Wednesday, May 27, 2015
Walter Bemis was neither wealthy nor famous. But he was beloved by the community and rich beyond measure. The namesake of Bemis Elementary School moved to Troy in 1927 from Temperance Michigan. His family’s saving were wiped out after both his wife and son contracted typhoid. “Someone I knew was coming here. So I asked him if he found me a job that paid more money to let me know. So I came here.”
Bemis was working in a corn in field that is now part of White Chapel Cemetery when he broke both of his arms in an accident. While waiting to regain his full strength for farming, Bemis agreed to help out at Poppleton School, (which at that time was located on the corner of Crooks and Big Beaver Roads.)
Mr. Bemis loved the work and stayed. He also loved the children and cared for them. In the days before school cafeterias he was known to warm kettles of soup so the children could have a hot lunch. If a child did not have a lunch, he always seemed to have an extra sandwich.
It was 2 ½ years before Bemis took his first day off from his temporary job. He continued his work as the Poppleton custodian for the next 30 years until he was 70 years old. Then he worked for a decade on a part time basis. Even in retirement he would substitute for an ailing custodian when needed. He also spent his leisure time building sandboxes and bookshelves for “his children” in the Troy Schools.
Bemis Elementary School was named in his honor by popular decree in 1978, and in 1983 the school hosted a party for him on his 85th birthday. They gathered again at Bemis Elementary to salute him on his 91st birthday.
Walter Bemis and his wife Rowena were married 71 years. They had four children and numerous grandchildren, great-grandchildren, and even a great-great grandchild before he passed away in 1991 at the age of 93.
Ken Lahti, the Principal at Bemis in the early 1980s stated, “He was kind and hardworking, always giving his best. If we could follow this pattern, we would all be better.”
Mr. Bemis raises the flag at Bemis Elementary School
To commemorate the City of Troy’s 60th Anniversary in 2015, we will publish a different story each day that highlights a person, discovery, or event that occurred locally, regionally, nationally, or even globally between 1955 and 2015 and that helped shape our lives and our community. We will try to post stories on important anniversary dates, but we also realize that dates are less critical than content and context. We will include the facts related to controversial stories, allowing our readers to form their own opinions. We invite you to read and comment on the stories. Your suggestions for topics are also welcome and can be posted on our Facebook page, www.facebook.com/TroyHistoricVillage. You can also email stories or ideas to the 365 Story Editor at firstname.lastname@example.org