ST. CHARLES – After more than 30 years, Art and Hazel Clauter finally ended their one-room schoolhouse days.
The Clauters, who are from Geneva, have retired from their role as docents at the Pioneer Sholes School, located in the Leroy Oakes Forest Preserve in St. Charles. The 96-year-olds were honored Jan. 21 by the Pioneer Sholes School Society for their contribution to the school.
“They have just gone above and beyond the call of duty,” said Deanna Banner, the school’s executive director. “I don’t know if we could ever replace them, they just had an undying amount of dedication ... they’re a tough act to follow.”
The Clauters have driven by the school a few times since they stopped volunteering in October 2013, and they said seeing the school makes them content.
“That schoolhouse has been pleasant,” Hazel Clauter said. “We’ve had a lot of happy experiences toward the people and school.”
As docents, the Clauters greeted visitors, provided information and answered students’ questions.
Hazel Clauter would sometimes lead as the teacher if the visiting instructor needed her to play that role. The Clauters always dressed up to match the era of the school, which opened in 1872. Art wore black overalls and a red bandanna around his neck to portray a farmer. Hazel wore a long dress with an apron, bonnet and shawl.
The Clauters played a major role in gathering donations and keeping up the maintenance of the school, Banner said.
The couple’s relationship with Pioneer Sholes began back in 1979 when Hazel was a third-grade teacher at Lincoln Elementary School in St. Charles.
She happened to be at Leroy Oakes the day a truck pulled up with the schoolhouse, which was being moved from David Sholes Farm in Burlington Township, Banner said.
When the school was restored and opened for classes by 1981, Hazel Clauter became a frequent visitor there on class trips with her students.
She became a docent full time after she retired from teaching in 1982.
Art followed suit in 1983, after he retired from being vice president of sales at the Wrigley Corporation.
The Clauters’ mature age was a factor in their decision to retire. They both turned 96 at the beginning of the year, and Hazel Clauter began to use a walker this year.
“We’re getting a little old to be bouncing around the school,” Art Clauter said with a smile.
After retirement, the Clauters still remain largely independent and will keep busy around their Geneva home.
Hazel enjoys taking care of plants and gardening, and she and her husband are avid readers. They still have relatives that live in Illinois, and their two sons and daughter do visit on occasion.
The Clauters said they will miss all the students who came to the school the most.
“I always enjoyed the young kids; they really woke you up,” Art Clauter said.
The Pioneer Sholes School Society is in search of the next generation of docents. For information on how to become a docent or junior docent, call 630-762-9746 or email firstname.lastname@example.org