Clara Wavra, 104 – The Valley’s Valentine - Sacred Heart School Student
(L-R)Barbara Wavra and Mary Harmon listen as their mother recalls the many adventures she enjoyed during her century plus of living in the Valley.
By Staff Reporter
- February 9, 2017
Surrounded by lush flowering potted plants, Clara Wavra sat out on her farmhouse porch just west of Brawley, her blue eyes twinkling and her shock of white hair crowning her head, as she visited with her two youngest daughters, Mary Harmon and Barbara Wavra.
Her 105-year-old farmhouse, like its owner, did not show its age as everything was well-manicured, clean, and inviting. Most likely that was because Clara had just celebrated her 104th birthday, and as family custom dictates, relatives of the large clan descended on the Wavra matron’s homestead to have a “work party.”
Clara was the last of eleven children born to her parents, Frank and Margaret Hovley. In 1908, Clara’s parents arrived in Brawley with nine of their children. Clara was born five years later, exactly three years after and on the day of her other Brawley-born sister, Teresa.
Clara’s father, Frank, moved to Brawley because his brother, Peter Hovley, the mayor and a successful real estate agent, sold him on the promise of the burgeoning township. In his marketing of the area, Peter billed Brawley as the “Redlands of the Imperial Valley,” and “The Garden City of Imperial Valley” in his real estate sales brochure.
Clara has happy memories of growing up on the farm north of Brawley with their 80 acres of farmland and fruit orchards as they raised pigs and chickens — even though her family claimed she burned down the homestead when she was three years old.
“I did not!” Clara said, laughing at the tale. “I found the matches and cigarettes of my older brothers who had started smoking in the house. Next thing I knew, we were all being rushed out of the house!”
It was an untimely fire as Clara’s grandparents were soon to arrive for their golden anniversary wedding party at the Hovley’s farmhouse with more family coming from all quarters.
“Everybody had to hustle to rebuild the house before the guests arrived,” Clara remembered.
Clara recalled attending Sacred Heart Catholic School and Mass in a horse and buggy, riding in from the farm with her eighth grade sister driving. The young church had no baptisms until the bishop from San Diego could make the long journey down the hill. Clara was the first child to be baptized at Sacred Heart. Her classmates were mostly cousins, including the Schartz, Guirsch and Mamer families.
After attending Sacred Heart, Clara graduated from Brawley Union High in 1930, and then attended the junior college located on the same campus as the high school. After her first year at the JC, Brawley’s high school principal, Percy Palmer, asked Clara to work at BUHS in the office. She accepted.
Clara was 18, and became a staff of one. She ordered books, took attendance, kept cafeteria records, and recorded and typed school board minutes.
Clara’s husband, Harry Wavra, first visited the Valley at age 17 while delivering household furniture from Oregon for John Mamer. He ended up staying and working for the Mamer family. Eventually, Clara’s father hired Harry and he bunked with the rest of the farmhands in the empty water tower, sitting high over the Hovley property.
“He always said he worked at the farm waiting for me to grow up so he could marry me,” Clara said. “He was six years older than me.”
Clara and Harry’s wedding was February 24, 1936, at 8:00 a.m. on a Monday morning so her teacher friends could attend the wedding and still get to work on time. Then the young couple moved into town.
Clara still vividly recalls incidents of her early time of working at Brawley High. In 1940, the high school boiler blew up and tragically took a life. Also injured was Clara’s sister, Catherine, who had been clerking at the school. Her desk sat one story above the faulty boiler located in the basement.
“Catherine went straight up, then straight down into the newly-formed hole. A senior football star, Robert Minshew, dug her out and took her to the hospital,” Clara recalled.
Eventually, the Wavra family moved back to their own country place and raised their seven children, Katy Criman, now in El Centro; Laura Cole, San Diego; Vince Wavra, Brawley; Joe Wavra, San Diego; Jim Wavra, Brawley; Mary Harmon, Brawley; and Barbara Wavra of Brawley.
In 1958, Clara lost her husband when their youngest daughter, Barbara, was only two. In true pioneer fashion, Clara continued on as mother and father for all of her children. The two oldest girls had left the nest to become nurses, but Clara still labored to seed, grow and harvest the corn, hay, and alfalfa. This she accomplished with the help of her three sons, Vince, Joe and Jim. Her work as a farmer, mother, and high school attendance clerk continued until the farm consisted of just her and her two youngest daughters.
“I remember irrigating throughout the night,” daughter Mary Harmon said. “We had to walk to the head gate and see if the water had come. I started irrigating at 14. Barbara helped and she was 12.”
“We had to shovel out the cement ditch when the dirt started filling up,” Clara remembered.
“One day, Mary and Barbara were cleaning the ditch out and some man drove up. They were pretty young. And he said, ‘I always wanted to see what women’s lib looked like, and now I see.’ I have never forgotten that,” Clara said.
Another day when the two girls were cleaning the ditch, a garden snake slithered down the bank landing half way between the girls. And both of them wanted the snake. Their older brother who was supervising, challenged them saying, “First one to clear their half gets the snake.”
“We started shoveling as fast as we could!” Barbara said.
Clara also remembered her choice of topic for her college speech class was ‘How to Irrigate,’ in which she instructed her classmates how to order water, make sure the land is ready, how to receive the water, and how to keep opening and closing gates as the water was delivered to the field.
At 104, Clara has led a life of remarkable grit, courage, and contribution to the high school and the town she loves so much. As she ponders her memories of working with the teens through their formative years, she said she considers those days one of the hallmarks of her accomplishments.
“I believe I had some good influence over the many students coming through my office,” Clara said. “I remember two boys, Robert and Mark. They were always sick on the same day. One time when they both came to be excused, I told them I was going to call both of their parents to tell them the two were making each other sick. They never were absent together again. The one married into our family, so I am glad I had a hand in turning his life around.”
Sacred Heart School
You are cordially invited to our
Mardi Gras Carnival
Saturday, February 11, 2017
Sacred Heart DeMazenod Hall
428 S. Imperial Avenue, Brawley, California
$40.00 donation per person
- 6:30 pm Cajun cuisine catered by
- 6:30-8:45 pm French Quarter Silent Auction
- 8:45 pm $10,000.00 Raffle
- 9:00-midnight Winners announced Dancing
Begins on Bourbon street
January 2, 2017 - Bishop Flores Application Opens. All families that apply for Bishop Flores pay 225 dollars per student registration fee. www.bishopfloresscholarship
The bishops mission is to help people out and provide tuition assistance for children in need to attend Catholic schools.
February 1, 2017 - Early Bird Registration Begins 250$ per student new and returning families/ Earn free dress 2017/2018 school year.
February 17, 2017 - Last day of Early Bird Registration
February 18, 2017 - Registration for new and returning families $300
February 28, 2017 - Bishop Flores Application Ends
In celebration of Catholic Schools Week, we will be taking our students to go see the movie, Sing, on Tuesday, January 31st. The entrance fee is $10 per student. Please attach cash or check made out to Sacred Heard to the permission slips. Permissions slips are due on January 27th.
We are also requesting assistance in driving students to Cinemark in El Centro. We will leave the school at 8:15 am and return at 12 pm. If you are available please call the school office at 344-2662. Parent drivers will need to purchase a $10 ticket for themselves also.
- Sacred Heart school Permission Slip
- Cinemark Movie Permission Slip
- $10 dollars cash or Check
Padres de K-8-
En celebracion de la Semana de Escuelas Catolicas, vamos a llevar a los estudiantes a ver la pelicula, Sing, el Martes, de Enero 31. El precio de entrada es $10 por estudiante. Porfavor pegen su dinero en efectivo o cheque para Sacred Heart al lado de su hoja de permiso. Sus hojas de permiso deben ser entregadas en Enero 27.
Tambien estamos solicitando asistencia para llevar a los estudiantes a Cinemark en El Centro. Nos iremos de la escuela a las 8:15am y regresaremos a las 12pm. Si esta disponible porfavor marque a la oficina de la escuela que es 344-2662. Los padres que llevaron a los estudiantes, tambien tendran que llevar $10 para su propio ticket.
- Hoja de Permiso de la escuela Sacred Heart
- Hoja de Permiso para la pelicula de Cinemark
- $10 en efectivo o en cheque
Thank you to Joanne and Manuel Castro, Sara Walters, Jennifer Mitosinka, Rob Chell, Stephen and Lydia Berry, Helen Yen, Adriana Meza, Annalisa Burgos, and all others that supported the construction and the facilitation of the final ride through the parade on Saturday 11/12/16. Thank you
Gracias a Joanne y Manuel Castro, Sara Walters, Jennifer Mitosinka, Rob Chell, Stephen y Lydia Berry, Helen Yen, Adriana Meza, Annalisa Burgos, y a todos los demas que apoyaron la construccion y la facilitacion de el paseo final por el desfile el Sabado 11/2/16. Gracias
Beginning with first grade students will be taught rudimentary mechanical engineering, circuits, electricity, battery and motor science, history, robot construction, and robot programing.
Comenzando con el primer grado de primaria los estudiantes aprenderan ingenieria mecanica basica, circuitos, electricidad, bateria y ciencia del motor, historia, construcciones de robots, y programacion de robots.
Holtville Native of Childhood Cancer Awareness Month Margie Garcia Earns ‘Teacher Of The Year’
By Jesus Padilla The Brawley Chamber of Commerce hosted the fourth annual Back-to-School Teacher's Dinner to honor outstanding teachers on Thursday September 15, at Stockmen's Club. It was funded by many local businesses and institutions. For the first time the event recognized three teachers of the year from three school districts: Brawley Elementary and Brawley Union High School districts and Sacred Heart School.
Todd Finell, Imperial County Office of Education Superintendent, told the audience that teachers matter more to student achievement than any other aspect of schooling, There are great things happening in education in Imperial County because we have outstanding teachers. Jesse Sanchez principal of Brawley Union High School stated "teachers are what make the world turn because without them our children would not survive."
Frances Nuñez, Jessica Aceves, and Margie Garcia were the teachers chosen for the Teacher of the Year Award. The principal of Sacred Heart School Analisa Burgos said of Ms. Margie Garcia, that she is loved by past and current students and she is a woman of faith who teaches by example. Ms. Garcia who has taught for 20 years began instructing preschool students when she was still in high school.
"I want to thank the teachers, my principal and my parents for all the support they gave me," said Garcia."I enjoy children and always loved teaching kindergarten.
Margie Garcia is a native of Holtville. She attended Holtville schools, graduated from Holtville High School in 1968. At Imperial Valley College, she obtained a Child Development Associate of Arts Degree. In 1983, this hard working educator graduated from San Diego State University Calexico Campus with a Liberal Arts Bachelors Degree. At the present time, she is teaching at Sacred Heart School and also at Imperial Valley College.
Ms. Garcia considers an honor to have been nominated for the Teacher of the Year Award. She feels this is a great recognition and motivation to continue teaching. This achievement is certainly a benchmark in her educational career.
Holtville Nativo de Cancer de la Ninez Mes de Conciencia Margie Garcia gana como 'La Maestra del Ano'
Por Jesus Padilla La Camara de Comercio Brawley
Beginning with first grade students will be taught earth science, classical dynamics, fluid dynamics, pressure, drag, propulsion, chemistry, laws of conservation, and aeronautics. Computer science courses begin in October 2016.
Comenzando con el primer grado de primaria los estudiantes aprenderan ciencia de la tierra, dinamicas clasicas, dinamicas fluidas, presion, arrastrar, propulsion, quimica, leyes de la conversacion, y aeronauticas. Cursos de ciencia de computadoras comienzan en Octubre del 2016.
By: Kalin Turner March 18, 2016
BRAWLEY — The small, private Catholic school in Brawley, Sacred Heart, first opened its doors in 1915 and hired the Sisters of Joseph as the teaching force. One hundred and one years later, the nuns are gone, but the teaching staff still nurtures and applies a rigorous education for the pupils that is accredited by WACS and WCEA.
Many families have trusted the Roman Catholic institution to instill faith and character in their children while teaching to excellency. Today, they pride themselves being cutting edge with teaching computer coding in the fourth grade.
The school, with classes from pre-school through eighth grade, has not lost its appeal to the Valley, but due to laws, changing regulations, and a poor economy, operational costs have increased, mainly insurance and employee benefits, which threaten the existence of the iconic institution.
As a solution, Sacred Heart is looking to grow by 20 students by the start of the next school year to help overcome the financial hardships they face. They have also started https://www.youcaring.com/sacred-heart-school, an online fundraising page that has attracted past and present attendees to donate funds to help keep the doors open.
“We are a small but determined school to give the students an education they can use,” said Principal Brian Barrett. “We can use new students to help with the funding for all the great new programs we have for students.”
Because Sacred Heart is a private school, its funding does not come from the state like public schools. The burden rests with the school, minus a small stipend from the Diocese. With present funding, Sacred Heart School offers students programs such as computer coding, a 15 to 1 teacher-student ratio, as well as computer and software programming. Extra-curricular activities include violin lessons, ceramics, fine arts and music appreciation.
“Our historical school has made it for many years and we will continue to find ways to reach out to students with programs that makes learning fun and useful,” declared Principal Barrett.