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The woman who apparently is the last living member of Duniway School's first class returns to remember...

ELIZABETH USSHER GROFF - Lucille Pierce drove her car to Duniway Elementary for a photo in front of her alma mater - of which she is apparently the only remaining living member of its first graduating class. A lot has changed at the school, and in Southeast Portland, in her one hundred years. Today, at one hundred years of age, Lucille (Harris) Pierce still has clear memories of Duniway Elementary School in Eastmoreland when it first opened in 1927 – even though she was then only six years old. Today she is the only living member – as far as can be known – of that school's first graduating class.

"I remember when we first graders lined up in front of the school, and the flag was raised for the first time. There was no lawn; no sidewalk. We stood on a wooden walkway," she reflected. At that time Duniway was a grade 1 through 8 elementary school, and Lucille walked the ¾ mile to school and back, each way, every day. Her childhood home was at S.E. 47th and Abington Avenue – now known as Rex Drive.

"We walked on a road through a large Italian 'truck farm' that went from Johnson Creek to Flavel Street, and from 45th to 39th Avenue. There was a big barn in the middle that we walked around. I walked with my brother and a few other children from the neighborhood.

"During the Depression, my dad would occasionally bring leftover produce to us that the farmer had given him. He knew the men who ran the farm."

One of Pierce's favorite Duniway School memories was of the annual May Pole event. "We girls wore colorful dresses, and wound the colored ribbons around the pole." She also remembers her seventh grade "auditorium class" teacher, Mrs. Hamilton, who taught literature. "She lowered the lights and sat on the edge of the stage, and read Edgar Allen Poe. The stories scared us, but we were delighted!"

Other memories include games and races on the playground. "Jump-rope and roller skating were also favorite activities for me. And I remember our beloved janitor, who was jovial and helpful and loved the kids.

"My Camp Fire Girls group, and [spending] a week in the summer at Camp Namanu, are also special memories of that time.

"I liked school, and got along with all of my teachers. And my first grade teacher was still there when my own four children attended Duniway [years later]!"

After graduating from Duniway, Pierce had to ride two buses and a streetcar to get to Washington High School at S.E. 14th Avenue and Stark Street, where most of the students from the neighborhood went next. She remembers the long daily ride to get there, and back to her house.

Following high school she attended two years at Reed College, where she met her husband, Sam Pierce – who eventually was the proprietor of "Sam Pierce Radio and TV" for twenty-five years on Milwaukie Avenue in Westmoreland.

When her parents could no longer afford to pay for Reed, she worked one year at Emanuel Hospital in the office, and then took a summer organic chemistry class at the University of Washington – followed by a year of training at Emanuel Hospital to become a Registered Medical Technologist. When her four children were older, she went on to a twenty-year career in Administration – at Reed College!

One of Lucille's ongoing enthusiasms is calligraphy, which she learned from Lloyd Reynolds, a renowned calligraphy teacher at Reed. As the Duniway School PTA President in 1960, she took a group of parents to Reed to learn the art from Reynolds. And, when the Pry family sold THE BEE and their other newspapers in the early 1990s, Marcia Pry had a sale, and Pierce bought a print rack from Marcia to use in calligraphy work. Pierce still belongs to the Portland Calligraphy Society.

Today, a casual observer would have no idea Pierce has reached the age of one hundred. She takes yoga once a week, and has just started an online Qi Gong class out of Vancouver B.C. She still lives independently in her local apartment, enjoying many friends and family, as well as her lifelong association with All Saints Episcopal Church.

When asked how it feels to be the only living member of the first class that graduated from Duniway Elementary, she said, half-playfully – even though, apparently, all of her peers have passed away – "Am I really the only member left?"


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