By Dena Angaran Forret
In 1870, Waukee held its first day of school at the Waukee Presbyterian Church with only three students enrolled. The earliest record of a graduating class from Waukee School shows four students graduating in 1900, with an average student population of 85. On May 25, 1911, four senior girls comprised the entire graduating class, receiving their diplomas in a ceremony held at the Waukee Christian Church.
Shown below in their 1911 graduation picture are Gertrude Llewellyn, Vera Bernice Nash, Elizabeth Crispin and Hazel Marie Jordan (deceased member of St. Boniface), each wearing white eyelet dresses for the occasion.
In 1969, festivities were held to celebrate Waukee’s 100th anniversary since the town’s beginning in 1869. At the celebration and 58 years after their graduation, these four ladies, attired in centennial dresses, gathered for another photo, below. Pictured are Vera Nash Jones, Bessie Crispin Smith, Hazel Jordan Forret and Gertrude Llewellyn.
Hazel Jordan Forret, a lifelong resident of Waukee, was a 1906 student at the Pleasant Plain Country School. Tim and Jody Forret of our parish remember their grandmother saying, “Hazel was a teacher in a one room school house, not far from where she lived in the country, after she met her husband Frank Forret. She was passionate about poetry and collected poems from 1898 through 1948, eventually publishing a poetry book in 1985 with all her collections titled, I Remember. She was a natural artist who could pick up a pencil and instantly sketch beautiful pictures.”
I remember Hazel well and I have a signed copy of her I Remember memorial book. She played an important role as a religious education teacher at St. Boniface Church, instructing young children enrolled in the CCD program that was held on Saturday mornings in the parish hall. (CCD was the name for St. Boniface’s youth religious education program.)
Elizabeth Crispin Smith was a lifelong resident of Waukee, residing on a family farm outside of town. As a young girl, her family owned the E.G. Crispin and Duncan general store in Waukee. Over the years, the building has served as our town hall, our library, the Waukee Community Center and is now the Waukee Veterans Hall. Vera Nash Jones was a lifelong resident of Waukee and ran the Jones Café from 1944 to 1951.
Gertrude Llewellyn was born to Welsh parents and had three brothers. Their family home is south of the Waukee Christian Church. Gertrude was a lifelong resident of Waukee, living in the house on the corner of 8th and Walnut Streets. Gertrude’s niece, Vivian Wilson and a longtime citizen of Waukee, states “She was very talented, artistic, a writer of poetry, and a seamstress who could just look at something and re-create it.” Gertrude was an active member of the Waukee’s Woman’s Club, serving three two-year terms as President between the years of 1922 to 1946.
These four 1911 graduates of Waukee remained and contributed much to a community they loved. This year, 549 students graduated from Waukee High School with dreams of their own. Perhaps some will return to Waukee to live, work, play and worship. In the meantime, Waukee and its schools will continue to grow with plans already underway to build a second high school by 2021.
Images of America Waukee- Waukee Area Historical Society
Photos courtesy of Waukee Area Historical Society
Hazel Forret I Remember memorial book
Waukee Centennial Book – 1869 – 1969
Karen Dluhos interview with Vivian Wilson of Waukee