It took a while to remember beloved teacher
Seventy-eight years later, the tree has fared a lot better than the memory of the military veteran and former teacher. “This isn’t right,” thought Ferritto, a community activist, reading the last line on the plaque: “Never shall memories of thee leave us.” But they had, of course. A long, long time ago. “I’m a hopeless romantic,” Ferritto said Wednesday. “When I read that line, I knew I was hooked. I had to find out more about this person, but even more than that, I had to do something. “He was obviously part of our Van Nuys history, but no one knew who he was anymore.” Ferritto has lived in Van Nuys for 40 years, and it’s become her passion to find ways to restore some of the past glory of her community by delving into its history. Edward Mahlon Stannard became her project. She searched the archives at California State University, Northridge, and found a story on the front page of the Van Nuys News – a forerunner of the Daily News – about Stannard’s death in 1928 at age 32. “Young Teacher Succumbs to Pneumonia,” read the headline over a picture of the popular agriculture teacher and commander of Van Nuys American Legion Post 193. “Everything possible was done for his welfare and for several hours the inhalator squad of the fire department worked unceasingly in an effort to save his life, but to no avail,” the story read. It went on to say that Stannard had contracted influenza, which developed into pneumonia, the same illness his wife was fighting as she visited her parents in Oregon. He was buried less than a week later at Oakwood Memorial Park in Chatsworth. Ferritto could find no other stories about survivors or what became of Stannard’s wife and three young children. “I searched through the records at the American Legion, but there was nothing,” she said. “Just that old plaque to his memory under the sequoia.” Life sometimes gets in the way of things we all want to do, Ferritto says. The quest to resurrect Stannard’s memory was no different. It’s taken her two years to complete. “I never forgot about it. I’d drive by the school, look over at the crumbled cinderblock around the plaque, and think, `I’ll get to that some day.”‘ Some day was this Memorial Day weekend. With the help of Van Nuys High School officials and senior Raul Tadle, a rededication ceremony to Stannard was held the day after Memorial Day under the sequoia on the school’s front lawn. Ferritto paid for a new balustrade, which matches the original ones still lining the school’s entrance, to be placed around Stannard’s memorial plaque. Tadle went around school and made sure every teacher and faculty member who was a military veteran was invited to the ceremony that also included the school’s ROTC and more than 60 students giving them their thanks. “I’ve noticed that more students are actually stopping to check out the plaque now, instead of just sitting on it,” Tadle said Wednesday. “There’s a sense of pride that wasn’t here before she did this and made us all aware of who this man with a plaque on our front lawn was.” It’s all right there on a small sign hanging from the balustrade protecting Stannard’s memorial. A new last line was added on Memorial Day 2007. “We remember still.” Dennis McCarthy’s column appears Tuesday, Thursday, Friday and Sunday. [email protected] (818) 713-3749160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! Carolyn Ferritto knelt down and wiped away years of dirt and neglect from Edward Stannard’s memorial plaque nestled at the foot of a sequoia on Van Nuys High School’s front lawn. The plaque had been covered by ivy until a few years ago, the cinderblock wall built to protect it crumbled into pieces. If students stopped at the memorial – and few did – it was usually to sit on it while waiting for a ride home. The sequoia had been planted on Memorial Day 1929, the same day Stannard’s plaque was installed by school officials and local American Legion members.