Longtime residents of Hemlock and former teachers in the old Hemlock School, Jane Barnard and Barbara Connolly, were honored on Saturday, October 14 by the Little Lakes Community Association (LLCA). Two classrooms in the school were named in their honor with plaques at the doorways. Jane Barnard was a first and second grade teacher at the school, starting in 1942, She will turn 100 years of age in January. Barbara Connolly, also now in her 90’s, taught third and fourth grades at the school.
Jane and Barbara both commented that they were “very happy and overwhelmed” at the great turn-out for the event. Jane said that she expected “maybe ten people would come.” Instead there were over 80 in attendance. A show of hands revealed that about 20 had attended the Hemlock School, and three were former teaching colleagues of the honorees. The short ceremony that was to be held in one of the classrooms was moved into the “gymnatorium” when people just kept coming in the door. Bonnie Sykes, the Vice-President of LLCA shared with the group that. “All these people are a testament to how loved you both are for all that you have given to this community.”
Immediately Jane commented with a twinkle in her eye, “Yes, but it stops at 8 o’clock at night!” She added that when she and Barbara taught at the school they looked a little different than they do now; “Barbara had beautiful red hair, and I actually did have hair!”
Many in attendance shared their memories of going to school in the building. One remembered that in Mrs. Barnard’s class there were two rows of first graders and two rows of second graders. They would play “Huckle-Buckle Beanstalk” for fun between lessons, and if they had been “good” all week, they got to play “Grand Ol’ Duke of York” on Friday afternoons. But if they got into trouble, they had to sit still until they could literally hear a pin drop. Mrs. Barnard shared that they used to go downstairs to the lunch room in the afternoons to drink milk just before dismissal. One time a particularly wiggly young boy was asked to “stand against the wall.” When the class went back upstairs to catch the bus, she didn’t see the boy. The students told her, “He’s still standing against the wall!”
Barbara Connolly expressed her gratitude for Mrs. Barnard’s mentoring when she first started teaching. “I wouldn’t have made it, if not for Jane. She kept me on board.”
Ira Briggs told the assembled that when he was in third grade, Mrs. Connolly “taught us about compassion and that adults can cry, too. She came into the class in tears to tell us that JFK had just been assassinated.” To lighten the mood, Mrs. Connolly joked that, “I remember you, Ira. You were never on time for school!”
Several community leaders were present at the event: Eric Gott, the Supervisor of the Town of Livonia, Matt Cole, Superintendent of Livonia Schools, and Marty Hughes, who is currently running for Livonia Town Supervisor.
Dan Connolly, Barbara’s husband, graduated from the Hemlock School in 1936, the oldest of the graduates in attendance. Charlie Reed was enrolled in the school from 1956 to 1962, and remembered that in his 6th grade class there were four students: three boys and a girl. He also said that his parents and grandparents had all attended the school. Brenda Schoonover Nobel came in part to honor her parents, as well as the two teachers. Her father, Darwin, was the custodian at the school in the ‘60’s and her mother, Frances, worked in the cafeteria. Maureen Watkins, a graduate of Livonia High School in ‘49, taught 3rd grade at the school for a while in the ‘60’s. Barry Folts was in the Hemlock High School class of 1958, the last graduating class. He remembered that one of the highlights of the school year was “donkey basketball.” “It was usually some of the students competing against the teachers, all of us riding on donkeys in the gym. We had a riot laughing!”
LLCA became aware of Mrs. Barnard’s connection with the Hemlock School when she attended the Antiques Appraisal Fair at the school in August. When informed that LLCA would like to honor her, she requested that we also honor her colleague, Mrs. Connolly. Given the past importance of the school in the Hemlock community, and their part in that history, members of the group felt it appropriate to honor these two distinguished teachers in this way.
Jane Barnard, whose maiden name was Decker, grew up in Lima, and obtained her teaching degree from the Geneseo Normal School, now SUNY Geneseo. Prior to marrying Howard Fitch Barnard in 1942 and moving to Hemlock, she taught in a one-room school in Lima. She taught at the Hemlock School when it served all primary and secondary grades, but transferred to teaching in Livonia, when the Hemlock building began serving exclusively as a high school. The Barnards had three daughters: Mary, Janet and Carol. Following her retirement Jane has remained very active in community affairs, volunteering for the United Church of Christ, and at the food pantry in Honeoye. She has also volunteered for blood drives for the Red Cross, She recently came to the Hemlock Fair in period dress, with members of the historical society. She is a member of the Hemlock Grange and Eastern Star. Sally Blackburn shared that as a representative of UNIFY, she asked Jane in recent years to tutor some of the students who were having trouble keeping up in school. She said that, “One of Jane’s tutees was ‘a real rascal’ when she started, but she is now on the honor roll!”
Barbara Beam Connolly, also a resident of Hemlock, is married to Dan Connolly. Their sons are Marc and Steven. Mrs. Connolly taught at the Hemlock School starting in the mid-1940’s until resigning in 1960, and transitioning to teaching in Livonia. She remained active in school activities, working together with Mrs. Barnard on an operetta in 1961, among other contributions.
The Hemlock School was dedicated in 1929, a building that replaced the former school that had burned down. Its final graduating class was in 1958. After that it served to accommodate the overflow of students from other towns at various times when local district buildings could not accommodate all of their enrollees. After being vacant for a while, in the early 1990’s the building was purchased by Jack Evans, and donated to the Town of Livonia, to serve as a recreation center. In November, 2016 the building was closed by the Town. Prior to the closing, the Little Lakes Community Association was formed as a not-for-profit entity with the goal of taking over the building, to provide educational activities and recreation for the community. A successful Barn Fest was recently sponsored by LLCA at the building and grounds of the school. The official take-over of the building by the group is pending.