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Final farewell for former students and staff at Queen Elizabeth School

Former students and teachers roamed the halls of Queen Elizabeth Public School Thursday afternoon to have a last look around at what once was, and what will never again be.

Kevin Merchant views a newspaper clipping showing himself with Grade 7 and 8 students who raised more than $1,000 selling candles for the Canadian Arthritis and Rheumatism Society.

At 65 years old, 2018 marks retirement for the Picton school which will close its doors for the final time this month. A celebration of education from 1953 to 2018 was followed by an open house and fun fair.

The school’s closure was finalized last June by the Hastings Prince Edward District School Board. This year Queen Elizabeth School welcomed younger students from Pinecrest Memorial in Bloomfield which closed in June 2017. The Grade 7 and 8s moved to Prince Edward Collegiate Institute. This coming school year, all QE students move to become Junior Panthers at PECI as it becomes a K-Gd 12 school.

Queen Elizabeth School opened in 1954, with Carl P. Reid as its first principal. He was also principal at Mary Street and York Street schools until 1958, then became secretary-treasurer at the Picton Public School Board. At that time, Betty Lou Thompson was teaching half-days and was secretary for half days. Sharon Lockwood was also a secretary for half days and taught physical education half days. She was the only person at the time that taught phys ed with a broken leg.

Jean Brandon retired as a secretary at the school in 1969, but was brought back in 1970 as senior secretary. She attended Thursday’s Final Farewell event and enjoyed meeting and joking with former students and teachers.

Sherry Newcombe stands in her former Home Economics classroom noting the former locations of stoves, fridge, washer, dryer and sewing machines.

Former teacher Sherry Newcombe was pleased to meet up with her former student Megan Babcock, who is now teaching from the same room where Newcombe taught Home Economics in the 1970s.

Newcombe looked around the room and noted the locations of the stoves, washer, dryer and the sewing machines – all no longer there.

“Someone told me the sewing machines are still in storage somewhere,” Newcombe said, adding they are probably still in working condition. “We used the old knee ones, then the new ones came, and nobody liked them,” she recalled. “We only had one accident, too. One girl put the needle right through her finger.”

Art Knight’s science classroom was next door. A former student remembered the classmate who ran around the room with a dead fish. “Why? Because the fish died, so he scooped it out and ran after everybody with it.”

A quick stop in the nearby washroom brought back a memory of changing into a costume in order to leap out of a cardboard cake made to wish a classmate a bon voyage as they were moving to the West Coast.

“Funny, the things you remember,” she said.

Students and teachers roamed the halls, pointing and recalling incidents of past years and the teachers who occupied each classroom.

Former students hit a trifecta of favourite teachers attending Queen Elizabeth Public Schools ‘Final Farewell’ event Thursday. Ken Green, (top left); Kelvin Law (centre) and Dianne Hayes (front) all taught at the school in the 1970s.

They also gathered in the school’s auditorim and were pleased to find former favourite teachers, including Suzanne Pierson (Pryde); Kelvin Law, Jan Hendry, Ken and Linda Green and Dianne Hayes.

“My very favourite teacher ever,” said one, as she hugged Kelvin Law, known for his exceptional ability to relate to students in his art classes, and legendary outings curbside to draw, or create sandstone carvings.

Suzanne Pierson (Pryde) also taught at QE in the 1970s and met with former teachers and students at the event.

Ray Hobson brought his class photograph and graduation ceremony information from 1960 to share at the Final Farewell event.

“This has been a real trip down memory lane for me,” said Ray Hobson, who brought his yearbook and graduation program for the Grade 8 classes from 1960.

“Jack Laundry was the head school teacher then, and there’s a group of us here that’s still around Picton,” he noted, referencing the photograph. “That’s Judy Evans, Paul Jones has passed, Nancy Jones became a nurse, Brian McCormick died recently. Diane VanDusen was the valedictorian, I believe, she went on to become a doctor.”

Hobson recalled being at Queen Elizabeth School when it opened, but before that he attended school at the Palomar Dance Hall, where Kentwood Nursing Home is now located, on Ontario Street.

“We were there for Grade 1 because there were no classrooms anywhere. There were so many of us kids in Picton then,” said Hobson.

Queen Elizabeth School principal Kim Myderwyk gave closing remarks at the Queen Elizabeth School final farewell ceremony. Guests included trustee Dwayne Inch, Director of Education Mandy Savery-Whiteway and PECI Principal Darren MacFarlane.

“For the past six decades, our school has been a place of learning and friendship – a place filled with laughter and hopes and dreams and a starting point for amazing futures,” principal Kim Myderwyk told students and guests at the farewell ceremony. “There is no doubt that QE has been a special place, and our collective experience in this school has built a lifetime of memories that we will carry with us forever.”

At the “Final Farewell” ceremony, PECI principal Darren MacFarlane welcomed the students who were all outfitted in Junior Panther T-shirts.

In the fall, all the students will join the Grades 7 and 8 learners who move, as Junior Panthers, to PECI in September.

“Although we are sad to leave our school, the new and exciting possiblities of the future truly are endless,” said Myderwyk. “Let us cherish the fond memories of this place that we all love, but also, let us look forward with optimism and embrace the wonder of all that the future holds.”

Filed Under: Featured ArticlesHastings & Prince Edward District School BoardPECI - It's a Panther Thing

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  1. SAB says:

    It was so sad to hear that ALL the trophies, pictures as well as the time capsules that students so enjoyed participating in adding memorabile to….I would have thought the principals or staff would have kept records as to where these items were stored
    I GUESS THE STUDENTS JUST BECOME NUMBERS AFTER GRADUATING

  2. Dennis Fox says:

    It is a sad day when a school closes. It means far more than just a loss of learning space – a school is the heart and soul of a community.

  3. Susan says:

    It belongs to the school board and if they sell it to the Municipality at market value that means the taxpayer paid for it twice.

  4. Ray Hobson says:

    It was an interesting walk down memory lane. Too bad more ‘adults’ were not able to attend.

    We took a walking tour throughout the school and the building is in amazing shape. I hope the Municipality can re-purpose it in a meaningful way.

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