"He was an honourable man who paid his dues when he needed to and he could take a joke." That's how Lincoln Alexander Elementary School student Jacob Keogh, 11, describes Lincoln Alexander, the former lieutenant-governor of Ontario, who died Friday.
Alexander was a frequent visitor to the elementary school on the Mountain that bears his name, said principal Mark Hopkins.
The former Hamilton MP's last appearance at the school was in February, a visit that the school timed to mark his 90th birthday, said Hopkins. On that visit he told the kids "Be nice. Be grateful," said Hopkins.
It was during that event that Jacob formed his view of the first black member of the House of Commons.
"He was funny," said the grade six student. "He was really happy to see all the kids," added Nicole Constantini, 11, also in grade six. "He got [birthday] cards from all of the kids and he was smiling."
Like Jacob, Nicole holds a high opinion of her school's namesake.
"To me, he's a role model to all kids and older people and a really nice man. His saying is 'Life ain't fair; stay in school; get an education' and I like to follow that," she said.
Alexander's presence is evident at the school. The entry is graced with a poster bearing his image. That poster is also emblazoned with his saying — the one Nicole has memorized.
To honour his passing, Hopkins and the staff filled a display case with some of the artifacts Alexander personally gave to the school over the years.
"There's a picture of Lincoln Alexander with Princess Diana," said Hopkins, who also adds that there's a signed memoir and a copy of the Bill of Rights. "It was given to Lincoln Alexander by Diefenbaker when he was an MP, and it's signed by [both] Alexander and Diefenbaker," said Hopkins.
Hanging in the library is a Chinese lantern Alexander gave to the school.
But the legendary Hamiltonian's presence is an essential part of the school's daily life, too.
Each month the school holds its "LINC" awards. It's a ceremony that honours students in each grade who've lived up to the acronym LINC: "Leadership, Independence, Niceness and Cooperation," explained Jacob.
The awards provide students and teachers the opportunity to talk about character and what makes for both a good person and a good citizen. Though the school chose to call it the LINC awards, it's part of the Hamilton and Wentworth District School Boards school-wide character-building initiative, said Hopkins.
"We talk about why you should do those things," said Jacob.
"Those awards make you want to get those awards," said Nicole.
"They make you work for it!" added Jacob.
Like Alexander, Jacob wants to be a lawyer when he grows up. But when queried about whether Alexander inspired that career choice, the rigorously honest sixth grader makes it clear he had the idea first.
"I've planned on being that for a couple of years," said Jacob. "I'm not going to lie."
The school is planning on commemorating Alexander's life and influence in an upcoming LINC awards assembly in November, said principal Hopkins. They're also hoping to plant a tree in honour of Alexander on the property as well as dedicate a bench.
For Nicole and Jacob, Alexander's legacy offers a future benchmark for their own lives. "What's inspiring to me is that he had a really good life and was dearly loved and I can picture him being many people's role model," said Nicole.
Both Jacob and Nicole said that they hope to be role models themselves one day.
"Yes," said Jacob.
"You don't want to be a bad person when you grow up."