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July 22, 2013

 

Children’s Home residents reunite

Former occupants recall time spent in home that cared for children

ReunionJoe McIntyre/staff photographer
Wayne Willard of Cuyler shows a portrait of himself as a child taken during the time he was at the Cortland Children’s Home in 1952. People who lived at the Children’s Home in their youth had a reunion Saturday at Dywer Park in Little York.

By STEVEN HOWE
Staff Reporter
showe@cortlandstandardnews.net

Stories, smiles and reintroductions were common at a reunion for Children’s Home residents Saturday at Dwyer Memorial Park.
The event brought together former residents of the Port Watson Street home, which was sponsored by the Loyal Circle of the King’s Daughters until its closing in 1958.
While a majority of the former residents remained in upstate New York, some had traveled in from as far away as California, Oklahoma and Florida.
A total of 12 different states were represented on the attending list for the reunion. About 70 people attended.
“We’ve had people come in from all over,” said Helen De Haan, who helped organize the event.
The reunion, over 53 years after the home’s closing, was the first for residents since celebrating Hazel “Mom” Banner’s 90th birthday in 1991. The Banners, Clarence and Hazel, were very involved with the home and Hazel Banner served as superintendent.
The Children’s Home was in operation for 52 years and was home to over 1,500 orphaned and wayward children during that time. The building at 240 Port Watson St. was used by the American Legion before it was demolished and replaced by the complex that houses the Onondaga-Cortland-Madison BOCES.
For former residents who missed the opportunity to reconnect at the previous reunion, over 20 years ago, this was a welcome opportunity.
David Beach was not able to make the 1991 reunion but decided to come Saturday and look for familiar faces.
Beach, the youngest resident of the home while he was there, said he did not spend a lot of time with the older kids. He had connected with former residents since leaving the home and was hopeful to see them again.
Claire Roussell Griffin says that she was most amazed by the diversity of interests and professions that former residents went on to pursue. Residents went on to be doctors, lawyers and singers.
Griffin finished her junior and senior years of high school with the Banners.
“Mom and Pop Banner were mentors, they guided everyone there,” Griffin said. “Instead of going to another foster place, you got to live with Mom and Pop Banner.”
The event was organized by De Haan and Joan Webster, who both resided at the Children’s Home. Binders filled with newspaper clippings and recorded memories of former residents were made available to attendees of the event.
While the focus of the event was the former residents, many brought children and grandchildren as well to share in the experience.

 

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