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In Honoring Principal, Class of ’58 helps Public

Even 50 years or more after we graduate from high school, many of us remember the teachers who made a difference in our lives.

From Miss Hattie Harney, who was the elementary principal in Elizabeth City forever, to Nancy Meekins Ferebee, a high school English teacher who is my close friend to this day. I have good memories of those who were special people.

Portsmouth has its icons too. One of the most beloved was Frank D. Beck. Beck was principal of Churchland High School from 1945 to 1968, first at the “old, old” high school and then at the “old” school on High Street.

In 2003, I went to a party celebrating his 89th birthday. His house was mobbed by adoring “students,” most of them many years removed from high school. He had stories to tell about all of them.

“ We were all his kids,” Eleanor Jo Howren of Virginia Beach said last week. “No matter how old we got, we were still his kids.”
Beck died in 2007 at age 93.

Howren was a member of the Churchland High Class of 1958. The class decided after its 50th reunion last year to place a bench at Hoffler Creek Wildlife Preserve to honor Beck.

She said about 40 people have signed up for a class barbecue at Hoffler Creek on May 13. They’ll present a teak bench with a plaque honoring Beck to Randi Strutton, the preserve’s executive director.

The bench will be on the porch of the new Hoffler Creek headquarters. The organization will accept memorial donations of more benches or of rocking chairs for the porch.

Fifty years ago when the Class of ’58 graduated, Churchland was mostly open space, still part of Norfolk County. In half a century, development has covered much of the land. The 142-acre preserve is an oasis of natural wildlife in the middle of an urban area.

Ida Kay Jordan, May 10, 2009, The Virginian Pilot

Photos of Hoffler Creek Barbecue Honoring Frank Beck
courtesy of Donna Knecht Whitesell