Central Square graduate credits conversation with elementary principal for changing his life

Local News

HASTINGS, N.Y. (WSYR-TV) — It’s common for college students to remember their high school teachers, but for SUNY Oswego freshman Austin Crowell, his elementary principal left the biggest impact.

Larry Winks started at Hastings Mallory Elementary when Crowell was a third grader.

Winks died Monday morning when a garbage truck backed into him outside his home in Baldwinsville.

Crowell, along with other former students and current students, were part of a candlelight vigil outside the school Wednesday night.

Crowell says, “I always thought the principal was like a scary figure, you never wanted to be seen around him and stuff, or else you’re in trouble. With Mr. Wink, it was different because he would talk to every student differently. When you’re with him, it was individual time. He may have just wanted to touch base and see how you were doing.”

When Crowell wasn’t doing so well, it was Larry Wink who got through to the third grader. Of one of those earliest conversations, Crowell says, “It changed my life. Before that, I was just focused on hanging out with friends, not how I treated other people and it changed who I am as a person completely.”

Conversations with Larry are what superintendent Tom Colabufo will miss the most. Even as the principal’s boss, he would frequently turn to Crowell for help.

Colabufo says, “I have a special needs child, as does Mr. Wink, so out of all the administrators I’ve worked with, we had that connection. I would talk to him when I struggled with issues with my son. He was going through even a harder situation. That’s one the things I’m going to miss the most. I was able to just pick the phone up and talk to him like I couldn’t talk to anyone else.”

The superintendent has an assignment for Wink’s students, young and old.

He says, “I would love if they could pay it forward to all the people they come in contact with. Because every time they do that, it would be a part of Mr. Wink.”

Calling hours for Larry Wink will be held Thursday.

Colabufo has closed Hastings Mallory Elementary on Friday so students and teachers can attend Wink’s funeral.

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