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June 19, 2013

Saying good-bye to Kennedy

Time capsule unveils memories

By Maria Allard
C & G Staff Writer

» click to enlarge «
Kennedy Elementary School students and parents look through the time capsule that had been locked up and sealed since 1991.

WARREN — Kennedy Elementary alumni John Chmiel and Rob Craig spent a few weeks looking for a time capsule they and others thought to be buried underneath the surface of the school grounds.

Craig, who works for State Farm, visited with the school’s fourth-graders this past spring to help plant trees for Arbor Day when he mentioned the buried treasure.

“He said we had a time capsule,” Kennedy Principal Melissa Pluszczynski said. “He was digging and digging, and we couldn’t find it.” That was until someone in the building said the time capsule hadn’t been buried but was placed in the media center. Kennedy is part of Van Dyke Public Schools.

The time capsule was filled with various items in 1991 to commemorate the school’s 25-year anniversary, locked up and sealed.

“I remember it being a really big ordeal,” Chmiel said.

The treasure’s unveiling was scheduled for 2015, Chmiel said, but since the school will close as an elementary this year, school officials decided to open it now.

On the evening of June 11, the Kennedy community gathered in the gym to unlock the closed capsule, which contained remnants of the past, including old letters, a music award given to Mrs. Kachman’s class, Kennedy T-shirts and calendar pages from ’91.

Onlookers also viewed a 1990-91 class photo featuring then-Principal Eugene Winowski and third-grade teacher Mrs. Hawkins, student signatures, a decorated stone, a bit of information about rainforest destruction and more. The capsule also contained a group of sports playing cards, including one of the Detroit Tigers’ Chet Lemon, and Scott Hastings of the Detroit Pistons.

The time capsule items will be displayed on site in the district at a later date. Craig was in the fifth grade when the time capsule was sealed.

“This is the best school. It’s a shame that it’s closing,” Craig said. “I remember Miss Kuester would make us wear gum on our nose if she caught us chewing gum. We all got caught.”

Craig and Chmiel have remained friends since their Kennedy days.

“It was always a great school,” Chmiel said. “I have a lot of great memories. Some of these faces, I haven’t seen in 20 years.”

His mom, Darlene Chmiel, was the cook when he was in school. She later became a custodian.

“It was cool,” he said. “We used to go in the back and get first dibs on the pizza. In second grade we took a field trip to my house. We grilled hot dogs, played and walked back to school.”

Chmiel is disappointed his daughters Summer, a second-grader, and Alivia, who is in kindergarten, won’t finish out their elementary years at Kennedy.

“We like to have fun,” Summer said. “The teachers are really good.”

After the time capsule was opened, the crowd moved outside to the playground to enjoy a concert from Guy Louis and his Chautauqua Express.

There are plans to transform Kennedy into a preschool with several programs, including World of Fours and Head Start. The school board was scheduled to vote on the matter at the June 17 school board meeting after the Warren Weekly went to press.