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The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett
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My husband Tim and I were just talking about Mrs. Greene the other day. Longtime Old Mission Peninsula residents will remember the Old Mission Peninsula School (OMPS) teacher, and I’m sure each of us has a Mrs. Greene story to tell.

maxine greene, mrs. greene, maxine greene obituary, old mission peninsula, old mission peninsula school, omps, omps teachers, old mission, old mission michigan, old mission gazette
Maxine Greene, Old Mission Peninsula School Teacher

I had Mrs. Greene for fifth grade in the late 1960s. She was known secretly among the kids as “Mean Maxine,” and she wasn’t afraid to smack a kid’s hand with a ruler or chuck a book at someone talking in the back of the classroom – things that would probably land a teacher in jail and/or with a hefty lawsuit these days.

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But this was the 1960s, and Mrs. Greene was “old school.” While I remember her as being somewhat stern on the outside, I always knew there was a heart of gold in there. She was devoted to teaching, and she helped to nurture my love of books and literature by reading “The Secret Garden” to us. Ask any former student for memories of her classroom, and they’ll no doubt mention that she read to them. Out loud. In class.

Later on during my high school years, I was part of the TCAPS music program, and my orchestra or chamber groups played now and then at First Congregational Church at the base of the Peninsula. I would see Mrs. Greene singing in the church choir, and we always hugged and caught up.

It’s interesting that Tim and I were just wondering last week if she had passed away, and this morning, I came across her obituary on the Reynolds-Jonkhoff website, which I’ve included below. She passed away on August 22, 2017, just shy of her 102nd birthday. Knowing Mrs. Greene, it’s not surprising that she lived past 100.

Tim and I always heard a rumor that she was an actual drill sergeant in the Army before her teaching career began, but apparently that was just a rumor circulated among the kids, because it’s not mentioned in her obituary.

Thank you for all you taught us, Mrs. Greene. Thank you for reading to us in the classroom. I’m reading “The Secret Garden” again in your honor.

Leave thoughts and memories of Mrs. Greene in the comments section at the bottom of this story.

Obituary for Maxine Muriel Greene

Maxine M. Greene passed away August 22, 2017, three months shy of her 102nd birthday. She was born Maxine Muriel Sage in Central Lake, MI, on Nov. 16, 1915, to Harold B. and Almira J. (Haag) Sage. The families were primarily farmers, with roots in the Rockford, MI, area. Maxine graduated from Central Lake High School in 1933, but without many job opportunities during the Great Depression, she elected to repeat her Senior year, this time in Ellsworth, MI. She subsequently worked for the telephone company in Central Lake.

One of Maxine’s uncles was a missionary teacher for the YMCA, and Maxine also looked forward to becoming a missionary, though not as teacher. She was awarded a tuition and room-and-board scholarship to Alma College but had to turn it down because she was unable to afford money for books. A friend talked her into enrolling in the Antrim County Normal School for training teachers, and she fell in love with education.

She taught in northern Michigan one-room schools in N. Milton, Canby, Lark Lake, Alden, Bayview, and Ellsworth until 1946, when she moved to Kalamazoo and earned her B.S. in Education in 1947 at the then Western Michigan State Teachers’ College. She also achieved her “MRS,” meeting and marrying James M.H. Greene (Binghamton, NY, and St. Joseph, MI) in Kalamazoo in 1947. Maxine taught in the Kalamazoo and Ann Arbor public schools until 1951.

After the birth of daughter Leslie in Ann Arbor in 1952, the couple returned to Central Lake, and then moved to Traverse City in 1954, where Maxine worked at Badgero’s Gifts and then Milliken’s Department Store. Her first local teaching position was the Kindergarten class at Bertha Vos school in Acme, 1956-57. She moved on to Old Mission Peninsula School, where she remained teaching 5th graders until her retirement in 1981. Besides County Normal and Western, she had credits from MSU, U of M, and the University of Wyoming in Laramie, WY.

Maxine became a member of Traverse City First Congregational Church in 1954. She sang alto and then tenor in the church choir for nearly 50 years. She was an active member of the Women’s Fellowship and long-time volunteer at the church Thrift Shop; in later years she enjoyed outings with the Funtimers.

She kept busy during retirement with a life of service in her church and local organizations: she was a church-camp counselor and traveled on youth-group “away missions”; she held the offices of Vice-Moderator and Moderator of the United Northern Association of the Michigan Conference of the United Church of Christ; and was on the Personnel Committee of the Michigan Conference, UCC. She served on the board of LOVE, INC; was a volunteer driver for the Michigan Department of Social Services; and a Docent at Dennos Museum. She was also the somewhat embarrassed recipient of two WCCW “Good Guy” awards.

Maxine was preceded in death by her parents; her brother Don H. Sage of Garden City, MI; and her husband, Jim. She is survived by daughter Leslie (Mrs. A. Craig) South of Traverse City; nieces Donna (John) Tobin of Redford, MI, and Paulette (Alex) Street of Garden City, MI; nephew David (Paula) Sage of Paw Paw, MI; many great- and great-great nieces and nephews; and “adopted” daughter Cynthia (Besaw) Blattengerger of Traverse City.

Friends and family are invited to a visitation on Thursday, September 14, from 5:00 p.m. – 8:00 p.m. at Reynolds Jonkhoff Funeral Home in Traverse City, and to a memorial service on Friday, September 15, at 11:00 a.m. at the First Congregational Church of Traverse City, 6105 Center Rd. Reception will follow at the church, with interment thereafter at Traverse City Memorial Gardens.

Memorials in lieu of flowers may be made to LOVE, INC, P.O. Box 5114, Traverse City, MI 49696 or Hospice of Michigan, 10850 East Traverse Highway, Suite 1155, Traverse City, MI 49684.

A NOTE FROM JANE: I started Old Mission Gazette in 2015 because I felt a calling to provide the Old Mission Peninsula community with local news. After decades of writing for newspapers and magazines like the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Family Circle and Ladies' Home Journal, I really just wanted to write about my own community where I grew up on a cherry farm and raised my own family. So I started my own newspaper.

Because Old Mission Gazette is a "Reader Supported Newspaper" -- meaning it exists because of your financial support -- I hope you'll consider tossing a few bucks our way if I mention your event, your business, your organization or your news item, or if you simply love reading about what's happening on the OMP. In a time when local news is becoming a thing of the past, supporting an independent community newspaper is more important now than ever.

To keep the Gazette going, click here to make a donation. Thank you so much for your support. -jb

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  1. I had Mrs. Greene for 5th grade…. I remember thinking how tough she was then. Then years later, working as a nurse at the Osteopathic Hospital, I was assigned to her! And had to prep her for GI tests. I remember her saying ” I just hope you don’t hold a grudge after all these years!!” She was stern and hard core, but always fair. I’m sorry to hear of her passing.

  2. I can just hear her saying that! And yes – stern but fair. You did not get out of that classroom without learning something – and usually a lot. I was a pretty good kid so never had a book thrown at me or anything. 🙂 -jb

  3. I can just hear her saying that! And yes – stern but fair. You did not get out of that classroom without learning something – and usually a lot. I was a pretty good kid so never had a book thrown at me or anything. 🙂 -jb

  4. I also remember hearing she was an ex-sergeant in the army. And will never forget her masking taping a student’s mouth shut one afternoon for his talking and interrupting her too much. Like you said, she was “old school”. And would have done anything for her students.

  5. I had Mrs. Green a few years ahead of Jane. Every day, right after we came in from lunch recess, she read a chapter or two from a novel until we finished it. We were expected to be quiet and in our seats, but we could draw, just listen or put our heads down for a rest. It was the best part of the day and she taught all of us to read for pleasure.

  6. Who could ever forget the Sarge teaching the girls gym class. Push ups, sit ups and non stop calisthenics! No wonder we thought she was a drill sergeant!

  7. She was Amazing!
    And so are We, because of Maxine Greene.
    Amazing what you learn in a chair out in the hallway.
    Oh and the 5th grade girls required movie!
    One of my most “Life Lessons Learned” years of school, guided by Mrs. Greene.
    Thank you.

    • Thanks for the note, LaVonda! Trying to remember if we were in the same class for Mrs. Greene. I’ll have to go find our class photo. Pretty sure we were – I can’t remember who the other fifth grade teacher was…

      And I’m so sorry to hear about your dad. Much love to you and your family.

  8. Wow… so fun to read these and to recognize the names of some of you. LaVonda, you babysat for me. 🙂
    Mrs. Greene.. I remember being kind of scared of her. She pulled Andy Stiremans ears one day and then had him sit in his locker. I later went on to teach 6th grade and suddenly I understood the exasperation a teacher can have with kids. I now work with Andy and to this day, I just have a soft spot in my heart for him. He was just a precocious, smart boy. Not too unlike some of the kids I taught and a few of my own kids. It was nice to bump into Mrs. Green about two years ago. She looked well and was much softer in spirit than my 5th grade rain had recalled. She seemed happy.

    I think the other 5th grade teacher (when I was at Old Mission anyway) was Arno Kramer.
    Thanks for this share Jane. 🙂 Shawn Smith

    • Thanks for the note, Shawn! Mrs. Greene definitely was intimidating at times, but looking back, she’s one of the teachers at OMPS whose lessons really stuck with me. Not just the reading, writing and arithmetic, but also how to maintain control in difficult situations (like teaching a bunch of unruly kids!). Like Ginny said above, I think she was a big part of my love of reading and literature – and one of the reasons I ended up in my chosen career path of journalism.

  9. Jane, thanks for posting. I was just looking around for some teachers from old mission peninsula School that I remember and saw this article. I remember Mrs. Greene. I began old mission peninsula School after school had already started, I was in 5th grade Mrs. Greene’s class. I was extremely shy, new, and practically the minute I was given my seat, she began scolding two brothers who were in my classroom and had gotten into some type of trouble. She took a yardstick off the chalkboard and broke it across one of them as she whacked him!!! I was petrified! That was my first 5 minutes in her classroom! Needless to say I hardly spoke all year! I did however feel that she was a good teacher, but I was afraid to ask her questions. I loved science in her classroom though.


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