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Joyce Endee

Danbury Elementary pays tribute to one of its own

Danbury author Mary Lyn Ray spent time chatting with Audrey Curren following the dedication of the Danbury Elementary School library in Curren’s honor last week. Ray also donated one of her children’s books to the library as a tribute to the retired teacher and Title 1 tutor. (Donna Rhodes) (click for larger version)
November 20, 2012
DANBURY — 'Friend,' 'lovable,' 'dedicated,' 'talented,' 'thoughtful' and 'amazing' are just some of the many adjectives that decorated a sign in the Danbury Elementary School last week for a luncheon honoring former teacher Audrey Curren.

Curren, who is 95, spent 40 years teaching in the Newfound School District, including three years at the Alexandria School, a stint at the old South Danbury School, and one year at Bristol Elementary. In 1961, she moved into the brand new Danbury Elementary School building, where she remained until her retirement at the end of the 1977-78 school year.

Retirement didn't end her commitment to the students of Danbury, however. Curren continued on as a Title 1 tutor, a part of the weekly reading program, and a volunteer for the school until just a few years ago.

Principal Ann Holloran praised Curren for her seven decades of teaching and inspiration for the children of Danbury.

"She's been a role model that many people strived to be like after seeing her teach and read, and she's touched the hearts of children lucky enough to be placed in her classroom," Holloran said.

While the room was filled with many former students, coworkers and administrators, some who could not attend the celebration emailed their thoughts on Curren's influence in their lives.

Ruby Hill, who had Curren as her second grade teacher, wrote, "Once you were her student, you were always her student. She was always glad to see her students and they were always glad to see her."

A former coworker said she doubted there was a child growing up in Danbury who had not been affected by Curren, and still another said she has always admired the way Curren believed every child could learn.

Others likened her to a pebble tossed into a pond, sending ripples all around, as she educated so many generations of school children.

"Generations of waves are circling in this very room," observed Mary Jane Ogmundson of Danbury.

Former principal Michael Tocci was on hand to pay tribute as well, and said he began his time with Curren in 1970, when he came to DES. Besides teaching students, he said she taught him some things about education, too. From Curren, Tocci said he came to realize that learning is a community partnership. She also impressed upon him the importance of knowing the students, not just their names, but who they are, where they came from and something special about each of them.

"These lessons have served me well," said Tocci. "She's given so much of herself to the Danbury community."

Jim Phelps was part of Curren's first grade class when the new school building opened, and recalled some of his memories, calling her a good friend and a good influence in his life.

"We owe you a debt of gratitude that can never be paid," he said before giving her a big hug.

There was one special way the community decided to try and show their gratitude, however, and that was by dedicating the school library in her name. Holloran and some of the students revealed a plaque that will hang in the library in her honor.

Two new books were also added to the collection, and dedicated to her as well. "The Winter Visitors" bears the signatures of all the current students and was donated as a tribute to Curren's love of skiing and winter recreation.

Mary Lyn Ray is a resident of Danbury and author of several children's books. She, too, presented the library with a copy of her book, "Stars," which she read aloud at the celebration.

"If you've done something important, you may feel like a star," she read from the last page, adding, "Audrey is our star."

Curren's family was also present for the special day. Son Barry and grandsons Adam and Dan from Concord were joined by Curren's daughter, JoAnn Lambrecht, and her husband Gene, who made the trip up from Connecticut.

"It's just wonderful to see all the contributions she's made over the years being acknowledged and celebrated in this way," said Lambrecht.

Born in 1917, Curren was the valedictorian at Canaan High School before she went on to Keene Normal School (now Keene State College), where she took part in a two-year accelerated learning program.

"They didn't give out a teaching degree," Curren said. "Instead, I got a lifelong certificate to teach."

In addition to teaching, reading and volunteer programs, Curren has enjoyed a lengthy tenure with the Record Enterprise as a correspondent for South Danbury in the Talk of the Towns section of the paper. She began submitting weekly updates from the area in the 1960's, and continues on to this day.

Speaking briefly at the end of the ceremonies, Curren said she was overwhelmed by all the tributes and honored by the library dedication and gifts from the school children.

While she misses being part of the daily lives of Danbury boys and girls, she has found a new way to keep herself busy these days as she takes time to look back over her many years of teaching at DES.

"I've started writing a little booklet I'm calling 'I Came With the Building,'" she said with smile.

Martin Lord & Osman
Salmon Press
Varney Smith
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