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Habig’s legacy remembered through award

Westfield Academy and Central School Board of Education presented the annual Friend of Education Award posthumously to Jeanne Marie Yeates Habig. Pictured from left are Board vice-president Phyllis Hagen, Dr. Lou Habig, who accepted the award, Board president Wendy Dyment and Board member Deanne Manzella

Westfield Academy and Central School held its annual senior citizen breakfast this month, at which Board of Education President Wendy Dyment presented the 2024 Friend to Education Award.

The Senior Citizen Breakfast, courtesy of the WACS Board of Education, is a long-standing tradition at Westfield. Each year, the Friend to Education Award is presented at the breakfast.

According to Dyment, this year’s Friend to Education was awarded posthumously to Jeanne Marie Yeates Habig, who passed away on March 22, 2024 at the age of 79. Jeanne’s husband, Dr. Lou Habig and members of her family accepted the award on her behalf.

Dyment said Habig was the first board member she remembers meeting. “She had a strong personality and could hold her own in a debate, which could make Board meetings very intense, interesting, and entertaining,” Dyment said. “And she had a wicked sense of humor.”

During her remarks, Dyment offered background information on Habig. “She was very proud and supportive of her children and her grandchildren and taught them these words to live by: ‘Treat others the way you want to be treated, talk to others as you want to be talked to.'”

Dyment went on to list the many public services that Habig was involved in during her lifetime. These include coaching Westfield youth soccer. and being a member of the Westfield Republican Committee. the Westfield VFW auxiliary, the Women of the Moose Chapter 517, the Westfield American Legion Auxiliary, the Westfield Women’s Organization, Union Relief, and the Westfield Memorial Hospital Auxiliary.

“She was also a strong advocate for area school children, serving as a WACS BOE member for 27 years,” Dyment said. “As a school board member, she said that the 1,100 children she worked for were the most important part of her job.”

Dyment noted the Friend to Education Award allows Board of Education members to “in a small way, give back to those who had such a lasting, positive impact on our school district.”

The award has been presented to many deserving individuals and groups throughout the years, with a small gap when COVID-19 occurred. Following the pandemic, the award was resumed in 2021 and was given to every employee of the district.

A letter, which was sent to all district employees that year, read: “Every employee has consistently displayed ingenuity, growth, compassion, dedication and flexibility in rising to the challenges that this year continues to bring.”

In 2022, the Friend to Education award was given to all members of the Westfield Fire Department, and in 2023 the award was given to all members of the Westfield Police Department. This year marks a return to recognizing an individual who “had a positive impact on the student experience at WACS, and saw her service as a way to give back to the community that had given her so much over the years.”

District Superintendent Michael Cipolla commented on the importance of the senior citizens breakfast and the awarding of the Friend to Education recognition. “It is such a wonderful event, and we are pleased with the participation and attendance,” he said. “Our school community means so much to our district and to be able to give back in this way is important for us.”

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