Jo-Ann Boepple: Chance encounters

Published 6:39 pm Thursday, April 28, 2011

What are the chances of meeting someone in Tampa, Fla. from near your Michigan hometown?

boeppleWhat are the chances of someone from near your Michigan hometown moving a few doors away in Tampa?

What are the chances that you would meet someone in Tampa who graduated from the Edwardsburg Adult Education Program?

And what are the chances that you never met this person before?

Well, this just happened to me. A couple moved in four doors away who live in Union, Mich. I had never met them before even though I worked in the adult education program in Edwardsburg for many years.

He said he graduated in 1976 and he is an Edwardsburg alum. What a small world we live in and it seems to be getting smaller.

When I get back to Edwardsburg in a few weeks, I am going to look for him in the Edwardsburg School display in the Edwardsburg Museum.

I am sad to say I may not find a trace of him, and this is why:

Years ago portraits of all the members of a graduating class were put together to make a large display of the class. These were framed and hung in the back of the study hall that was in the old high school on the corner of U.S. Highway 12 and Section Street.

When the new high school was built and everything was moved, those pictures were put in storage and when someone came along and cleaned out the storage, the pictures went out to the trash.

Some were rescued and the portraits were torn off and some were taken home and stored away. Slowly the composites that survived have been given to the museum and hang there in the school room. However, there are many still missing and probably destroyed.

The same thing happened to the adult education classes. Each year a group picture was taken of the class in their cap and gowns and each person was identified. These too were put on display in the old school and when the school was closed and Adult Education discontinued those pictures disappeared.

They were framed also and were a record of those who graduated from the adult high school program. They are gone along with the records of the adult education students.

Edwardsburg Adult Education started around 1970 and was directed by Skip Sisson. Later Bob McParlin was the director followed by Jim Culver and I followed Jim Culver.

Adult education was funded by the State of Michigan to give those people who had dropped out of school for one reason or another an opportunity to go back to school and finish their education and get a high school diploma.

The state changed the requirements and made it harder for students to do this while working and raising a family. Adult education was never easy. Students worked full-time jobs during the day and came to school at night, four nights a week.

At one of the graduation ceremonies one of the teachers told the graduates, of all things, they had missed while they were going to school at night. Things like their children’s school programs, ball games, TV programs, sporting events, dinners out with their families, family functions and birthday parties. Going to school at night and then studying on weekends or during breaks at work created many sacrifices for not only the students, but their families.

If anyone has a copy of these pictures, please loan them to the museum so that they can be copied, framed and placed on the walls and we will have a lasting tribute to those who made it to the finish line.

And I will be looking for my new Florida neighbor in the records we have at the museum.