Retiring in style

Whoever said little kids can’t keep a secret has never been to Brownsville Elementary School. For the past two weeks, the entire school has been scheming to send its beloved office manager to retirement in style.

And it did.

Thursday was the last day for the school’s office manager, Ursula Hermanson, started working at the school 24 years ago. Rather than packing her desk and saying individual goodbyes, the school schemed right under her nose for a grand sendoff.

At 11:30 a.m., the entire school gathered around a red carpet that lined the sidewalk in front of the school. Children on both sides of the carpet handed Hermanson red carnations, which she collected with one hand as she wiped tears off her face with her other hand. It was that carpet that Hermanson walked to get to her awaiting chariot: A stretched black limousine that whisked her off to Silverdale’s Pzazz Day Spa for an afternoon of being treated like a goddess.

All who were present agreed that if anyone deserved to be treated like a goddess, it was Hermanson.

For the past two-and-a-half decades, she mentored young teachers, she was a liaison between the school and the community and she was the calm in the eye of the storm.

“She really is the heart and soul of this school,” said former principal Kim Marcum. “I’m not really sure how the school will get along without her.”

Marcum described Hermanson as being incredibly organized and someone who was able to diffuse tough situations with ease.

“She saved my bacon often,” Marcum said. “This is the perfect sendoff.”

Young teachers who needed a little prodding also found a safe place under Hermanson’s wing.

“She watched out for me over the years,” said teacher Marty Krafcik, who started as a teacher at Brownsville Elementary when he was 23 years old. Hermanson would sometimes call Krafcik’s wife at their home and remind his wife of all the items Krafcik would need to bring to school the next day.

“And there was the time I accidentally washed my paycheck,” Krafcik said. Hermanson helped him out of that mess by getting him another paycheck.

“I feel like my mom’s retiring,” Krafcik said. “She’s sweet so it’s going to be hard not having her here.”

Principal Brent Anderson said it wasn’t difficult to keep the secret from Hermanson, but it did take some planning. Hermanson usually attended the staff meetings, so for the last two weeks, Anderson created other scenarios during the meetings that Hermanson had to attend to, he said.

The royal treatment actually started about two weeks ago, when different groups, like first-grade teachers and office workers, would bring Hermanson lunch and get some small-group time with her to say their goodbyes, he said.

“She’s just loved,” Anderson said, taking the prize for the understatement of the day. “She’s going to be missed.”

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