Life Story: Longtime Lake County educator found his calling in administration

He loved to teach but Paul Doescher Jr. found his true skill in school administration, which became his life's work.

Doescher, who lived in Libertyville for 50 years before moving to Vernon Hills, died Dec. 23 at 90. He was a familiar and active presence in District 70 and the community, serving for nearly two decades as principal at Highland "Upper Grade Center" and Butterfield School until retiring in 1983. After leaving his administrative post, he served several years as District 70 director of buildings and grounds before calling it a career.

Raised in Oak Park, his grandparents were missionaries, which contributed to his strong religious beliefs and affiliations as a lifelong member of the Congregational Church (United Church of Christ).

Doescher earned a bachelor's degree from Northwestern University and was teaching seventh and eighth grade in the Oak Lawn area while he pursued a master's at the school.

The first stop for the new administrator was Speer, an unincorporated community north of Peoria with fewer than 100 residents, recalled Phyllis, his wife of 68 years.

"He was the principal, a teacher, the bus driver - he was a jack of all trades," she said. "He shoveled the coal, substitute taught and whatever had to be done," she added.

After about two years, the couple moved to Libertyville. Doescher spent nearly a decade as principal and assistant superintendent at Lake Bluff Elementary School District 65 before being hired by District 70 in 1965.

"Mr. Doescher was very active in the community and educational settings outside of the school day," said Tom Bean, District 70 director of human resources.

Doescher was director of the summer school program, headed the Libertyville-Mundelein principal's group and was president of the Illinois Principals Association, Bean said.

A World War II Army vet, Doescher was president of his local church council, served on the YMCA board, and directed fundraising for the local Boy Scout troop. Working on cars, traveling, teaching children and spending time with family were other interests.

"He also loved his Volkswagens," Bean said.

According to his wife, Doescher wrote comments and questions on note cards for reference and was unfailing in his responses to teachers and others.

"People said he was one of the best principals they ever had," she said.

Besides his wife, Doescher is survived by a daughter, son and daughter-in-law and their families.

Visitation is at 12:30 p.m. Saturday followed by services at 2:30 p.m. at Burnett-Dane Funeral Home Ltd., 120 W. Park Ave. (Route 176), just west of Milwaukee Ave., Libertyville. Military honors will follow the service and at the burial at Ivanhoe Cemetery.

Contributions can be made to the Ivanhoe Congregational Church.

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