Monday, February 4, 2008

Elinor Shea - Grade School Secretary

Elinor Shea was the secretary at St. Mary Grade School beginning in 1963 until it closed. She was also my Mom. I have received several inquiries as to why I haven’t written anything about her yet. So here is a bit of info on her.

When my father was terminally ill in 1963, my mother knew she would need to go back into the workforce. While she was beginning to think about this possibility, Sr. Marie Ida, the grade school principal, called to ask her if she would consider coming to work for her a few hours each week. After my Dad died in 1964 she began working full time.

My younger sister, Jane and I were in grade school, and when Mom was at work – she was not our Mother, she was Mrs. Shea, the secretary. This didn’t bother either of us, as we liked seeing our Mom during the day. However, we did know that we weren’t to go into her office unless it was school-related.

So many times people have asked me, “Are you related to Mrs. Shea?” (If you were born in the 1950’s and if your last name is Shea there is a pretty good possibility that your mom’s name is Shea, too.) I would usually laugh and tell them yes. Then the person would go on and on about how much they loved Mrs. Shea.

After she retired, many students, all grown up, would stop her and say, “Do you remember me?” Of course they looked completely different as adults and she would say, “I just can’t recall your face, tell me who you are.” Then they would tell her and she would say she remembered them and how nice it was to see them again. No matter how busy we were she would ask how they were doing, inquire about their families and be genuinely happy she had run into them.

I remember a few stories from my Mom that I can relate here:

I can still see her standing over that duplicating machine, cranking out those copies to go home with the “oldest” student in each family. She was very well organized and was truly appreciated by the teachers and principals.

She mentioned one time to me of calling the youngest children in a particular family into her office. She just wanted to tell them how blessed they were to have such loving and caring parents. I don’t know how often she did this with students but I’m sure this wasn’t the only occasion she passed on her thoughts to students.

My mom worked with Donna Quinnan. Years later, when I was chairperson of Parish Council and I was working on a mailing with a committee including Mrs. Quinnan, she told all of us putting labels on the envelopes, “Put those labels on straight everyone, Mary Ellen’s Mom taught me if you are going to do something, do it right!”

There were many Friday night happy hours at our home – some of the teachers would come over and unwind and have a good laugh over the week’s problems. You could tell they loved working together. It was a lot like that commercial about Las Vegas, “What happened at the Shea house, stayed at the Shea house!”

Money was tight at St. Mary’s, especially towards the end. There were so many fundraisers. (I remember thousands of gold smiley face tall plastic cups.) She even turned down a few raises because she knew the school needed the money more than she did.

At the end of her career, Barb Geary was the principal. My Mom was so happy to have her as her boss. She said over and over how wonderful it was to work for her. As a matter of fact, many of her very close friends were people she worked with at St. Mary’s. One group of them, Bette Jo Schmerheim, Velma Breidinger and Suzanne Robinson were best friends with her until she died.

She would have loved to come to this reunion.

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