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Former students, teachers bid fond farewell to Memorial School

Date: 6/14/2010

June 14, 2010.

By Debbie Gardner

Assistant Managing Editor

WILBRAHAM -- It was the year I got my first school locker -- and shared it with a girl named Donna. When the words to "The Gettysburg Address" and the poem, "In Flanders Field" became indelibly etched into my memory. Where a terrifying teacher named Miss Kline taught me how to give a speech without using a single "um" or "and."

It was the time in my life when I discovered that boys lie, and other girls could be incredibly cruel.

I think my sixth grade year at Memorial School left more of a lasting impression on my young life than any of the others I spent in the town's school system.

Perhaps that's why I was drawn to visit my brief alma mater during its open house on June 3.

The school, which will be closed at the end of this term to accommodate a restructuring of the regional school district's elementary education, put out a blanket invitation to former students, teachers and friends to come reminisce and view a plethora of memorabilia.

According to Principal Marguerite Myers-Killeen, I was one of about 25 people who made the trip up the long driveway to visit the hilltop school, which was originally approved in 1948 at a cost of $520,925.35.

With a brief aside comparing that building cost to the $82,271,129 to be spent constructing the new high school, Myers-Killeen, who will retire when her school closes its doors for the last time, said she was saddened to see the school close.

"We have a strong learning community and committed parents [here]," she said.

Pat O'Connor, a former first and second grade teacher at the school who remains a member of its council, said she'd spoken to several visitors that afternoon who attended the school shortly after it opened in 1950.

"I think it's the people who came through when it was an elementary and middle school in the 1950s [who] were the most turnout," O'Connor said.

Myers-Killeen noted that a gentleman who had been a member of the school's first ninth-grade graduating class brought with him a copy of his class picture to share with the school.

She said she believed over the life of Memorial School it had served as a primary school for grades first through nine, an elementary school and possibly a junior high school.

Bob Horack, who started first grade at the school in 1955 and graduated from the then-new Minnechaug in 1967, shared that when he attended, all the town's children in first and second grades came to Memorial School.

"When you went to third grade, you went [to school] near where you lived -- Stony Hill or Pines [Schools]. You went there until sixth grade and then came back [to Memorial School] for junior high," Horack said.

He added that his mother, Janet Horack, had also been a part of Memorial School history, serving as the school's nurse for 25 years.

He joked about sitting "very still and small" on the hall chairs facing the school office when he was sent to visit the principal, lest his mother glance out her office door and catch sight of him waiting in the hallway

"I haven't been here since I graduated in eighth grade," he admitted. " I think the earlier grades are the most significant [to a child] in a lot of ways.

"It's nice to revisit ... they hadn't changed a lot of things," he added.