and Patty Lindahl are retiring after 30 years at the Snellville high school. The community thanks them for their service to students and dedication to the arts.

Ken and Patty Lindahl say their goodbyes at Brookwood High in Snellville. Credit: Joy L. Woodson, Patch editor
Ken and Patty Lindahl say their goodbyes at Brookwood High in Snellville. Credit: Joy L. Woodson, Patch editor
(Editor's Note: This article was originally published May 14, 2013.)


Applause erupts, and it seems unending. 

The audience leaps to its feet. There are cheers, and there are tears -- all for two people: Ken and Patty Lindahl.

This day has been three decades in the making. Drawn together by their mutual love of the arts, the husband and wife are now taking their final bow at Brookwood High.

It's hard to imagine that this day would ever come. But, it has. It's time for the Lindahls to retire.

For all the love, and all the memories, and all the hard work of so many people year after year, "we are so fortunate," Ken Lindahl said at the end of their final performance.

Growing Up Artsy

As teenagers, the two met in St. Joseph, Mich., at a street dance not far from a lake. "It was like "West Side Story," except for they went to different high schools," said son, Matt.

When they first met at that dance, and Patty found out Ken was in theater, she had eyes for the young man. "I thought, 'Wow, somebody who's interested in the same things that I am.'"

A strong kinship was born, the two began seriously dating, and then they entered the same college. In 1973, they were married.

Eleven months into their marriage, Laura was born. She was followed by her brother, Matt, and sister, Sarah. Even if they had wanted to, the three children couldn't get away from theater.

It was part of their DNA. Each child has gone on to do something arts related.

By 1983, the Lindahls were ready to leave Michigan. They packed up their lives and left for Atlanta.

That's when their 30-year run at Brookwood High School began. For even the strongest of couples, living together and working together every day would have been a challenge.

But, the Lindahls, they loved it.

"It was fun," Patty said. "We really enjoyed it. We got along great. No problems ever. We had lunch, breakfast and dinner together. Never got tired of it."

Fueling Brookwood Excellence

That energy helped fuel excellence in themselves, and in the students who looked up to them. There's no doubting they touched hundreds of lives, possibly even thousands.

On April 26, a legion of those former students came to the Lindahls' final production, "Pippin." There were hardly any empty seats, nor dry eyes.

Leslie Summer had to be there. She spent all four high school years with the Lindahls, closing with "Godspell" in 1990. Now, she is an arts educator at Crews Middle School.

"These two people completely shaped my life," she said, standing among other alumni. "I feel like they were my second parents, and they inspired me to do what I want to do. I feel like now, I get to go out and do that, too."

Principal Debbie Dees credits the Lindahls with chiseling the school's fine arts program into one recognized well beyond its physical boundaries. It's one of the best in the southeast, she boasts.

"Although we're known as a great academic school, and a great school of athletics, really, fine arts is the heart of what we do," Dees said.

"They are an inspiration," she added.

Leaving a Legacy

In 2003, Ken Lindahl was inducted into the Georgia Hall of Fame for theater teachers sponsored by the Georgia Thespians. Earlier this year, his wife joined him.

So, they're retiring on top -- a long way from the puppet shows they once produced in Michigan. They cannot express their gratitude enough. 

"We always felt like people cared about the arts at Brookwood, and that it was important to the community," Ken Lindahl said, "and that gives a teacher tremendous amounts of confidence and a great feeling that what you're doing has some value.

"And, I think the fact that they valued it, made us strive even harder to really do quality work, and to challenge ourselves."

Retirement is bittersweet, as they will miss seeing students evolve.

"They'll see us back watching the shows, yes," Patty Lindahl said. But, "we're going to be going on vacations. Lots of vacations, gardening, and fixing up the house."

As the courtain closes on their illustrative career, the Lindahls' hearts are full. Seeing so many students -- past and present --  congratulate them on their years of service is awe-inspiring.

"It means that it was important in their lives," Patty Lindahl said.

It means: "They didn't forget us."

And, that they never will.

Marian Copeland May 15, 2013 at 10:35 PM
My daughters both studied under Ken and Patti, they were wonderful and really showed how much they cared.

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