Honoring family heroes

Thurston Middle School held its 30th annual PTA-sponsored “Oral History Luncheon" last week, in which 237 sixth graders delivered a brief presentation about their personal hero older than 50 to family members, school staff and many of the heroes themselves.

The three-day event drew more than 800 guests, one from Scotland, and included a family lunch followed by presentations.

In her introduction, language arts teacher and event coordinator Gay Pivaroff stressed the significance of such an event.

“It is so important to celebrate families and the generations before us," she said.


Students shared touching stories about their parents, grandparents, family friends and community members who they found interesting or inspirational, many of which brought laughter and tears to the audience.

Noah Rosen honored his grandfather Henry Rosen, a survivor of the Holocaust.

Rosie Burris shared a loving tribute to her late father, David Burris, who was killed in a car accident last September, leaving not a dry eye in the room.

Ian Detweiler’s hero was his grandfather Harry K. Detweiler, a member of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory who was involved with the Galileo and Pathfinder.


Rose Niermeijer shared her admiration for local patriot Donald Segner, a test pilot who worked in the Reagan administration. Ryan Gee paid tribute to his grandmother, a CIA analyst in the 1950s.

Mia Selvini invited her grandfather, Gill, to play a song that he wrote, titled “Water."

Other students talked about the amazing travels, professions, survival and accomplishments of prior generations.

Parent volunteer Christine Niermeijer said was impressed with the students’ “wonderful" speeches and the number of people who were connected to major events in history.

“It’s such a great thing [for the school] to do; it teaches the students so much," she said.

The students also created mobiles for the project, which contained picture histories of their heroes, in addition to writing a report for Pivaroff and their hero.

The Oral History tradition was started by teacher Diane Allen, now retired. Pivaroff loved the idea so much that she decided to take over 22 years ago, and she has been organizing the event with the PTA ever since.