Stanley Rideout is best known for serving as chief of security for the Pittsburgh Public Schools for 25 years, executive director of the Sewickley Community Center for 11 years, and for being as adamant a champion for racial equity as his longtime friend, the late Harvey Adams.
But he was more than that. He was a writer, a poet, a singer and a father. Rideout passed away, Jan. 22, at 93. His children—daughters Suzanne, of Sewickley and Lee, of Thousand Oaks, Calif., and sons Rex, also of Thousand Oaks, and James, of Silver Springs, Md., spoke with the New Pittsburgh Courier about their father and plans for a celebration of his life later this month in Sewickley.
Though Rex admitted that “it came in handy” having a father in charge of school security when the family lived in Pittsburgh, all agreed with Suzanne’s assessment that having a celebrity father was easier on them after the family moved to Sewickley in 1973.
And he was a celebrity, though not prone to bombast like his friend Adams—they grew up together in Beltzhoover—Rideout was equally renowned because when it came to the safety of the schools and students, he brooked no interference.
He had the first metal detector in the district installed at Peabody High School and conducted random searches of students after a gun was found. But while firm, he could talk to anyone and had a nimble and creative mind.
“Once when there was a rise in vandalism and fights, he formed a student vandalism patrol—but he did it by getting all the ‘bad kids’ and putting them on the patrol,” Suzanne recalled. “He gave them special jackets, duties—and the trouble stopped. He was really good with kids.”
And Rideout was good with his own kids, too.
“Well, he never had to get me out of trouble because I was the perfect child,” joked Lee. “But he always had our back. He was a fierce provider and protector. You knew, if you needed something handled, he would be there.”
One such occasion occurred while James was at junior high school at Quaker Valley. He came across some books in the library that were full of racist material.
“One of them was a joke book. It had a whole section of racist jokes,” said James. “I showed them to my father and he had them, and any others like them, removed.”
But it went beyond that, Rex recalled. In the mid 1970s, the U.S. Postal Service began construction of a new post office in Sewickley—there were no African Americans employed on the job despite federal mandates.
That didn’t last long.
“He took a whole bunch of us down there. We sat on the bulldozers and shut the job down until Black people got jobs,” said Rex. “Later I asked him, ‘How come I didn’t get one of those jobs?’ He said to me, ‘This isn’t about that. This is for the greater good, not for personal gain.’ He was the same way as security chief. Hiring African Americans was a priority. He made sure the security force looked like those it was securing.”
And with all that, Rideout still had an artist’s soul—honed by his jazz musician grandfather, and older brother, and by his journalism degree from Duquesne University.
“He didn’t sing us lullabies at bedtime, he sang, ‘April in Paris,’ or ‘Sentimental Journey,’” said Suzanne. “And I have all the great love letters and poems he wrote to my mother over the years.”
He also wrote, as Suzanne put it, “a very interesting letter” on his own mortality. One of the things that makes it interesting is he began writing it in 1999—20 years ago.
“We’re going to print this up for the memorial. I’ll read you part of it: He says I want to be cremated. The service should be no more than half an hour and the sermon no longer than 15 minutes and have a happy song at the end. Don’t mess this up by acting sad. Afterwards there should a festive luncheon—with a bar,” she said. “He wanted a celebration. He wrote, ‘In my case, it truly is a celebration. God has been good to me and mine. After many conversations…I realize that this thing called death is just the beginning. We are merely going through a phase. See you later. Dad.’”
The celebration for Stanley Kendall Rideout will be held Sunday, Feb. 17, from 4 to 7 p.m. at the Sweetwater Center for the Arts, 200 Broad St., Sewickley.
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