David Pittser didn’t grow up in Batesville, but this Kansas native is using his teaching background to work with children in that area. He’s been a “big brother” with the Big Brothers Big Sisters organization in Batesville for seven years but didn’t come into that role in the most conventional way.
Pittser was a teacher for about 40 years in various cities in Kansas. Teaching in the Gifted and Talented program took the majority of his time during his four-decade career, he said.
Pittser and his wife, Sharan, both taught at one of his last teaching stops, in Colby, Kan., he said.
“We both taught there, and she wanted to go back to school and get her Ph.D., and I wanted to get a job closer to where she was [attending school] because I wasn’t quite to retirement age,” he said.
Sharan enrolled at Kansas State University in Manhattan, where she earned her doctorate.
“We moved back to Great Bend, Kan., and I taught GT there for about five years, then retired,” Pittser said.
With her new credentials, Sharan went on to teach at Newman University in Wichita, Kan., while they lived in Andale, a bedroom community of Wichita.
After five years of teaching in Wichita, Sharan took a job at McKendree University in Lebanon, Ill., which was quite a commute from Andale.
“[Lebanon] is like 30 minutes east of St. Louis,” Pittser said.
When Sharan took that job, Pittser said, he didn’t know whether they should buy a house in Illinois or stay in Wichita, with his wife coming home on weekends. But his daughter, who lived in Batesville, had an idea.
“My daughter and son-in-law had lived [in Batesville] for a short time, and my daughter called and said we should live here,” he said.
“We looked at Batesville on the map and did some plotting, and [found] it was half the distance from there to Illinois than [from] where we were in Kansas. That immediately got our attention.”
Pittser’s daughter and her husband, who are veterinarians in Batesville, asked her parents to attend a conference with them to help look after their granddaughter. The group met in Batesville before going to the Nashville conference, Pittser said.
“Our daughter here arranged for us to look at some houses, so we did, and we ended up buying one before we went back,” he said. “We got back and sold [our house] in Kansas with no problem and moved to Arkansas in the fall of 2002.”
The Pittsers had an apartment in Lebanon while Sharan finished up her teaching stint, and after three more years, she retired.
Not too long after becoming a permanent Batesville resident, Pittser came into contact with the person he didn’t know would become his “little brother.”
“Right after we got here, my daughter and son-in-law had hired a lady to work for them, and she lived in Melbourne with four children,” he said.
His daughter’s new employee ended up moving to Batesville, and needed assistance with the move.
“I had a pickup truck at the time, and I went with my son-in-law and his friend, and we helped move her and the kids down here,” he said.
When the family moved to Batesville, one of the children started having trouble adjusting to school in his new town.
“His mother wanted to know if I could spend some time with Dekon,” Pittser said. “We hit it off pretty well, and through that and talking to his family, his mom said she’d like to get the other kids involved in Big Brothers Big Sisters.”
When Pittser checked out information about the organization for the mother, he and Dekon, his new “little brother,” became officially involved with Big Brothers Big Sisters.
“That’s basically how we got started, and we’ve been involved ever since then,” Pittser said.” Even though I was older than most little kids would want for a big brother, we hit it off pretty well.”
Pittser recalls one of the first times he and Dekon spent time together. Dekon was 7 years old, and they had decided they would watch a movie at Pittser’s house.
“We have two recliners and a big TV,” he said. “We came into the house, turned on the TV and put the movie in, and I sat down in my recliner. He looked at the other one, smiled and jumped in my lap.”
Dekon is now 14, and their meet-ups have changed immensely since that time.
“It’s transitioned into when we get together, we’ll go to Dairy Queen or the yogurt place [in town],” Pittser said.
During his seven years with Dekon, Pittser has learned the importance of volunteering and how he can make an impact on someone.
“I think that there’s a sense that you do something for somebody else, and I think that’s a little bit different than if you contribute financially to your church or charitable organization,” Pittser said.
Working with his “little” has been rewarding over the years, he said.
“It’s an entirely different kind of giving [than financial giving],” he said. “When I give financially, I write the check, and money goes out of my bank account. Is that rewarding? Maybe. But when you do something for a child or young person, it’s much more rewarding.”
His time with Dekon paid off last March when Pittser was named Big Brother of the Year for Arkansas in 2012.
“When I got the award, I was happy about it, and I thought, ‘How could anybody be disappointed when someone wins an award for doing something good?’” Pittser said.
He raced go-carts and other types of cars when he was younger and won awards for doing so, but this award became the most important to him after all of his years of racing.
“It came natural. It wasn’t like a competition,” Pittser said.”I liked being able to contribute something to my new town.”
At 75 years old, Pittser said he was worried about his age when he first became a part of Big Brothers Big Sisters, but at this point, he said he doesn’t see his time as a “big” coming to an end anytime soon.
“I don’t foresee ever stopping,” he said.
This realization came to him as he faced some health problems in February 2011. Pittser had to have five bypasses performed on his heart, he said.
“During all of that time, while I was stinking miserable, I never once thought about not being a big brother,” he said. “I never thought once about stopping.”
Staff writer Lisa Burnett can be reached at (501) 244-4307 or email@example.com.