Nancy Babb celebrates 50 years at Chester Elementary

'I hope for another 50 years': Secretary who keeps the school running like a clock is feted and serenaded by her many admirers

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  • Children and teachers at Chester Elementary gave Mrs. Babb (far left, seated) a celebration to remember (Photo by Ginny Privitar)

  • Mrs. Babb at her desk, decorated for the occasion (Photo by Ginny Privitar)

"I worked with a lot of wonderful teachers, a lot of principals, and I hope for another 50 years."
Mrs. Nancy Babb

By Ginny Privitar

— Tuesday was a day of celebration for Nancy Babb — or Mrs. Babb, as she has been known to generations of elementary school students and teachers in Chester.

Chester Elementary School hosted a fine breakfast to celebrate her 50 years of service. The teachers brought in a bounty of food. Later, at an assembly, she was serenaded by children in different grades, whose numbers included "I'll be there for you." The fifth-grade sang "Mrs. Babb Just Wants To Have Fun," a take on "Girls Just Want To Have Fun," with lyrics written especially for the honoree. Teacher Jeff Knight was an amusing emcee as he introduced each group.

Mrs. Babb started her career in 1968 in the school office. Today she is secretary to the principal, Cindy Walsh — the eleventh, or maybe twelfth (she's not sure), principal she's worked with. Her first principal was Miss Herbert, with whom she worked for 18 years back at the Maple Avenue School when it housed kindergarten through grade 12. Today she works in the modern Chester Elementary School located on a street named for that first principal.

Orange County Executive Steve Neuhaus, a Chester native, presented Babb with a certificate of recognition on behalf of the legislature. Present and retired school personnel were on hand to wish her well.

Superintendent Sean Michel stopped by to congratulate her. Babb's sister Marie was there with her husband, Mike Pillmeier, to mark the event, along with Billy Riccaldo, the regional CSEA president.

Leslie Hyatt, her last principal, keeps in touch but was unable to attend the breakfast since she was working as a leave replacement for a teacher at another school.

Social worker Lisa Ringel was there to laud the occasion.

"Nancy with all my groups, both Social Skills and Banana Splits, she has always made little treats for them, whatever the holidays are," Ringel said. "It's an incredible milestone. She should be proud of herself."

When Nancy Babb started working, she used an IBM Selectric typewriter and carbon paper. She made copies on a mimeograph machine. Today, of course, she works on a computer. (Older readers can well identify with these changes...)

The Chester Academy guidance department secretary, Patty Goodrich, told the audience that Mrs. Babb’s maiden name was Nancy Barnes, that she had grown up in Goshen and started work at age 22.

“Nancy was hired before color TV,” she said with a smile. But, she said, "She keeps up with technology and educates herself.”

Teacher Rebecca Quackenbush said, "Mrs. Babb is the most awesome person ever. She actually knew me when I was a kindergartener here."

So, what is it like to work at the same place for 50 years?

"It feels great," Babb said, adding, with a laugh: "I worked with a lot of wonderful teachers, a lot of principals, and I hope for another 50 years."

Principal Walsh summed up her influence on the smooth running of the school: "She knows the school year intuitively. She's my clock, my person who tells me, 'It's October, you need to do these things.' She's been here so long she understands the flow of the school year, and that's a gift."

After the assembly, Mrs. Babb got back to work. She loves all the children and her job so much that, for now at least, she has no plans to retire.

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