For most South High School Rebelettes, longtime drill team adviser Linda Sargent will just be remembered as “The Sarge.”
On Tuesdays during dance rehearsal, Sargent was scrupulous. No stray hairs could peek out from underneath the Rebelette caps, uniforms had to be pressed and dancers couldn't make missteps.
She demanded military precision, and anybody who didn’t give it would be barred from the field at halftime during Friday night games.
“Rebelettes are more than cheerleaders, more than anything. It was the thing to be,” South High Principal and former Rebelette Connie Grumling said Wednesday. “There's not very many people that have those high expectations that you still want to perform for.”
Sargent, who served as adviser to the Rebelettes for more than a decade through the 1960s and held a host of other positions throughout the Kern High School District during a nearly 30-year career there, died Dec. 29 from complications following a cardiac arrest. She was 74.
Family and friends are celebrating her life this week.
Sargent was born July 28, 1941, in Brookville, Ohio, where she had three brothers, Larry, Terry and Jess Fogleman. After graduating from Bowling Green State University in 1963, Sargent moved to Bakersfield to teach physical education at South High.
She later received her master’s degree from UCLA.
After marrying Michael Sargent of Bakersfield in 1963, Sargent had two daughters, Staci McLean, now of Arroyo Grande, and Shawna Silva of Bakersfield. The Sargents divorced in 1976.
Sargent embraced her military nickname, cruising around town in a 1970s van she picked up during a trip to her hometown. She called it the Gray Ghost. It was bedazzled with shag carpeting, a sink, a custom airbrushed painting of a pirate ship sprawled across the side and, of course, the license plate reading “L SARGE.”
It became a regular fixture at Friday night games, Shawna Silva said.
“Everybody knew her from that van,” said Silva, who described her mother as having a no-nonsense, straight-to-the-point demeanor.
Even years after selling the van, she kept the license plate and smacked it on her Lexus, which she drove to her grandkids’ soccer games that she would frequently, if not religiously, attend.
After retiring as the curriculum coordinator for physical education and health at the Kern County Superintendent of Schools office, a post she held for 14 years until 2003, Sargent became a state consultant. She helped craft anti-bullying programs and crisis-response training, worked with at-risk youth and assisted in forging a relationship between schools and law enforcement.
“She really became the guru of safe schools education,” Grumling said.
And if things weren't done to her standard, administrators heard about it.
Like the time some bullies picked on Sargent’s grandson because he came to school with a cast on his arm.
“My mom, being who she was, went right down there and said, ’Where’s your bullying program?'” Silva recalled.
Although Sargent was known on the field for her steadfast dedication to perfection, she had a soft side, routinely aiding those in need.
On more than one occasion, Sargent opened her doors to students going through family crises at home, giving them a place to live. Another time, she offered her home to a senior desperate to graduate at South High, despite her family moving to Texas mid-year, friends said.
“Linda would step in and help the students succeed,” said Grumling, a former Sargent student who said she was inspired by her leadership. “She was a role model to many of us, and females especially who maybe didn't have the confidence to believe they could go on and be the leader of something like she was.”
Sargent is survived by her two daughters; son-in-law Brian McLean and grandson Nathaniel; son-in-law Jose Silva and grandchildren Brenden and Kiersten; and her brother Jess Fogleman and his family.
A memorial service is scheduled for 11 a.m. Friday at St. Francis Church, 900 H St., with a celebration of life to follow at the Woman’s Club, 2030 18th St.