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Reception planned for Mary Woodruff, former HHS teacher

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Mary Woodruff

Friends and former students are invited to a party for former Hotchkiss teacher, Mary Woodruff. It will be held at the Hotchkiss Senior Citizen Center at 276 W. Main Street Saturday, June 17, from 2-4 p.m. Refreshments will be served and memories shared.

Mary began her journey to Hotchkiss in Durant, Okla. She was born in Oklahoma City to Jack and Lorene Reirdone. The eldest of four children, she had twin brothers, Dorsey and Joe, and a sister, Ella. Her grandfather had a lumber yard in Durant and her father worked there. He was also an assistant fire marshal.

When Mary was about 14, Phil Woodruff went to the Korean War with the U.S. Army. When he came home two years later, he asked Mary for a date, but she was not allowed to date yet. They began seeing each other during her senior year. She graduated from high school and Phil immediately proposed. They were married on July 16, 1955. Many thought it would never last, but they proved everyone wrong by being married for 58 years!

After having her two children, Grace and Henry, she eventually returned to Southeast State University to get her degree in elementary education with a strong minor in home economics.

After Mary graduated from college, they began their journey to Hotchkiss. Phil had previously hunted in the San Juan area and also in Utah. This would draw them to live in the west. After job offers Mary applied for an elementary teaching job and was hired in Hotchkiss in 1963, provided she would teach one year of home economics. That turned into 25 years as a home economics teacher.

The home economics classroom was in the basement of the old 1925 high school. The room was provided in 1947 with two kitchens and space for sewing and a classroom area. Many students will remember the three-way mirror, which is now at the Hotchkiss-Crawford Museum. The portable sewing machines had to be locked up each night in the storage area. Mary would let students sew as long as they wanted and some left no time to put away the machine they were using. Instead, Mary put the machines away herself and this probably contributed to her 1986 back surgery.

Mary always wanted to teach a boy's home economics class, but was discouraged from doing so until 1976. One thing she taught them was to sew down jackets from kits from a Boulder company. If they didn't want a jacket she would let them cut up old Levis for a vest. Gators were also sewn by some. Many girls sewed their prom dresses in her class.

One day in her early years of teaching and the era of mini-skirts, her first principal, Bill Charlesworth, came into the home ec room to find a young lady bent over to take something out of the oven. After that Mary was asked to check hemlines by having the girls put their arms down to their sides. Where the fingertips landed was the shortest a dress could be. If any shorter than that, Mary would add crepe paper to the hems to lengthen them. Many remember to this day how Mary taught the girls how to sit properly while wearing a mini-skirt.

She provided the students in each kitchen with a recipe for whatever they wanted to fix. However, because of a tight budget, she had to ask the girls to provide meat if they needed that for a dish. If not eaten in class, the dish could be taken to their next class for sampling.

Another part of her class was cake decorating. She took a class from Irene Arndt and then provided lessons to her students. She remembers that Dixie Jacobs Luke picked up on cake decorating quite fast and was way ahead of other classmates.

She also brought back the Future Homemakers organization in 1968. She began having an annual spring style show each year which was a favorite event. Top models and top seamstress/tailor were chosen for awards.

Phil retired in 1987 and Mary continued teaching in her chosen degree, elementary education, for four years. Pauline Carr, who was teaching in Crawford, was asked to devote a couple of hours to a home economics class.

After Mary retired they began to travel. Son Henry was in Italy for about 22 years. Other countries they went to were Austria, France, Greece, South America, Alaska, Ireland and Turkey.

Phil passed away in 2014 and Mary remains in their house. Both children live in Colorado. Her many students have wonderful memories of the things she taught them. At the time they may not have realized the importance of her lessons in life, but as they have grown into adults, they treasure her daily teaching.

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