Fondness of children has kept Sunday school teacher interested for 65 years

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, June 24, 2003

Having last Saturday officially proclaimed Dollye Harberger Day in Ironton was clearly an emotional, and slightly embarrassing, day for the Sunday school teacher of 65 years.

When asked, all of the more than 50 family, friends and congregation members at Sedgwick United Methodist Church Saturday said that no one is more deserving.

"If there is an angel here on Earth it is her,"

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said Margaret Thomas, former student more than 50 years ago. "She meant a lot to me and still does."

A lifelong Ironton resident and retired Ashland Oil employee, the 83-year-old Harberger began teaching the children at Sedgwick when she was 18 years old. Sixty-five years later and three generations of children,

she is still going strong.

"The love and interest in kids has kept me doing it," she said. "If you leave one word that they hang onto, it was worth it."

With the emotion evident on her face, Harberger said she was nervous, excited and honored as Mayor Bob Cleary presented her with the Dollye Harberger Day proclamation and a certificate from Gov. Bob Taft honoring her.

The most rewarding part for her is having her students stay in touch, she said.

"Just having them all remember me and hearing from them about their lives is the greatest part for me," she said.

Although it was Dollye's day to be recognized, pastor Bill Flannery said the honor is really his to have someone like Dollye be a part of the congregation.

"What she means to me is the peace of mind to know that when a child comes to Sunday school they have one of the most dedicated teachers I have ever known," he said. "Her loyalty and dedication to Christ, the church and the community have been unsurpassed."

The ceremony was concluded with a poem, "Ode to Dollye," by Vivian Stewart, a friend of nearly 10 years. The poem ended with these lines.

"So please, Dollye tell us you'll keep up this great work, And never, no never this mission you'll shirk. For the kids need you today, as they did when you started, So we pray you and those kids will not soon be parted."

Even though she was honored for such a lofty milestone, Dollye said she is not ready to hang up the Bible and lesson plans yet because, "the kids keep me young."