There were no speeches, presentations or ceremonies Wednesday, May 29, during a farewell event at Cooper Elementary School. Visitors toured the halls at their own pace, stopping to snap a picture, open a yearbook or embrace a former teacher.
"I've gotten lots of hugs," said Sandra Wright, who taught at Cooper for 16 years. "Some of them I didn't recognize."
The open house allowed visitors to walk the halls one last time before the building is torn down.
"What's really happening is people are connecting with each other," Principal Aaron Lieberz said.
Although the evening was billed as a farewell to the building, it revolved around the people.
"Buildings do not educate students," said Pat Flynn, whose three children attended the school. "Great teachers do."
A handout and PowerPoint presentation created by fifth-grade historians and Judy Hack, who taught at Cooper for 32 years, offered an overall history of the school. Everyone who attended brought their own stories to add.
"It's been fun seeing so many people," Hack said.
Kathy (Berg) Johnson was the third generation of the Berg family to attend Cooper School. Both her grandfather and father graduated from the original 1893 building. She was a fifth-grader when the current building opened in 1970.
"There was no furniture yet," she said, and "there were no walls."
Curtains were used to configure learning spaces, although there were walls around the music room. Johnson said she enjoyed rotating from pod to pod for classes.
The yearbooks in the library were a big draw.
"You want to see me at middle school age?" said Roy Breezee, paging through a 1982-83 yearbook. "There I am."
He pointed out classmates he still sees in Superior, as well as his first girlfriend.
Nearby, Christine Fresonke shared her Cooper past with her daughters, Grace, 6, and Sophia, 2 months.
"There's Grandma," she said, pointing to a yearbook picture of teacher Darcey McGowan.
McGowan taught at the school from 1975-2003; Fresonke attended Cooper during that time and got used to being called "Ms. McGowan's daughter."
She made the trip from Bessemer, Michigan, to attend the event.
"My mom passed a couple years ago, so I wanted to come back and see everything," Fresonke said.
Superior High School juniors Marty Buchanan and Brianna Thorson, who graduated from Cooper in 2013, finished up their tour by looking through yearbooks.
"I haven't seen the school in a long time," Thorson said.
Seventh-grader Dakota Dalbec and her younger sister, McKenzi, a Cooper fifth-grader, grinned when they found their father's school picture in a 1979-80 yearbook.
When asked what their favorite memories of the school were, the visitors had similar responses.
"My friends, probably," Thorson said.
"I like making new friends," McKenzi Dalbec said. "The field trips were really fun, too."
In some of the classrooms visitors passed Wednesday, teachers boxed up materials to bring to the new Cooper Elementary School building being constructed next door. Breezee was happy to learn that plaques currently on display in the Weisberg Memorial Center wing of the building will also travel to the new school.
Demolition of the current building is slated to start about June 17. Its footprint will become a new parking lot and playground space. The new Cooper will open its doors to students when school starts Sept. 3.