Chesterton Tribune



Morgan Park parade honors Fay Popp

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A parade of about 150 people surprised Fay Popp at her home in Morgan Park Thursday in recognition of the daycare and preschool operation she has run for over 50 years.

Popp’s daughter, Lorelei Weimer reports Popp made the difficult decision to stop running her daycare and preschool after the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in March.

The appreciation parade was organized by Jane Pearson and Jack Sosbe, two retired teachers who thought it was high time Popp was recognized for her contributions to the community. “She’s our community treasure,” Pearson said. “I just wanted her honored. 54 years is just amazing.”

People marched in the parade wearing masks and keeping distance between family groups. Some carried flowers and homemade signs. 15 people spoke with the Chesterton Tribune about Popp’s impact.

“Miss Fay is like a second mother or grandmother to probably 90 percent of this community. She has a heart of gold and goes out of her way to make every child feel as if they are the most special,” said Duneland Schools teacher Cris Petro.

Petro said the crafts Popp would make with the kids stood out in her mind. “Anything she could do to get them thinking, growing, learning,” Petro said. “And there was never a time I didn’t see her with that big old smile on her face. She’s the whole package.”

Popp “plants great seeds,” Petro said, evidenced by the success of Petro’s three kids. One is a Notre Dame graduate and active duty member of the Air Force as an engineer. Another is a junior at Purdue, and the youngest a senior at Chesterton High School. “We credit her for a lot of their creativity and love of life,” Petro said.

Beverly Rice said at the Duneland Schools, everyone recognizes the kids who’ve come from Popp’s operation, and Duneland Schools senior Tyler Rice agreed that Popp’s kids are more social and confident when they get to school. Rice said he still has a friend that he met at Popp’s when he was three.

Nathan Zuranski, 10, said Popp is “the best and nicest teacher I ever had.” Zuranski’s grandmother Connie Kellar said what makes Popp so good with the kids is her patience. “A lot of people are going to miss out not being able to have her as a preschool and daycare teacher,” Kellar added.

Michelle Ward brought her kids Keith, 13, Michael, 10, and Catherine, 8, to celebrate Popp. Ward said Popp is amazing and provided a fantastic preschool for the three. “They were very well prepared for school, and she treated them like her own.” Catherine also piped up and said Popp was very nice.

Amanda Schmidt said her son Riley Mills, 10, was so shy the first day he arrived at Popp’s daycare, but by the end of the day, he had changed his mind and didn’t want to leave her yard for 20 minutes. Mills remembered cool field trips to the apple orchard, pumpkin patch, Rhoda Farms, and Washington Park Zoo.

Bridget Martinson said you could always count on “Fay-Fay,” and said she still has the crafts her sons completed with Popp, including a cement garden decoration and an apron for her husband, Greg Martinson.

Barbara Gilbertson, a lifelong neighbor of Popp’s, said she only saw Popp relax one time in her life, a weekend trip their two families took to Lake Michigan. “That was the only time I ever saw her relax. She was always busy, but loved it. That was her life,” Gilbertson said.

Dee DeLeon said Popp is a lifesaver. “She raised a lot of kids in this Town.” Linda Didelot said Popp is “the best babysitter in the whole world,” and granddaughter Fiona Scott, 8, agreed.

Popp’s neighbor Nancy Evans worked with Popp for 10 years, and said Popp is “the kindest person you could ever meet.” It’s bittersweet that Popp had to shut down, Evans said, but it is positive that Popp can relax instead of waking up at 4 a.m. every day, that is, unless she wants to. “I think she still gets up at 4 in the morning,” Evans said.

“It’s been amazing working for her,” Evans said. “It’s a home. That’s why the kids felt so comfortable here. She’s just like another mother or grandmother to them.”

Popp said she was overwhelmed and in tears when she realized the surprise parade was for her. “I thought it had to do with the school. It took me a minute to realize it was for me.”

It’s been incredibly rewarding to care for so many kids and help prepare them for school, Popp said, and it was amazing to have so many people from over the years come back to visit. “I really appreciate everyone coming to see me,” she said.



Posted 8/31/2020




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