July 25, 2012

Down by the schoolyard

Class of '54 recalls high times at St. Mary's Academy

By ROBIN CAUDELL, Press-Republican

---- — PLATTSBURGH — Beatrice Walsh Donoghue Boyce’s school spirit rages strong for the Class of 1954 at St. Mary’s Academy in Champlain.

Every year, she rouses her classmates to attend a reunion, most recently at the Butcher Block in Plattsburgh.

“My mother and her twin sister (Beatrice and Bernice Scollin of Saranac Lake, respectfully) graduated in the first class at St. Mary’s,” said Boyce, who divides her time between Tavares, Fla., and Watertown.

“I was in the seventh grade when I came to school here.”

Home was the Bronx.

“When I came here, I had an accent. They made so much fun of me. I had to take diction lessons to get rid of it. I don’t have it anymore. My sister, Bernice, came with me. She was three and half years younger than I. We went home for the holidays,” Boyce said.

The Walsh side of her family had a camp and summered in Saranac Lake. 

“I thought it was the best education you could have. I was so pleased when my parents said, ‘Would you want to go to boarding school?’ My saddest part was as a boarder I couldn’t be a cheerleader. I was a drum majorette. They got a uniform from Newport. I got to be in the play contest and speech contest,” Boyce said.

She worked in Saranac Lake before training as a nurse at Mercy Hospital in Watertown. She retired as a psychiatric nurse in 1996. Her late husband, Jack, died in 2000.

“I have eight children,” Boyce said. “When the triplets were 9, I went back to nursing.”


Cecile Fecteau Filion was a cheerleader and class valedictorian. Born in Canada, her parents moved to Champlain on her sixth birthday.

“I had two sisters and a brother, who also attended St. Mary’s from first grade,” Filion said. “It was just wonderful. The sisters were so very thoughtful and caring.”

The sisters belong to the order of the Daughters of Charity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus.

“Sister Roberta, we all loved her,” Boyce said. “The sisters were down to earth. I think all of us are very religious and have a deep-seated faith.”

After she graduated, Filion worked at Ayerst two years and married her husband, Richard.

“My husband and I were always self employed,” she said. “I was the bookkeeper and secretary.”


James “Jake” Bedard, like many of his peers, participated in sports at St. Mary’s. After he graduated, he studied for the priesthood for three years before deciding to become a different kind of father. He went to Manhattan College and was stationed in Europe as a French interpreter for the U.S. Army from 1958 to 1961. After he separated from the military, he went into the insurance business, from which he took an early retirement.

“I was the vice president and trust officer for a private bank in New Hampshire and retired at 65 from that,” said Bedard, who lives five months in Cape Cod, Mass., and seven months in Palm Harbor, Fla.

An active senior, he golfs three times a week, bikes between 100 and 150 miles, and works out three times a week. In his free time, he is an AARP volunteer tax consultant.

At the reunion luncheon, Bedard made a toast:

“To a great bunch of kids who turned out OK,” he said



Recent news of the school’s closure was a damper on their celebration.

“It’s a loss,” Bedard said. “Certainly, it’s a loss for the community. It produced a lot of good people.”

Roger Favreau was a realist about the school’s predicament.

“It’s been a burden on the parish 20 years,” said the Mooers resident. “About seven years ago, it put the parish in debt $250,000. We have not recovered from it since. We haven’t been able to pay down the debt. The financial situation for next year was terrible. I believe the pastor did the right thing in closing the school, though it was a hard thing to do.” 


Like Bedard, Favreau tried the seminary and lasted two months. He joined the U.S. Air Force and was a cryptographer. After his discharge in 1958, he got a job at Ayerst. He worked his way up from janitor to manager of production control and scheduler for the entire plant. He took an early retirement and worked for Ayerst as a consultant in Montreal for a year.

“Now, I enjoy gardening,” Favreau said.

The reunion was rounded out by spouses and classmates Frank Guay, Iva Guay, Marie Cayea Goodell, Maria L Fontaine Suprenant and Rita Demers Oliver. Missing were Maria and Alena Largaespada, sisters from Nicaragua.

Filion and Boyce recalled their senior class trip to New York City and Washington, D.C.

“We had such a good time,” Boyce said.

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