Personal Tributes By Friends of Harrington School To Honor Those Who Were Our Teachers

Many of our Friends made donations in honor of their teachers or those persons from whom they have learned the most -- parents, aunts, uncles, grandparents, friends, beloved school teachers, and many members of our island's African American community. We want to share their stories with you.

Mr. Adrian and Mrs. Louetta Johnson

They were my elementary school teachers at Harrington. Mr. and Mrs. Johnson were truly dedicated to building a foundation for all of the students, and as a result, have made the greatest contribution to my educational background.

Carolyn Rooks Whitfield, Brunswick, Elise Spears, St. Simons Island, Boisey Ramsey, Brunswick, and Dolores Bailey, Suitland, MD

Tom Ramsey and Charlie Hunter

I would like to [contribute to the Restoration Fund] in memory of Tom Ramsey and Charlie Hunter both of whom were long-term employees on LSSI (Little St. Simons Island) and contributed to many guests' enjoyment. I remember old Peg Leg Tom helping us gather oysters when I was a child and then later Charlie for taking us out coon shining at night among many other activities.

Philip Berolzheimer, Little St. Simons Island, GA

Mr. and Mrs. Charles (Charlie & Ethel Lee) Floyd

To honor the following South End residents: the late Mr. and Mrs. Charles (Charlie and Ethel Lee) Floyd; their children: Charlesetta; the lovely Virginia Floyd & her brothers, Leslie & "Mud Bone."

Anonymous

Miss Rose

My teacher Miss Rose who taught me in southern Louisiana, in Cajun country, where young girls like me were not supposed to get an education. She taught me how to read and gave me confidence to continue my education. Now I have a Ph.D. and teach at Georgia Southern University.

Judith Longfield, Statesboro, GA

Miss Joan Bissell

My 8th grade teacher Miss Joan Bissell who was crippled in a car accident but still graduated from the University of North Carolina. She was the first teacher I ever had in a wheelchair and she taught 36 girls at a private school.

Elizabeth Fowler, St. Simons Island, GA

Janet Zwenig

Beloved sister of Frances and a Friends of Harrington who attended every one of our events with a smile and infectious enthusiasm.

From Patty Deveau, Elizabeth Coleman, Griffin Davis, Anita Elise Rymer, and Jane Asher.

Mrs. Isadora Hunter

A Harrington resident who attended Harrington School in 1928 and donated her land to save the schoolhouse.

From Cdr. Clyde C and Susan S. Smith.

The Georgia Sea Island Singers

“A personal gift from Anna Lomax Wood, her dad Alan Lomax and their family to the old St. Simons community with our great love and respect for the Georgia Sea Island Singers and those living spirits who follow in their footsteps.”

From Anna Wood Lomax, her father Alan Lomax and their family.

John Davis

A Harrington resident and one of the early leaders of the Georgia Sea Island Singers

from Patricia Cofer Barefoot.

Charlie Hunter and His Family

Harrington residents who taught us to hunt, fish, and enjoy the coast.

From Phil Berlozheimer.

Terry C. Gannon

Terry Gannon moved to St Simons in 2008. She operated a toy store in Massachusetts and after selling her store she created a consortium of over 100 storeowners across the nation devoted to children. On SSI she found a wonderful community of friend and she met Emory Rooks, who introduced her to The Harrington School project.  Terry shared the information with her friends because she thought it was a wonderful effort to save the school. When Terry passed away in early 2016 these friends honored her with donations.

Nancy Stanek, Albert and Gwen Ottenberg, Deanna and Tim Kovel, Idanna Smith, Jonny and Jane Girson, Specialty Toys Network, Imagine That Toys, Christine Osborne and Schnookie, Wonder Works, Brian Miller.

Pearlena King Pickett

of Empire, Georgia from Sandy Jones, Bluemoon Publishing.

Gifts to Honor Harrington Students and Volunteers

“To every student whoever sat in this remarkable school house. Keep on going.”

From Glen Finland

“To our friend Georgia Golden”

From Ellen Skinner, and Gregory and Mavis Jaudon

For Emory Rooks and all he does to preserve the schoolhouse

From Marcia Maguire

"This tribute to Cullen Chambers was printed in the Savannah Morning News and on-line at Headlines + Happpenings (The Georgia Trust for Historic Preservation, January 23, 2014) and Preservation Posts (January 2014, Historic Preservation DIvision, Georgia Department of Natural Resources)."

Cullen Chambers

In front of the school -- Cullen in hazmat suit on right,
Ron Upshaw center, and Ellen Harris left.

“I let the building talk to me,” Cullen Chambers said as he pulled on his white “hazmat” suit and prepared to go under the historic schoolhouse. Everyone – most of whom had never been inside the building -- had said the old schoolhouse was “beyond repair.”  At the eleventh hour I had requested an opportunity to get a second opinion. Cullen Chambers was the one all my historic preservation friends  said to call.  “He is the one who goes under the structure,” they said.

Many of the decision makers and most of the local nay-sayers had seen the wooden structure under the overgrown vines from the street. Most of them had never been inside the historic structure. Now we stood in the bright February morning and we waited for the second ---  and final -- opinion on the fate of this historic building as Cullen and his team crawled inside, outside, and under.  When Cullen emerged, he did not look me in the eye. He simply said, I will tell everyone together at the lunch meeting.  I thought, well, okay, this is going to be a very brief project.

What he told the representatives of the St. Simons African American Heritage Coalition (SSAAHC), the St. Simons Land Trust, the Coastal Georgia Historical Society, and me, the new kid to the project – was what the building had told him.  At nearly ninety years old, it was still  “so solid it could float.” Indeed, termites and storm damage had attacked it, but the care, attention and craftsmanship of those African American tradesmen who had built it for the education of their children and grandchildren was still evident – and still holding – in the workmanship and materials they had used.  Education meant freedom in the Gullah Geechee community.  The community had kept and cared for their schoolhouse. Now it was our turn.

The original historic schoolhouse could be restored, reported Cullen and his Coastal Regional Commission Historic Preservation Task Force at a public meeting one month later. He would help us find the best people to do it. And he would advise us on what we needed to get the job done. But at that moment I knew that God had given us the right person to help us.

I had never met Cullen Chambers until he arrived on St. Simons Island on that brilliant clear winter morning.  He was tough, straightforward, passionate yet extremely practical.  Just what the island needed after several frustrating tries by the SSAAHC to save the old schoolhouse. The decision had already been made to take down the schoolhouse, and, as one local told me, “they are putting gas in the bulldozer as we speak” when we called Cullen. His assessment helped everyone take  a step back and try one more time.

Four years have passed and we have stabilized the structure, put on a new roof, and rallied many supporters locally, regionally and nationally.  Following Cullen’s wise counsel we have shared all our progress reports and activities on our website www.ssiheritagecoalition.org.

This Saturday, January 25, The Friends of Harrington School will hold its annual meeting at St. Paul’s Missionary Baptist Church on St. Simons Island, Georgia. The public is invited. (R.s.v.p. for the Gullah lunch at 912-634-3440 or email friends@ ssiheritagecoaltion.org.).

Our theme is “Coming Together” because that is what Cullen and his task force brought to St. Simons Island.  By restoring this historic schoolhouse, we will bring together the history of our island and tell the story of the people who came as slaves but who stayed as freed families and who contributed so much to our island’s history.

Speakers at the annual meeting will include representatives from Glynn County, the new Coastal African American Historic Preservation Commission, the Golden Isles Convention and Visitors Bureau, the American Studies program at the College of Coastal Georgia, and the Gullah-Geechee Cultural Heritage Corridor.  We will kick off our Phase II fundraising campaign to complete the restoration.

Cullen was a tight bundle of under control nervous energy when he arrived to give the public report in March 2010. He had not eaten that day. He knew a lot was riding on their report and on his presentation. Afterwards he told me “I am doing this for Mrs. Hunter. We must get this done before she dies.”  Mrs. Isadora Hunter celebrated her 90th birthday last fall. She grew up in Harrington and still lives there close to the historic school she attended and the property she donated to Glynn County and the St. Simons Land Trust to save the schoolhouse. She loved school but she never had a chance to go past the 8th grade because her mother died and “she had to tend to her siblings.”

We will miss you, Cullen. You let the building talk to you, but you had the right way of talking to others and to us. We will miss your wise counsel and friendship.  We will hold your place at the ribbon cutting when the restoration is completed. Thank you.

Patty Deveau. President
The Friends of Harrington School
January 22, 2014