Upper Arlington News

Tremont community honors beloved secretary

By ThisWeek Community News  • 

A beloved school secretary will be remembered with a permanent memorial bench and a plaque bearing her photo at Tremont Elementary School.

Beth Wagoner was school secretary at the Upper Arlington school for 39 years. She retired in 2008 and died on June 5, 2012.

Tremont parents held a dedication and memorial ceremony exactly a year later on the school's front lawn. The ceremony dedicated a large stone bench and plaque in Wagoner's memory, permanently installed in front of Tremont. The engraving on the bench reads, "Beth Wagoner, Beloved School Secretary, July 1969 to March 2008."

"Beth's sincere love for children and her generous spirit are legendary," parent Rusty Fumi said. "In fact, it was not uncommon for Beth to take money from her own wallet to give to a student who did not have a lunch.

"The word 'no' was not in Beth's vocabulary," she said. "She always had a smile on her face and a maternal embrace for any child who needed it."

Fumi said the Beth Wagoner Memorial Bench Fund was established by the Tremont School Association. She said current and former Tremont parents and staff members worked together to raise $1,825 to pay for the project.

Modlich Monuments created, engraved and installed the bench and plaque for $1,100 for the bench and $220 for the plaque.

Fumi said the remaining $505 was donated back to the TSA Beth Wagoner Fund, which will be used for Tremont students in need.

"TSA was very supportive of honoring Beth Wagoner's memory, but the original concept of creating a memorial for Beth was the brainchild of Susan Hency, former Tremont parent and TSA president, and Maria Wilkes, former Tremont principal," Fumi said.

Fumi said more than 50 people attended the dedication ceremony, including past and present members of the Tremont school community. Wagoner's sister, Susan Burhardt, and her husband, Tom, attended, along with Wagoner's brother, Tim Wagoner, and his wife, Diana.

Tim Huffman, of Huffman's Market, represented the merchants at Tremont Center and offered pink lemonade and Der Dutchman cookies, compliments of Huffman's Market.

"There were bubble machines for the children to frolic in and the main walkway to the front door of Tremont was turned into a huge sidewalk chalk mural, where children drew pictures and left messages for Beth," Fumi said.

Wilkes talked about how Wagoner would often take money out of her own purse to give to students for lunch so they wouldn't be embarrassed about eating the "free cheese sandwich" in front of their friends.

Fumi said 39 years as school secretary at Tremont meant Wagoner touched a lot of lives.

"As extraordinary as it sounds in this day and age, this was Beth's only job, ever," she said. "Beth added a homeiness to the sometimes intimidating and chaotic school office experience. Students knew that whether they needed to call home for missing assignments or whether the student was having a bad day and just needed a hug, they could go to Beth and she would take care of them."

Fumi said Wagoner loved the children at Tremont.

"The students could sense her kindness and even nervous first-time kindergarten parents were comforted by Beth's caring nature," she said. "In a world where most people have their faces buried in their iPads while texting on smart phones, Beth offered a smile, innate kindness and a breath of fresh air. No wonder everyone who knew her, loved her."

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