August will mark two milestones in Phyllis Stuart’s life. Celebrating her 97th birthday on the 23rd of that month, she’ll also commemorate 28 years of loyal services to Eagle Point’s Head Start Program.
On May 20, amid festivities noting culmination of another pre-school year, Stuart received several unexpected accolades. Among the surprise tributes, she discovered that a few hours earlier, maintenance crew members had planted a tree on Head Start’s grounds saluting her. A decorative granite rock rested at its base, awaiting installation of a bronze plaque. Its inscription will read, “In honor of Grandma Phyllis Stuart for all her years of dedication and service.”
For the occasion, some Head Start administrative staff members came from the Medford Headquarters to extend congratulations. JoAnn Mazone, Family Advocate, and Charlotte Gunter, FCP Supervisor, praised Stuart’s valued accomplishments.
“I was Head Teacher here in 1982, when Grandma Phyllis first started,” Gunter said.
“She hasn’t missed a year since. She’s calm, nurturing, and even speaks Spanish to give hugs to the Spanish speaking children in Head Start.” Although not many in Eagle Point face language barriers, Gunter added, countywide 30% of the children speak Spanish only when they first enroll in the program.
To an outdoor audience of students, parents, staff, volunteers, plus Stuart’s daughter, and granddaughter, Area Manager, Betty Goodson, extolled Stuart’s merits.
She then presented Grandma Phyllis Stuart with a replica of her plaque, and certificates of appreciation.
Seated, huddled in a pink cable-stitched hoodie, under stiff breezes of the 15 degree-below-normal temperatures, Stuart graciously accepted the awards.
“She’s here to stay,” concluded Goodson. “She’ll be back when we reopen next fall, and we look forward to always having her with us.”
In the summer months, Grandma Phyllis expects to spend her time sewing. Come autumn, she’ll resume riding to Head Start four days per week in school buses that transport her and students each way. She’ll enjoy reading to tykes, and helping them assemble crafts, including cardboard dragons. “I’ll be here because I like to keep busy,” she said. “It’s good exercise for me; makes the days go faster.”
By F. C. Blake
Of the Independent