MANY THANKS FOR MANY HONOREES — Gathered for a gala appreciation event are, seated, from left, Joy Francis Bradley-Lenard, Jackie Stevens Ward, Betty Brown, Ruby Ashley, Martha Livingston (holding a picture of fellow Starke Elementary School teacher Flora Fair, who was unable to attend), and Ruth Jackson. Standing, from left, are Dorothy Graham, Althea Chavers, Fredrich Hinson, Billye Staples, Joe Ann Thomas, Ada DeShazier, Shirley Ellison, and Vivian and Bo Davenport.

Members of the DeLand High School Classes of 1976 and 1977 took the occasion of Homecoming weekend Nov. 5-7 to say thanks to the adults who shaped their lives.

Parents, elementary school teachers and others were the honored guests at an elegant gala staged at DeLand’s Chisholm Community Center, where attendees dressed to the nines and sequins were plentiful.

Prominent were teachers from Euclid and Starke elementary schools, two DeLand schools for Black students in the days before integration.

The “youngsters” — celebrating their 44th and 45th high-school reunions — were effusive in their gratitude for the lessons their elders taught them.

“We always need you, we need your wisdom, your kindness, your gentle touch, and most of all your loving guidance,” Pastor Larry Chavers told the audience at the Nov. 7 event.

The celebration was a walk down memory lane, as members of the audience reminisced about games during their youth (marbles, hopscotch), fashions (bell bottoms, the Afro hairstyle), and snacks (fried bologna and peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwiches).

“The class of ’76 was one of the largest classes ever,” Denver Dukes Scott, organizer of the event, told the crowd. “Seventy-five percent of us went to college. We have doctors, lawyers, ministers — so you did good.”

Hors d’oeuvres of PB&J on Wonder Bread were served as Shirley Ellison read the names of the 21 honorees, pausing at each name to recall the influence they had.

Fredrich Hinson, a teacher in Volusia schools for 41 years, was remembered as “Mr. Handsome” and for the fact that, to pass his fifth-grade class, the students had to memorize the preamble to the United States Constitution.

Copies of the preamble were provided on every table, but, as one participant said during a recitation: “We don’t need this — we remember!”

Retired elementary school teacher Martha Livingston holds the plaque she was presented at a gala staged by the DeLand High School Classes of 1976 and 1977 to thank those who guided them. On the table is a photo of Flora Fair, also a teacher, who lives out of state and was unable to attend.

Vivian Davenport, who worked 33 years at Starke Elementary as a cafeteria supervisor, got a salute from Ellison: “She made the best cakes and pies you could ever taste.”

The influence of their elders was clear.

“Don’t ever think you are forgotten. We represent you,” Althea “The Beautiful” Chavers told the honorees. “I’ve been director of the Boys & Girls Club for 20 years. The things I instill in those children are the things you instilled in me.”

Each honoree received flowers and a crystal award, and a dinner of fish, chicken, rice, collards, green beans, cornbread, stuffing and cake.

The Volusia County Council officially proclaimed Nov. 7, 2021, to be “Euclid and Starke Parents and Teachers Day,” and copies of the proclamation were also provided to all the attendees.

Honored by the Classes of 1976 and 1977: 

Billye Staples
Vivian Davenport
Flora Fair
Joy Francis Lenard
Ruby Ashley
Ada DeShazier
Betty Brown
Fredrich Hinson
Carnetta Odoms
Ruth Jackson
Martha Roberts
Joe Ann Thomas
Rose Wooten
Diane McNeese
Dorothy Graham
Robert Gillislee
Patsy Donaldson
Dorothy Bender
Bobbie Baugh
Jackie Stevens Ward
Martha Livingston

Martha Livingston’s elementary school class. Members of this group later graduated from DeLand High School.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here