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September 2014


Homecoming tradition re-lived

Gathering at Corry's former home for parade

Oconomowoc Area Schools — This year's Homecoming Parade will take on additional meaning for veteran staff at Oconomowoc High School.

Teachers are invited to congregate on Main Street to cheer on students in honor of a retired OHS teacher, Pat Corry, who recently passed away at the age of 85.

Corry had been the reading specialist at the high school and then facilitated the teacher mentor program.

In an email message to other colleagues, Mary McMahon, suggested the gathering.

"I thought it would be a fitting tribute to Pat to meet in front of her home at 411 S. Main S. to watch the parade together - just like the old days when Pat hosted her 'parade watching party,' " she wrote.

McMahon added that she cleared the idea with the current owners of the residence. Corry had resided with a daughter in Bay View for the last several years.

Retired teacher Vic Passante has fond memories of those get togethers.

"Pat lived on Main Street and every year hosted a Homecoming party for staff and families to watch the parade. It was a fantastic gathering which served as a bonding experience for teachers and staff as we showed our kids how much we appreciated them and supported them.

"Pat was all about both goals; she lived and breathed community involvement and demonstrated it in so many ways. This Homecoming party was just one way for her to draw together and support community," he said.

OHS music teacher Sherman Leatherberry remembers Corry with great fondness. The parade party was just a part of her hospitality, he noted.

"I remember when I came to Oconomowoc, she was the hand of friendship that was extended to all the new teachers in the building. It was Pat that asked how you were doing, telling you how to fill out the many forms and inviting you over to her house for an occasional meal or hors d'oeuvres and a beverage. She really helped move you into the fabric of Oconomowoc and made you feel welcome," he said.

"You were always welcomed at Pat's house no matter what the cause. She was like a cheerleader for staff. Whenever I had a bad day, it was Pat who helped me think through how things could be improved or turned around. She was the voice of reason and had the history of the building well in hand so that her perspective on issues had a depth that understanding the culture brings. There has been nobody since her, that plays out that role quite so well," Leatherberry added.

Those sentiments are echoed by colleague Mark Miner, who recalled how she helped him acclimate as a teacher.

"Pat Corry was someone special to new teachers. She was welcoming and supportive to those of us who were new to the district and new to the community. She took us under her wing both at school and outside of school. All of us remember her gatherings, like the one she always had during the homecoming parades.

"Pat was always accessible, positive and enthusiastic. I remember several times talking with Pat after I had had a particularly difficult class or a difficult day. She was helpful in assessing what had happened, and for kicking around ideas for doing things differently. I always came away renewed and feeling good. That was Pat, she just made you feel good," Miner explained.

Corry was all these things to her co-workers, as well as the beloved mother of eight children.

She also leaves behind 21 grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.

"We were so overwhelmed by the number of people from Oconomowoc who came to the visitation," said daughter-in-law Betsy Corry, who said her mother-in-law was "my role model as a mother and as a person."

Retired OHS English teacher Mary Jo Newburg spoke to the passion Corry had for teaching.

"Pat was a force to be reckoned with: as a teacher, she demanded all that was best for even the toughest kids - especially for the toughest kids. She refused to dumb-down the curriculum, refused to pass students along without skills. Instead, she looked for ways to challenge them, to encourage them, to, as she'd say, 'kick their keesters until they started heading where they needed to go.' "

"And when they finally got there, to graduation, to jobs, to marriage, to children, to productive lives, she was still right there, loving and supporting them," Newburg said.

"Pat Corry was an innovative, marvelous, powerful woman. As one student put it: when Mrs. Corry hugs you, you stay hugged," Newburg added.

Newburg got to see another side of Corry when bringing a family member in for medical treatment.

"Picture her, sitting at dialysis three times a week, surrounded by her newspapers and magazines. She never wasted the time, pouring over the papers front to back, grinning at the headlights, griping at the editorials, engaging other patients within earshot into political debates whether they were willing or not- local issues, statewide policies, national legislation, Pat kept current and feisty," Newburg said.

The date for the Homecoming Parade this year is Friday, Oct. 2.

The parade is scheduled to start at 5:15 p.m. and will begin on Oakwood Avenue and ending at Roosevelt Field.

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