Three generations gathered in the schoolyard of P.S. 79 in Whitestone recently, to unveil a tribute to the late Joan Weltz, a much-beloved 44-year career music teacher who passed away in February at the age of 70.
From a color guard of Marine Corps veterans, to tykes enrolled at the Pre-K through Grade 5 institution named after patriot Francis Lewis, fond memories were tempered by a sense of loss on an otherwise bright and breezy morning of Thursday, June 17.
“There’s one teacher in your life that you remember forever and ever – and that was [Joan] Weltz, said Principal Paula Marron.
Mrs. Weltz, as she was known to her music students – and many of their mothers, who had also been in her class – was very patriotic and “loved the red, white and blue,” according to parent coordinator Jennifer Furtile. “It’s appropriate that we’re having this memorial so close to Flag Day [June 14].”
Weltz was so highly regarded, that a committee of parents persuaded the Department of Education to rename the school auditorium after her, funded and created a large bronze-toned tablet for its entrance and planned the ceremony before the term was out – with the help and admiration of teachers and administrators.
“When I was new, I once asked Joan why she didn’t retire and just enjoy life,” one teacher recalled sheepishly. “She just looked at me and said, ‘I am.’”
The ceremony in the schoolyard, adorned with bunting and hundreds of music-themed notes from the children to their lost mentor, featured comments by Weltz daughter, Lisa Weltz Waldman.
Waldman thanked everyone and announced the creation of the non-profit “Joan Weltz Music Fund,” created with her husband Robert and their children Nicole and Mark, to fund music programs at the school. Donations to the fund can be mailed to 10 Century Trail, Harrison, NY 10528.