Retired Teacher Has A School Named For Her

PAYSON PEOPLE

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Lomi Gray Heard graduated from high school in Lovington, N.M. in 1923. There were just three career options open for the girl who was the salutatorian of her class: nurse, secretary or teacher.

Heard chose the latter because she didn't want to be a nurse and her father vetoed an office job. She went to summer school in 1923 and in the fall she began the career that would culminate in a school being named for her.

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Lomi Gray Heard

"Teaching hungry children during the Depression was tough," Heard said. "Of course, the ranch kids had food. (These days) they wouldn't let you do it, but then, the ranchers would send in milk and the home economics teacher would make cocoa.

"We would let the kids who we thought needed food go to the home ec room and have cocoa. The school didn't have any money. We were lucky to get paid."

Her first job was at a rural school in the Rio Grande Valley. It lasted two years and paid $75 a month on a second-grade certificate. She was able to live on her salary because her room and board was $20 a month.

Her next teaching position took her to Negra, N.M. for two years where she earned $100 a month plus $5 a month for taking care of wood for the school's stove.

"An interesting thing happened in Negra," she said. "We heard a plane and the children all shouted, ‘Lindbergh!' and ran out of the classroom."

They all watched a little blue plane following the Santa Fe Railroad Road track.

"The children all said, ‘He waved at us!'"

The next morning the Albuquerque newspaper confirmed the children's belief.

"They were so excited," Heard said.

Soon after that Heard went back to her hometown to teach.

"I taught third grade and kindergarten," she said. "I taught the children of the people I had gone to high school with," she said. "That was nice."

She taught in Hobbs, N.M. and for the U.S. Indian Service.

The Indian children were "so sweet," but Heard didn't like the bureaucracy. So, when an opportunity came to teach kindergarten and first grade at Jefferson Elementary School in Las Vegas, Nev. in 1944 she went.

In those days it was normal for a teacher to change schools often, according to Heard.

"I never married," she said. "I didn't have time. I was too busy getting an education."

Harry S. Truman was President of the United States, and the country was at war with Korea when Heard became the teaching principal at Nellis Air Force Base.

"We taught in the old barracks," Heard said.

The barracks were cold and drafty in the winter and often over 100 degrees in the summer. The noncommissioned officer's club ballroom served as the cafeteria.

"There is no one way to teach children," Heard said. "You have to adjust to teaching all the children. Teachers need time to teach and not have to do so much testing.

"I stayed at Nellis for 21 years," Heard said. "My first year we had 40 children (and three teachers). We built the school to over 1,000 children and 35 teachers."

Upon Heard's retirement in 1971, parents and teachers at Nellis successfully petitioned to have the school's name changed to Lomi Gray Heard Elementary School.

Profile

Name: Lomi Gray Heard

Occupation: Retired principal

Age: 100

Birthplace: Carlsbad, Territory of New Mexico, Jan. 22, 1906

Family: Catherine Sullivan, sister

Inspiration: The school children.

Greatest feat: The success of the school at Nellis Air Force Base. The parents were so pleased to have the continuity of "their school."

Favorite hobby or leisure activity: I used to love horseback riding and I've collected vases ever since I was a little girl.

Three words that describe me best are: In the words of her high school annual: "tiny twinkling optimist."

I don't want to brag, but ... I spent 70 years in education.

The person in history I'd most like to meet is: Franklin Roosevelt. During the Depression, he gave so much hope to the people.

Dream vacation spot: I don't travel any more, but I would have liked to visit Russia. I never got to travel until I was 70, but I have kissed the Blarney Stone, crossed the Arctic Circle, seen the Southern Cross and climbed the Great Wall of China when I was 80.

Why Payson? My sister had a summer home here and this is the nicest climate in the Southwest. I moved here from Nevada in October 1979.

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