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Greenfield Public Schools

Betty’s bench

GHS class of '65 names bench in honor of beloved school employee

Longtime Greenfield High School employee and volunteer Betty Nee sits on the bench given in her honor by the class of 1965. Richard Shortell, class of '65, GHS Principal Donna Woodcock and School Superintendent Susan Hollins look on after the unveiling.  
Recorder/Paul Franz

Longtime Greenfield High School employee and volunteer Betty Nee sits on the bench given in her honor by the class of 1965. Richard Shortell, class of '65, GHS Principal Donna Woodcock and School Superintendent Susan Hollins look on after the unveiling. Recorder/Paul Franz

GREENFIELD — Some day in the near future, after the new Greenfield High School is completed, reflective thinkers or weary souls will be able to rest outside and sit on a bench not far from the school’s entrance.

It’s a bench dedicated and engraved in honor of Betty Nee, a woman who graduated from Greenfield High School in 1952 and never left — staffing the school’s front office until her retirement in 1997 and then spending the past 16 years of retirement as a full-time volunteer.

The Class of 1965, whose members said they’ve adopted Nee as an honorary member of their class, surprised her with the news during a bench dedication ceremony Wednesday. A handful of school officials and alumni attended the event.

“Betty, I know you thought you got rid of us in 1965, but there’s just no way,” said T.J. Strahan, who came up with the idea to purchase the bench with fellow Greenfield resident and classmate Richard Shortell.

“When I was sent to the office ... she’d put me right down until I had to go in and see the principal,” said Strahan. “But I loved her for every minute of it. She always treated me with respect.”

Inside the high school’s small auditorium on Wednesday afternoon, Nee sat on the 4-foot bench and thanked the class for the early Christmas gift.

Nee organized her own high school graduation as a senior back in 1952 and has continued to do so every year for six decades. She saw the current high school open in the late 1950s and now has a front row seat for construction on the new $66 million building that’s scheduled to be completed in 2015.

“It’s been a long, wonderful time. So many times people are saying, ‘Why do you stay there? You can go somewhere else and get a lot more money,’” said Nee.

“I say, ‘Money is not the thing. It’s the satisfaction,’” she said. “The kids, no matter who they are, they always turn around and do a good job.”

School Committee member Donna Gleason, also part of the high school’s 1965 graduating class, has known and worked closely with Nee for nearly five decades.

“I think whether you’re a student, a teacher or an administrator, you’re treated with dignity and courtesy (by Nee),” she said. “This is her legacy that she gives to everybody.”

The bench, purchased by the class of 1965 and custom engraved with Nee’s name, is one of 16 benches placed around town, said Janine Greaves, the town’s recycling coordinator. The benches cost $570 each and are made with 100 percent recycled and splinter-free material.

You can reach Chris Shores at: cshores@recorder.com or 413-772-0261, ext. 264

Correction: There are 16 benches in Greenfield.

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