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Athol "A. C." Flanagan '55 June 2, 2021 8:27 AM updated: June 3, 2021 11:32 AM

Col. Athol "AC" Flanagan
February 24, 1934 - May 25, 2021

Athol Carl Flanagan, A.C. to his many friends, was born on February 24, 1934 in Nogales, Arizona. Athol attended Nogales HS where he was active in band and rifle club. He attended Texas A&M University where he was in the Corps of Cadets and a member of the Fighting Texas Aggie band for four years as a bass clarinet player. He graduated in 1955 with a degree in microbiology and was sworn in as a 2nd Lieutenant in the US Air Force.

While attending flight school in Marana, he had a blind date with a girl named Mary Helen Goodwin in Tempe. They were amazed at how many people they knew in common. After that blind date, neither one of them ever dated anyone else again. Many of their subsequent dates included gathering scorpions and black widows for ASU’s Dr. Stahnke, as Mary Helen wanted extra credit in his class.

The couple married May 11, 1956. While in the Air Force, Athol attended navigator training in Houston, TX, and then was stationed at McCord AFB in Tacoma, WA where his first daughter, Maryeileen, was born. Cheryl followed almost two years to the day later. His last tour of duty was in Goose Bay Labrador, Canada where he was medically grounded.

Upon leaving the service, he returned to Tempe, where he attended ASU much to his mother’s chagrin. She was a staunch U of A supporter and their rivalry continued all of her life. Athol was hired as a science teacher at Tempe High School in 1961, where he taught for 30 years.

In addition to teaching, Athol joined the Arizona Air National Guard early in his teaching career and flew weekend tours of duty to Hawaii, Guam, Japan, Germany, Spain and Viet Nam, among other places. He always brought back interesting items for both his family and his classroom. Often he would fly all weekend returning home in the wee hours of Monday morning, to catch a few hours of sleep--only to be alert and teaching just hours later.

In 1964, his third daughter, Jennifer was born. A few days later, he fell asleep during the written portion of his master exam. Upon learning about the new baby in the house, his committee had mercy on him and allowed him to try again. He passed with flying colors earning a Master of Audio Visual Communications in Education. He was a devoted father and rarely missed a concert, play, 4-H event, or other occasion when his girls were on stage or being honored.

In 1968 Athol was awarded a sabbatical so he could attend the Air Command and Staff School in Montgomery, AL. While attending this school, he also attended and earned an MBA from Auburn University. It was shortly after returning from this adventure that he was granted permission to begin teaching an Aviation Ground School at Tempe High School. Through his connections in the Air Guard, he was able to salvage and rebuild a full-scale flight simulator for the students to use at little to no cost to the school. Through connections, he also gave information and materials to the Phoenix Union High School District so they could offer the Aerospace Magnet program at South Mountain High School.

Athol always had time for his students as well. Eulogies from former students have poured in, and many seem to have a common theme: Mr. Flanagan took time to talk to me and help me turn my life around; he was an excellent teacher and he was a genuinely nice man.

Athol and Mary Helen, who taught Home Economics in the Tempe Elementary School District, took several trips including one to see a full eclipse of the sun on the Amazon River. They also traveled to Oberammergau in Germany. They were active with the Tempe Sister City program, and in 1974, they sponsored one of the first Tempe Sister City exchange students, Eli Timosievski (now Isely), who has been considered a fourth daughter ever since. They were also active members of St. Augustine’s Episcopal Church in Tempe, sponsoring the EYC for many years. Additionally, they were involved with Cursillo, and in Marriage Encounter.

During his years in the Arizona Air National Guard, Athol served as a navigator in the 161st Air Refueling Wing and also as head of the Maintenance Squadron. Later he was head of Logistics for the State of Arizona. He taught Nuclear, Chemical and Biological Warfare Defense for the United States Air Force.

Athol retired from teaching in 1991 and the Air National Guard in 1993 having achieved the rank of Colonel in the Air Guard but not the USAF due to a national SNAFU. Shortly thereafter, he revisited his love of the clarinet and joined the Ahwatukee Foothills Concert Band where he was a member for many years. In 2003, he and Mary Helen sold their home of over 40 years in Tempe and retired to Friendship Village. They were active in the Village until Mary Helen died in 2016. After losing his soulmate, Athol slowly withdrew from activities outside his cottage. He went to the Lord on May 25, 2021.

Athol is survived by his daughters Maryeileen Flanagan '79 (Antonio Durazo), Cheryl '81 (Frank) Grimes, and Jennifer (Jerry) Blanchard, six grandchildren, and nine great-grandchildren. In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to The Texas Aggie Band Association or The Texas A&M Corps of Cadets Association, both located at 1134 Finfeather Rd., Bryan, TX 77803 (please put “In memory for Athol C. Flanagan” in comments section), or the Alzheimer’s Association.

After a private service at the National Cemetery, a public memorial service will be held at St. Augustine’s Church at College and Broadway in Tempe at 2:30 pm on June 8. All who attend must RSVP to https://forms.gle/oaQFGrQQefTP6nxm9, wear a mask and social distance. Due to COVID-19, the service will also be broadcast live on YouTube at https://youtu.be/SQ1mNXZL5n0 . These links can also be found at the church website, http://staugustinetempe.org/ beginning on June 1 and 7, respectively.


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