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Newark students explore the past with local author who discovers a surprise of her own

by WayneTimes.com
March 30, 2024

90-year-old Annette Harris, a local author and history buff, shared some interesting local history recently with 10th grade Global Studies teacher Justin Fladd’s classes.

But in the process, she was both greatly surprised and delighted to learn something about her late husband, John, who taught math at Newark High School from 1963 to 1988, that she hadn’t known about and it also solved a mystery NHS Math teacher Shannon Hersh had been wondering about for some time.

Harris, who was born in Dresden moved to Newark in the 1960s, worked as a library assistant at Kelley School from 1981-1991 and wrote two books on local history: “Small Beginnings - A Story of Newark, New York” published in 1986 and “World War II Prisoner of War Camps In Wayne County, New York And Their Prisoners” published in 2004.

She came to NHS March 18th to meet Fladd and discuss what she would be talking about in the high school library to his students March 21st.

“As we walked into the library, Shannon Hersh was there making copies for an upcoming lesson. I still have no idea why, but I asked her if she knew that Newark during WWII was home to a German POW camp. She had no idea and then I mentioned that Annette wrote a book about it. I also told her Annette’s late husband, John Harris, taught math at NHS for 25 years. Mrs. Hersh had a shocked look on her face and told Annette that she would be right back and had something to show us.  

“She dashed out  of the library and came back with a piece of her desk drawer on which John Harris had written some messages about when he began teaching and on his last day of teaching in 1988. Mrs. Hersh  was surprised to learn she uses the same desk he did for his entire teaching career. Before that she didn’t know who he was and or anyone at NHS who knew him.

“And Annette’s face was filled with joy when she saw her late husband’s writing. It was an amazing experience for all of us,” Fladd continued. “I still have goosebumps thinking about it right now and it’s something that I will never forget.  Whether one believes in a higher power, fate, or the pure randomness of the world, what happened that day in the Newark High School library was nothing short of magical.”

After Hersh met Annette Harris March 18th,  she curiously looked on the undersides of the other drawers in her desk and found he had written a few more musings on them. She showed them to Harris March 21st when she came to the school to speak and again, Harris, Hersh and Fladd and were delighted.

Hersh called the experience “remarkable” and said meeting Annette was an absolute joy.  It was powerful moment to see her recognize his handwriting. It was a hello from heaven from John.”

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