Christopher Columbus “Teddy” Hartsaw, Jr. suddenly passed away during the summer of 2015, but his signature bib overalls and bright yellow raincoat sit enclosed in a shadow box close to where he used to stand in the lunchroom. Hartsaw spent well over a decade at Indian Trail surveying the lunchroom to make sure that everyone was in good spirits and had something to eat. And if a child didn’t have the funds to eat, Hartsaw wouldn’t let a child go hungry.
“If a kid came through and they’d already met their maximum charges for lunch, then Teddy would dig into his pocket and pay for the student’s lunch,” Indian Trail assistant principal Chris Feathers said. “He didn’t want any attention for it and he didn’t want anyone to know he was doing it.”
Hartsaw’s legacy now lives on through Teddy’s Fund, which serves as a safety net for children that otherwise may not have money to eat lunch. Teddy’s Fund was taken a step further recently when the school started to collect donations of non-refrigerated food items that can feed hungry students in case there is no money available in the fund.
Many students, teachers and parents often recall Hartsaw’s caring and jovial attitude that met them at the morning car line with a smile and a warm greeting. Indian Trail’s 2015-2016 yearbook was dedicated to Teddy with the word’s “head custodian, co-worker, mentor, and friend to everyone.” Those were the first sentiments that Feathers mentioned when he began talking about Hartsaw.
“Teddy was not just a custodian, he was a friend to teachers and he was a friend to students — even beyond buying their lunch,” Feathers said. “When he was in here in the cafeteria … he talked to kids, he knew kids and he surveyed the cafeteria to see who he could cheer up.
“Teddy understood that he was part of the bigger picture here. His job was as a custodian wasn’t just to keep the building clean. His job was the bottom line, and that was to take care of kids.”
Hartsaw’s oldest sister, Norma Bridwell, said she wasn’t aware of all the things that her brother did at Indian Trail until the receiving of friends at his service.
“We didn’t know about what he did at the school until we were receiving friends before his funeral … I don’t remember if it was a teacher of a principal, but they told me that if a kid didn’t have money for lunch, then Teddy always paid for it,” Bridwell said.
In November, the family found out about the fund bearing Teddy’s name and they donated food to the cause. Bridwell couldn’t hide her smile as she talked about her brother and what he would think of Teddy’s Fund.
“He would be shy about it, because he didn’t want people to know — he didn’t tell you everything,” she said. “But I am sure he would be pleased to know that something he cherished is being carried on by the school.”
The school started Teddy Tuesday during the month of November and asked for donations of non-refrigerated food items such as microwavable soup and macaroni bowls. Monetary donations to the fund can be made by sending a check to the school, 307 Car-Mol Drive, Johnson City, TN 37601, made out to Indian Trail with “Teddy’s Fund” as the memo. Non-refrigerated food items can also be dropped off at the office to have on hand in the cafeteria.