I wrote this piece for my grandmother Mary Leigh. She retired after 41 years at the Garfield School District. She loves Garrettsville and this is my ode to her years there.
“My Grandmother the Custodian”
It all began in 1973. My grandmother Mary Leigh started at James A Garfield Community Schools. At 25 years old, she began her lifelong love with Garrettsville Ohio. Her mother, Marguerite Stottlemire would later retire from the High School as a custodian and one of her best friends would retire this year, Rosie Farr as a custodian at the intermediate school. It was her time and with a heartfelt goodbye she left the school system this year after 41 years.
Growing up a custodian’s granddaughter, I never thought anything bad about her profession. Who else got to see their grandmother work with such passion at such a job? She worked harder than anybody I had ever seen before. On her hands and knees every day, she smiled seeing all the children grow up before her eyes. Her work ethic proved to be in her genes. My great grandmother Marge is in her nineties and still does chores around the house and my mother Laura Begalla (nee Leigh) hasn’t had a day off since July 5th ! I am proud to come from such fierce hardworking women. In a time where women are just now becoming prominent in the work place, I can say that we determined our own fate. Of course, the women in my family had children and families, however they also worked hard to put food on the table. I like to say I am fourth generation workaholic.
I grew up in the halls of the Elementary School. Don’t believe me? Ask anyone that’s been there awhile, they probably have heard about me from her, or seen me as a child walking the halls. I can still smell the fresh paint on the walls, the sound of country music playing on the stereo and my grandmother’s laugh ringing through the classrooms.
I did not reside in Garrettsville nor did my grandmother. However, when she talks about the town you would have thought she was raised there. I now live in Iowa, and my heart swells when she talks about the great times she had this year at SummerFest and the bands and the car shows. She will always be in Garrettsville. She loves the town and the people. Although, her definition of retirement is not what anyone would deem as retirement, I know she will prove that no matter what age you are, there is always work to be done.
This is my thank you to you Grandma. Congratulations on the retirement, and helping me value hard work.
Heather Terry (nee Bowman)
Muscatine, Iowa – previously of Champion Ohio.