An open house at McHenry Primary drew generations of former students, faculty and staff Sunday for a final look at the 123-year-old school slated to close for good at the end of the term.
Myra Smith used a walker to navigate the halls where her late husband, Charles Smith, once went to high school. She said she also wanted to see Tony Pope. The former school librarian was displaying thousands of documents, pictures and other items he’s collected from McHenry’s past.
“We want to hear about the book he’s writing, because he’s so good at history,” Smith said.
Damon Langham, who attended McHenry from Pre-K through third grade, came with his wife and young children with an eye to traversing the Ocean Hall one last time. Teachers Sherrie Hughes and Mary Clark painted undersea scenes on the breezeway connecting the old and new buildings in 1995.
Langham’s aunt Stacy Davis said many of their family members are alumni. He and her daughter, Erica Davis, were in the same class.
“His mom and I were pregnant together. They’re six weeks apart,” Davis said. “They graduated in 2013 but it doesn’t seem like it’s been that long. There are lots of memories here. Good memories.”
Over in the Ocean Hall, Clarke and Hughes were posing for photos with friends and former students when they noticed Hughes’ signature on the wall had faded. Clarke went to find a Sharpie to touch it up.
“I hope the Pepperell kids enjoy this,” Hughes said as she scrawled her name anew.
Pepperell Middle students will be temporarily housed in the facility while their new school is being built.
McHenry Principal Brig Larry presided over the cake and punch tables in the media center festooned with flowers and balloons. She said retired teachers and staff were joining their former students to reconnect and reminisce.
“I’ve seen a lot of tears and a lot of laughing,” Larry said about halfway through the two-hour event.
Gina Dubek was doing both in the lunchroom, as she sifted through a box of yellowed ledgers and photo albums chronicling her first-grade class.
“A lot of people aren’t here anymore,” she said, then brightened as her children returned from looking at memorabilia of their own school days.
“Most of my family went here. We were Nicholsons back then,” Dubek added. “My Dad went here, when it was up on the hill, to the eighth grade.”
On the other side of the room, Sandi Mendoza was showing her 2-year-old daughter Camila Ramirez slick color snapshots from her class. She said she’d run into a lot of her old schoolmates at the open house, then she looked down at Camila.
“I was hoping she’d have a chance to go here. But, no,” Mendoza said with a wistful smile.