A parade of about
150 people surprised Fay Popp at her home in Morgan Park Thursday in
recognition of the daycare and preschool operation she has run for over 50
Lorelei Weimer reports Popp made the difficult decision to stop running her
daycare and preschool after the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in March.
parade was organized by Jane Pearson and Jack Sosbe, two retired teachers
who thought it was high time Popp was recognized for her contributions to
the community. “She’s our community treasure,” Pearson said. “I just wanted
her honored. 54 years is just amazing.”
People marched in
the parade wearing masks and keeping distance between family groups. Some
carried flowers and homemade signs. 15 people spoke with the Chesterton
Tribune about Popp’s impact.
“Miss Fay is like a
second mother or grandmother to probably 90 percent of this community. She
has a heart of gold and goes out of her way to make every child feel as if
they are the most special,” said Duneland Schools teacher Cris Petro.
Petro said the
crafts Popp would make with the kids stood out in her mind. “Anything she
could do to get them thinking, growing, learning,” Petro said. “And there
was never a time I didn’t see her with that big old smile on her face. She’s
the whole package.”
Popp “plants great
seeds,” Petro said, evidenced by the success of Petro’s three kids. One is a
Notre Dame graduate and active duty member of the Air Force as an engineer.
Another is a junior at Purdue, and the youngest a senior at Chesterton High
School. “We credit her for a lot of their creativity and love of life,”
Beverly Rice said
at the Duneland Schools, everyone recognizes the kids who’ve come from
Popp’s operation, and Duneland Schools senior Tyler Rice agreed that Popp’s
kids are more social and confident when they get to school. Rice said he
still has a friend that he met at Popp’s when he was three.
10, said Popp is “the best and nicest teacher I ever had.” Zuranski’s
grandmother Connie Kellar said what makes Popp so good with the kids is her
patience. “A lot of people are going to miss out not being able to have her
as a preschool and daycare teacher,” Kellar added.
brought her kids Keith, 13, Michael, 10, and Catherine, 8, to celebrate
Popp. Ward said Popp is amazing and provided a fantastic preschool for the
three. “They were very well prepared for school, and she treated them like
her own.” Catherine also piped up and said Popp was very nice.
Amanda Schmidt said
her son Riley Mills, 10, was so shy the first day he arrived at Popp’s
daycare, but by the end of the day, he had changed his mind and didn’t want
to leave her yard for 20 minutes. Mills remembered cool field trips to the
apple orchard, pumpkin patch, Rhoda Farms, and Washington Park Zoo.
said you could always count on “Fay-Fay,” and said she still has the crafts
her sons completed with Popp, including a cement garden decoration and an
apron for her husband, Greg Martinson.
a lifelong neighbor of Popp’s, said she only saw Popp relax one time in her
life, a weekend trip their two families took to Lake Michigan. “That was the
only time I ever saw her relax. She was always busy, but loved it. That was
her life,” Gilbertson said.
Dee DeLeon said
Popp is a lifesaver. “She raised a lot of kids in this Town.” Linda Didelot
said Popp is “the best babysitter in the whole world,” and granddaughter
Fiona Scott, 8, agreed.
Nancy Evans worked with Popp for 10 years, and said Popp is “the kindest
person you could ever meet.” It’s bittersweet that Popp had to shut down,
Evans said, but it is positive that Popp can relax instead of waking up at 4
a.m. every day, that is, unless she wants to. “I think she still gets up at
4 in the morning,” Evans said.
“It’s been amazing
working for her,” Evans said. “It’s a home. That’s why the kids felt so
comfortable here. She’s just like another mother or grandmother to them.”
Popp said she was
overwhelmed and in tears when she realized the surprise parade was for her.
“I thought it had to do with the school. It took me a minute to realize it
was for me.”
incredibly rewarding to care for so many kids and help prepare them for
school, Popp said, and it was amazing to have so many people from over the
years come back to visit. “I really appreciate everyone coming to see me,”