Eliot School teacher continued legacy of longevity

(Photo Courtesy Abigail Norman) Charlie Sandler, who is retiring after 46 years at the Eliot School.

Old Eliot School teachers never die, they just fade away into the woodwork.

And so it goes with Charlie Sandler, who retired in May after teaching woodworking at the Eliot School of Fine & Applied Arts since 1966. The school specializes in such handicrafts as woodworking and is located at 24 Eliot St.

“I don’t see it as a loss,” Abigail Norman, director of the Eliot School, said of Sandler retiring. “He put a stamp on the school and his legacy will live on with the school.”

Norman said Sandler is “the salt of the earth” and an “old-fashioned guy” who tells corny jokes and always makes a person feel comfortable. She said he’s the type of guy who will fix something 10 times instead of buying a new replacement.

Sandler’ longevity at the school follows in the step of two others: Robert Richards and Herb Forsell. Richard became involved with the Eliot School during the 1870s and sat on the board of trustees for 60 years, leaving at the age of 100. Norman called him “the father of shop.”

Forsell was at the Eliot for over 40 years, eventually becoming the superintendent. As he aged into his late 80s, Forsell began grooming his successor, Sandler.

Norman said the trio made “a history of long-term commitment” and infused the school with an ethos, making it a place that felt like home and where hands-on learning was done.

Sandler, a Korean War veteran who grew up in Dorchester, worked in the shipyards and was a member of the carpenters union before coming to the Eliot School. He became the school superintendent in 1978.

“I’m really going to miss it,” said Sandler. “After 46 years, it’s part of my life.”

The Eliot School will hold a retirement party for Sandler on Sept. 15. [See Sights & Sounds listing.] Norman said any who knows Sandler is invited to come and join the celebration.

“It’s overwhelming for me,” Sandler said about the retirement party. “It’s a great tribute and I appreciate it immensely.”

Sandler said he will continue to recover from a back operation in retirement and spend time with his wife and family. But he won’t let it be a full-time retirement. He plans to stay involved at the school.

For more information about the school, visit eliotschool.org.

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