Perry retired teachers poured into the event room at the Hotel Pattee in celebration of the annual “We Don’t Have to Go Back to School” brunch on Wednesday, Aug. 23. The tradition allows newly retired teachers to not feel alone the first time they don’t go back to school.

Filing into the door, teachers excitedly greeted one another, offering hugs and giggling about the first day of school.

“I get to see people that maybe I haven’t seen for a year since the last time and we’re lucky to have this beautiful facility,” said Jean Harbison, previous Special Needs teacher in the Perry Elementary Schools. Harbison, an Adel resident, has been retired for six years.

Catering was provided by Hotel Pattee who also lent the event room and PA system free of charge for the event.

The event was in honor of the late Marjean Gries who passed away this year. Gries was one of the originators of the annual program, alongside fellow pal and retiree, Lori Seeley.

“Today we’re doing it in honor of Marjean, and we’re going to tell Marjean stories,” said Sue Leslie, previous 4th grade teacher.

After teachers were treated to brunch, many came forward to share special memories of Gries. A number of teachers had Gries’ son, Casey Baldwin, in school, and shared those tales as well.

Following the stories, Baldwin spoke in front of the teachers. Afterwards, Clark Wicks, Superintendent delivered a message to the group about his goal for the school year as well as a school board update from Linda Andorf.

“The passion in this room with everyone here - one day I hope I have that same passion and self-worth about my life’s work, as all of you do - I know she did,” said Casey Baldwin, son of Gries.

Baldwin thanked those who both supported and donated to the Gries’ memorial.

“As people talked about, Mom did have a really soft heart for kids, especially at Christmas time,” Baldwin described. “We were fortunate enough to get enough money to start a foundation.”

The foundation will involve shopping for kids at Christmas.

“We could support it for probably 10 years,” Baldwin told the crowd. “After this kind of started, throughout my life, I’ve been fortunate enough to meet some really fantastic people.”

Support for the family has continued to roll in from Iowa State University, a college in which he attended. Many others have come forward to suggest programs or potential benefits.

“Not only could we make this [project and foundation] for 10 years, but we could make this go on for a lifetime if we do this correctly.”

Baldwin believes the shopping event could eventually involve teachers and the local police force.

“This is really something that we want to get the entire community involved; Perry meant so much to my Mom - I moved back here,” Baldwin said. “Partially because of her, but also because of the community. Carrying that on for her in her name is really important.”