The Coalition and the Friends of High Rock congratulate Dr. Crane on her ‘stellar’ career as an educator.
LYNN — As the sun set over the city Friday, the lights under a sprawling white tent set in High Rock Park came up, as did more than 200 people, to say thank you to retired Ford School Principal Dr. Claire Crane.
“It really is so overwhelming,” Crane said. “It makes me so happy inside to see all this.”
Crane officially retired Sept. 1, 2014. The Coalition, friends and family feted her with an un-traditional retirement party. David Gass and Ralph Tufo roved in the crowd with fiddle and accordion. A picnic spread was laid out. The grill fired up. Children spilled out over the hilltop.
In the center of it all stood Crane, accepting bouquets of flowers and hugs from young and old alike.
It took three tries for Crane to finally break her 52-year tie to the Lynn School Department. She announced last year she would retire but quickly rescinded.
Wanda Roberts joked that she had a baby just to keep Crane from retiring the first time.
“I’m that baby,” said 12-year-old Desiree Roberts, presenting herself to Crane.
It is one of Crane’s favorite tales. Roberts’ two older sons had attended the school and were headed to high school when she first announced she would retire, Crane said.
“Her mother had another baby to get me to stay,” she said. “It worked.”
Roberts, who drove from Barrington, N.H., to attend the party, was just one of about 100 parents who lined up to present their children, testing Crane’s memory. Some recent Ford School graduates and some “children” were in their 20s and even 30s. Crane passed every test.
Koty Warner, 25, credited Crane with keeping him in school. Not only did he go to Ford Elementary, but he also went to seventh and eighth grade at the Ford School Annex, which is now the School Department’s Administration Building.
Warner said he wanted to go to Marshall Middle School, but Crane said they wouldn’t look out for him like she would, so he stayed at Ford.
“She kept me in line,” he said. “She used to have me sit in her office, and she’d give me work to do just to keep me out of trouble.”
Warner still lives in the Highlands and said it’s been a comfort all these years to see Crane’s car in the schoolyard everyday. He misses that, he said.
Binh Mai also credited Crane for keeping him on the right path. He and his brother and sister attended the Ford School kindergarten through fifth grade. “She was tough and nice,” he said.
Mai said once he and several other kids got into trouble, but instead of punishing them, she gave each a membership to the Boys & Girls Club.“She is just so amazing,” he said. “It’s why I had to come tonight.”
State Rep. John Tierney stooped to give the diminutive Crane a hug. “I can remember bringing Hillary Clinton to the school when she was first lady. I was here when she got the astronaut to come into the school,” Tierney said. “She did some really unique things and added some real vitality to the school. She was a very good leader.”
Geri Cronin attended the Highland School long before Crane became principal. Miss Chase was her principal, Cronin said, “but Claire was as nice to her students as Miss Chase was to us.”
Diane Babbin has known Crane for more than 20 years, since her younger sister attended Ford School. “If it wasn’t for her, I would never have gone to college,” she said.
Babbin said she’d given up on the idea of college until Crane urged her to use her voice and told her she had to power to make a difference.“To sum it up, she is worth her weight in gold,” said Babbin, who is now taking classes at North Shore Community College and is still mentored by Crane.
Amanda Pearson called her years at Ford School, first through eighth, a good journey. “I loved school because she was so caring,” she said.
“She took this school from zero to hero, I tell you,” said longtime lunch cook Marion Mininger. “What a job, she gave those kids everything from a garden to space travel. She made it a village and she helped a lot of kids along the way.”
Crane was Joseph Harrison’s third grade teacher in 1973. “She was the best teacher, I love her to death. She is just so amazing,” he said, leaning in and lowering his voice to a whisper. “And here she is still doing the same thing 40 years later.”
As the night grew dark, kids scattered across the park playing and shrieking as kids do while the adults milled around, reminiscing and catching up with old friends and colleagues. School Committee member Maria Carrasco shook her head as she watched Crane.
“She doesn’t even realize this party is for her,” Carrasco said. “She thinks it’s for all the people she has served in the community. She is amazing.”