By John Higgins
Beacon Journal staff writer
The families of Sam Salem elementary school in Akron's Kenmore neighborhood spent the last day of school on Thursday grieving the shocking death of the school's long-serving secretary.
Nancy Bradbary, 69, died Wednesday of a brain hemorrhage.
''She was a perfectly healthy, fit woman didn't smoke, didn't drink, exercised on a regular basis no history of anything,'' said her daughter, Sheree Nuske.
She said her mother loved working at Sam Salem.
''She dearly loved the students, she liked watching them grow up,'' Nuske said.
The school's principal, Jennifer Lucas, said each class was told in person about Bradbary's death.
''Her rapport with the parents and the kids here in Kenmore was so strong,'' Lucas said. ''This is a devastating loss for the families around here. I've had quite a few parents call.''
The school provided grief counseling for children, but the parents needed comfort, too.
''I just had a mom come in a little bit ago, and she goes: 'Please tell me it's not true,' '' Lucas said on Thursday the last day of school for students.
''When the kids walked out at dismissal, it was kind of a somber time,'' Lucas said. ''They just kind of walked out, and we went through the motions of things.''
Bradbary started with Akron Public Schools on Valentine's Day, 1997, and always worked at Sam Salem.
''That's quite a long time, in particular for a secretary to be in one school,'' said Elaine Marcius, who was principal at Sam Salem from the fall of 2004 through June of last year. ''Nancy was more of a mother-grandmother figure.''
Marcius, who is now principal at Forest Hill elementary school, said Bradbary was always polite with parents and visitors, whether in person or on the phone.
''Thank you, kindly,'' was what Bradbary would say, Marcius said.
She remembered one time when a father of a family that had moved out of the district came to the school looking for his child's immunization records.
''Well, because they had left the school district, nobody had those records inside their building,'' Marcius said. ''So she worked with the staff at information management to go into the computer archives and pull up that information and have it sent to the printer at Sam Salem school to hand to that dad.''
Bradbary was known for making extra efforts like that.
''It's that kind of an attitude or a demeanor that causes people to want to keep their children at that particular school,'' Marcius said.
She said Bradbary was extremely well organized and careful about how she presented herself and the school.
''I learned a lot from her, we all did, in how she handled herself and how she dealt with the public,'' Marcius said.
Calling hours are Sunday from 2 to 6 p.m. at Newcomer Funeral Home, 131 N. Canton Road in Akron. The funeral, also at Newcomer, will be Monday at 10 a.m.
''She was the guardian angel of that school, and there's great sorrow,'' said the school's namesake, former Akron school board member Sam Salem.