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Eulogy for Ms. Ann E. Fullerton

April 13, 1925 - July 13, 2021


by Cathy Page Raphael

July 20, 2021


MY NAME IS Cathy Page Raphael. I met Ann Fullerton in 1957 when I was fourteen years old and she was my 10th grade biology teacher at Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School in Maryland. Her reputation as a VERY strict & demanding teacher preceded her – but also a very beloved one – so within a couple of days, my fear of her was replaced with a strong desire to succeed in her class. (At that time, my high school was listed in Time magazine as one of the top ten public high schools in the USA.)

“ Miss Fullerton” was not a lazy person’s favorite teacher! She was vivacious, interesting, and very demanding. As the year went on, various former students of hers (then attending colleges) would come back to visit her and then I began to see her as possibly the MOST popular teacher in our large school. She had a huge rate of successful former students – especially those seeking medical or biological careers. I also had an advantage in that she lived across the street from me that year. Sadly (for me and others), she left our school in June to get her Master’s degree at Syracuse University. Happily for me, however, at the end of the summer, several of my friends and I were invited to visit Ann and her dear mother in Wilmington for a few days before she left (a big adventure for us all – traveling on the train). This began a lifelong attachment to Ann (and her mother – whom I ended up visiting many times without her daughter present). My biological education through her enabled me to get a job for four summers at the Chesapeake Biological Laboratory in Solomons, MD – (probably the youngest summer student they ever had, as I was 16 at the time.) She taught all of her students so much – and so many life skills and standards – that her encouragement was a definite ticket to success in life.

As the years went by, I married a man with 3 little children – and within 2 years added one to the fold – and moved not far away from Wilmington in nearby Cecil and Kent Counties, Maryland. Ann and her mother would come down occasionally and visit us during the Christmas holidays – and often I would visit her mother in her lovely Elsmere home with the children or just by myself. An inveterate animal lover, and living in the country, I bought a pet goat and started a 4H dairy goat club. Naturally, one of my prize little white goaties I named “Annabelle F” – and I took Ann’s picture with Annabelle the next time she came down. In 1977, at 34, I became a young widow with 4 children, and the love and support I received from both Ann and her mother were a great comfort for many years.

Eventually, after my son graduated from Washington College in Chestertown in 1987, I moved to Wilmington for a good secretarial job in Greenville with a mutual fund company. Then I could, as she got older, be a support system for Ann, as she lived alone in her family home. I married my present husband, Ben, in 1988, and live in Newark. Ben and I have included her in many of our activities like the Delaware and Newark Symphony Orchestras. For the past many years, Ann and I spoke on the phone every day – which was good for both of us. Once in conversation she mentioned that she had never had a birthday party. (AHA, thought I. NOW I could do something to “pay her back” for all of her love and nurture through my life) so I decided to have a surprise party for her 80th birthday (April, 2005). It was difficult to know whom to invite from her NY school – because I didn’t know any of those students. Her sister, Margaret, got me started, as she remembered one of the students – Chris Pappas. I called him, and because he had many connections to his school alumni, I was able to, over the course of a year, invite a large number of both North Shore and B-CC students – and had a good year to plan it.

It morphed into a fantastic bash, starting with a reception at the Wilmington & Western train station, then a train ride to the Hunter’s Den restaurant, dinner, & commencing with speeches from a handful of her special “cherubs” (as she always called us). I also invited Beth Miller from the News Journal to write it up for the paper, and I was able to tip off Jim Gardner from Channel 6 Phila TV news; (they sent a photographer to catch “that moment” when she got onto the train and was flabbergasted to see not one – but the entire train filled with so many of her “cherubs”...reporting it on the 11 o’clock TV news.) She made her way through all of the cars, seeing all of the old familiar faces, with hugs and tears, and when she got to the caboose, the conductor came down and yelled on the mike: “ALL ABOARD for the Miss Fullerton Birthday Special!” What a thrilling moment for us all!

We all chipped in to have it videoed (so she could re-live it over and over) and I made her a Memory Album filled with letters from those who could attend (and those who couldn’t) over the course of her career. She often said to me, afterwards, that it was “the happiest day of (her) life!”

Because of Ann’s good nutritional standards and wholesome lifestyle through the years, she has lived a long life, and contributed to many noble activities – including Delta Kappa Gamma (a sorority to benefit future teachers), PEO (a philanthropic organization), and her church circle, here at Aldersgate Methodist. She enjoys her sister, Margaret’s, children -- Mary Beth and John (who live in TX and MI) who had and have memorable careers – and Mary Beth’s children, Kristin and Eric. [BTW – great niece Kristin, now a practicing physician, is another great source of pride as a new generation of Fullertons makes the world a better place!]

The day after Ann’s 96th birthday this year, in the afternoon as she was speaking with another B-CC cherub and longtime friend, Marcia Wilson Tyeryar (who is here today), her voice suddenly changed – and she did not hang up the phone. Marcia emailed me about it – and I wish I had told Margaret – but I wasn’t using my head. Apparently she was having a stroke – and later fell and broke her femur –unconscious until 3 in the morning, when she awoke and pushed the LifeAlert button around her neck. Her next 90 days were spent at Cadia Pike Creek – and from which she did not recuperate. I was privileged to sit with her and encourage her, read the Bible to her and sing to her often – especially for her last 30 days…and then, with the family, to be with her on Tuesday as she graduated to her Heavenly Reward.

I already miss her terribly – as many of her cherubs, I’m sure, do – but it gives some peace knowing she has lived a long and productive life and enriched the lives of many, MANY others. I’m also sure that when she reached heaven, she heard the words from Matthew 25:21, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant!” We will NEVER forget her….