Many traditions around the world — perhaps most notably Mexico’s Día de Muertos — hold that, so long as a person is remembered, they live on.
With such thought in mind, the W-H School Committee is supporting an effort to move a memorial stone from the former Maquan School to Indian Head Elementary.
The School Committee had received a request from state Rep. Josh Cutler, D-Duxbury, through Hanson Town Administrator Lisa Green, to move a memorial stone placed at Maquan School in 1977 to honor the memory of Ruth Masters, a teacher at the school who was murdered in Miles Standish State Park while riding her bicycle.
Since Maquan School has closed, Cutler noted, the stone is now almost completely hidden from view.
“I believe it should be moved to a location more fitting, perhaps Indian Head,” he wrote.
Superintendent of Schools Jeff Szymaniak said he had no issues with moving the stone, but wanted to first run it by the committee.
“You don’t usually move memorials and that building is no longer ours,” he said. “I want to keep to the memory of Ms. Masters, but before we put anything on school grounds — or move it — I just wanted the board’s thoughts.”
School Committee member Beth Stafford, a retired teacher, asked to add a little to the story.
“Ruth and I were team teachers at Maquan and we taught fourth grade together,” she said. “I was out on maternity leave when this happened. Ruth and her daughter would stop by just about every Friday afternoon to see us and she had told us she wouldn’t be stopping by [that day] because they were going on a family outing at Miles Standish.”
Stafford received a phone call that weekend that they had found Masters’ body. Eric Anderson, who had already been serving a 20-year sentence for attacking a woman in Maine was convicted of Masters’ murder in 2003 when he was 76. He died in prison in 2016.
“It was really tough on the kids, because they had a little long-term sub for me at the time and now she was gone,” Stafford recalled. “The kids all thought that I died, too, because I wasn’t there.”
“Oh, my goodness,” Committee Chairman Christopher Howard said.
The principal had asked Stafford to come in to the school and show the kids that she was all right.
“Ruth was a very kind, quiet person,” she said. “The memorial was set up a little after all the ceremonies and everything. I’m really happy to know that the memorial will be kept somewhere safe and the elementary school would be appropriate because she taught fourth grade.”
Howard said with time, people forget.
“I think with some of the memorials, sometimes the story gets lost because it’s a stone,” Howard said. He and fellow Hanson Committee member Mike Jones both attended school at Maquan and said they were not even aware the stone was there.
“Maybe within the school, there’s a way to explain what the stone represents and who it represents and the story behind it,” he said. “Then you remember the person for who they were and not just what happened to them.”
Szymaniak recalled that when last year’s WHRHS graduation on the football field was postponed because of thunder storms, “people were all over Dr. [Christopher] Jones [the principal] about why it was delayed.
“Someone said do you know where the kids are graduating and who the field’s named after?” he recalled, noting that Coach Dennis M. O’Brien had been struck and killed by lightning on the field.
Committee member Dawn Byers said locating a memorial to a fourth-grade teacher would be meaningful at a school where fourth-grade students are taught.
“It should follow the fourth grade where she taught,” Byers said.
In other business before the School Committee, Szymaniak also thanked residents for supporting the district budget at town meetings.
“I can’t say thank you enough to the taxpayers of both communities [for] supporting the regional school district in their capital items and in the district budget,” Szymaniak said. “We will be working hard to make sure we are working efficiently and effectively, but putting our students and our faculty forward in the next fiscal year.”
He also thanked the School Committee for staying forward-thinking in the budget process a win for the district and students.