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Honoring an educator and friend

PORT GAMBLE — “Is that Rose?”

“What the heck was her name... Oh, one’s a Webster girl…”

“Is that her here? That must have been her…”

Students who attended Little Boston School, Poulsbo Elementary and the North End School (now David Wolfle Elementary) from the early-1940s through the 1960s reminisced about their old school days on the evening of Tuesday, Oct. 1, starting with the old black and white pictures hanging on the wall of the Port Gamble S’Klallam Tribal Dining Hall.

These former students were there to honor their favorite teacher, Lucille (Jellesma) Weisenberger, who started her teaching career at Little Boston School in 1942.

The visitors and friends, some of whom are now tribal council members, stood slightly puzzled in front of the handmade tribute of yellow poster board. The display was filled with the pictures and an article from Executive Tribal Chairman Ron Charles in which he reminisced about his days as a fourth-grader in Weisenberger’s class.

At the recent suggestion of tribal member Floyd Jones, the community decided it was time to hold an honorary dinner for Weisenberger. With that, members of the community gathered for the potluck meal, which was seasoned with snippets of conversation as to how they knew their old teacher or librarian.

Like any reunion with old classmates, the stories were abundant, many beginning with “I remember…” or “When I was in Mrs. Weisenberger’s class…”

Or trying to figure out who is the oldest student around, with a light-hearted debate between Floyd Jones and Lloyd Fulton.

Weisenberger left Little Boston after one year in 1943, but stayed in the community by holding several teaching positions at Poulsbo Elementary, the Old Kingston School and the North End School to end 20 years as an instructor before becoming the North End School librarian for another 15 years.

“It takes a unique type of person who can teach and discipline, and the students go away and say they had a good time in their class,” Charles said.

“I wonder how she kept it all straight! The first grade here, the second grade there...” said Floyd Jones, one of her first students at Little Boston.

“I remember she was a really great teacher,” said John DeCoteau, noting that Weisenberger taught everyone how to care and to this day, she is still his favorite teacher.

But his sister, Carol DeCoteau, and several of their other siblings never got the chance to participate as students in her class.

“We were jealous because (John) had such a good teacher,” Carol said. “I had a stern teacher.”

Impressively, while she couldn’t remember a single name of anyone in her 20th year of teaching, she said she could remember everyone from her 1942 classes.

After the dinner and speeches, the tribe presented Weisenberger with a framed symbol of the Port Gamble S’Klallam, a whale, painted in gold leaf by tribal member Jake Jones.

Later, she said she was overwhelmed and wasn’t expecting everything that was done for her that night, but clearly enjoyed visiting about old times with old friends and students.

“They sure made me queen for a day,” she remarked.

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