Brownsdale basks in school celebration

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, May 21, 2003

BROWNSDALE -- Like a sparrow blown from its nest in a tree above, Brownsdale families hold their school near and dear to their hearts.

The Brownsdale Elementary School gives the community identity and purpose. Every town with a school takes pride in that fact. Every town with a school has at least one reason for young families to make it their home.

Though the enrollment has declined to only 116 students, from a high of 240, the school and every child who enters is worth fighting for at Brownsdale.

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The school observed its 50th anniversary Saturday afternoon. There were tours of the classrooms, music and singing, refreshments and memories.

Nobody has more of the latter than Grace Gillette and Myron Meier, the teacher and the principal, who served the school the longest in the last 40 years.

Gillette, a retired long-time kindergarten teacher, spoke on the school's history at Saturday's celebration.

"Over the years, the people of Brownsdale have taken pride in their fine schools," she told the anniversary audience.

Nobody takes more pride in the Brownsdale Elementary School and the entire Hayfield school system than Gillette.

"Five generations of my husband Bob's family attended school in Brownsdale," she said. "My family has four generations who have graduated Hayfield High School, beginning with my mother's graduation in 1919."

Gillette's 45 years of teaching were all spent in school -- many of them one-room country schools -- that are now a part of the Hayfield Independent School District.

Even today, the Gillette connection continues.

Gillette's grandson's wife, Sarah Gillette, teaches one of the first grade classes at Hayfield Elementary School.

Saturday's fun began with the ringing of an antique school bell and the Pledge of Allegiance.

Diana Orr, principal, welcomed guests before Sylvia Torstenson's own "Birthday Celebration."

After Gillette's historical perspective, there was a musical interlude from Brownsdale Elementary School students, singing classic rock music favorites from the 1950s.

Then, Meier, the retired long-time principal, shared his memories through the years.

Vicki Reid introduced special guests and Tina Ellis examined the Parents In Education organization's contributions.

Carolyn Novak and Diana Orr recalled life in 1953, the year the school first opened.

Brownsdale school staffers dazzled the audience with their rendition of "Johnny Angel" from the 1950s pop music charts.

The entire audience of students and adults than sang "Happy Birthday" to the school before principal Orr gave final remarks and Brenda Thissen led a balloon release.

To celebrate the 1950s, several vintage cars were on display.

In the perfect weather of a beautiful spring day, one unidentified guest earned special recognition, albeit incognito.

The principal received a letter prior to the golden anniversary bash that read, in part, "Over the years, I have seen all the great things our school and our students have done. Please accept this donation to be used for the celebration or whatever the school needs as a way of saying thanks for all that you do."

The letter was signed "Anonymous."

Inside the envelope was $500.

Lee Bonorden can be contacted at 434-2232 or by e-mail at