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Retired Teachers Book Club Keeps It All in the Fowler Family









ACTON, MA - For the past ten years, retired Maynard teachers have been gathering every six to eight weeks to reconnect, laugh, eat well, and discuss literature. The group, with upwards of sixteen members at any given time, has to date read 63 books in their decade-long run.


Founded by retired faculty Sue Hackett, with the help of Ree Kessler, Pat Coan, and others, the very first Retirees Book Club meeting occurred back in March of 2013 at the Stow residence of Pat Messenger. Since then, the group has read and discussed roughly eight books a year with remarkable consistency, nurturing a bond that today seems increasingly rare.


To mark the groups’ tenth year, they read fellow colleague and current Fowler ELA teacher Sean Conway’s new collection of short fiction, Salisbury Beach Stories. On April 3, Conway visited the club in the bright, spacious sunroom of Marcy Hoban’s home in Acton, to discuss his stories, talk about writing and ideas, and wax nostalgic for the good old days of Salisbury Beach, Massachusetts—the classic New England beach town that holds a special place not just for Conway, but book club members like Deb Roussell, who fondly remembers the walk-up window for Tripoli’s Pizza and being told by her parents to “stay away from the motorcycle gangs.”


Conway’s collection—seven short stories and one novella—mainly takes place in the 1970s and 1980s, training a lens on the daily struggles and resiliency of the town’s blue collar, working-class residents. In stories such as “Himalaya,” Conway resurrects the iconic amusement ride, the crown jewel of Shaheen’s Fun Park, with its runaway train of cars blurring by in a dizzying circle, lights flashing in Friday night chaos, and music blaring from the wooden booth of the Himalaya DJ, the coolest guy in the entire park in his white pants and red candy-striped jersey.


“His writing is authentic and vivid,” Ree Kessler remarked during the lively 90-minute discussion. “It was like going down Memory Lane.”


Another noted the many nods to music of the era, songs by bands like REO Speedwagon, Night Ranger, and Fleetwood Mac. It was “like reading to a musical score…a very special experience.”


Club director Sue Hackett takes deliberate notes at each book club get-together, to share with anyone who is unable to make a particular meeting. Her bookkeeping also serves as a history of what they’ve read—novels such as Celeste Ng’s Everything I Never Told You, George Hunter’s We Were the Lucky Ones, and The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern—while documenting what they took away from the experience each book offered. Arlene Fuchs adds background research on the authors, giving context to a particular writer’s recurring themes, and Jane Duchesneau uses her deep literary well as an ELA teacher to paint each discussion with a broader framework.


Everyone brings to the meetings their own strengths, giving the club its strong and unique long-lasting foundation.


On the day of Sean Conway’s visit, nearly all of the book club members were in attendance, collectively representing over 500 years of teaching experience in the Maynard schools. The love and dedication they’ve shown to Maynard’s students, over the last nearly half-century, was echoed on this particular spring day in Marcy Hoban’s sunroom—in the love and dedication they still have for each other.


Pictured: Arlene Fuchs, Marcy Hoban, Marcy Ohs, Sue Hackett, Roseanne Lambert, Jane Ryan, Pat Adams, Maria Mendonca, Jane Duchesneau, Ree Kessler, Annemarie Smart, Shelia Hayward, Pat Coan, and Deb Roussell. Not pictured: Gail McDonald, Bobbie Lankford, and Denise Elkins.

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