Hazel and Art Clauter of Geneva have spent more than 30 years in a one-room schoolhouse. But not as students or teachers. The Clauters, now in their 90s, are longtime volunteers at Pioneer Sholes School, the 1872 one-room schoolhouse in LeRoy Oakes Forest Preserve.
"Acting as board members, attending many open houses, and raising funds for restoration and maintenance are other jobs taken on by this very giving couple," said Deanna Banner, Pioneer Sholes executive director.
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Visit Pioneer Sholes and Durant HouseWant to visit Pioneer Sholes? The 1872 one-room schoolhouse will be open to the public from 1 to 4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, Feb. 15-16, along with its neighbor, the Durant House Museum. The "Fireside Family Fun" event will include vintage games and costumed docents in the 1843 Durant House, and junior docents, music, refreshments and crafts in the Pioneer Sholes School. Admission to the Durant House is $2 for adults and $1 for children ages 3-12; Pioneer Sholes admission is free, but donations are accepted. Both are at 37W700 Dean Street, about a half-mile west of Randall Road in St. Charles. Visit ppfv.org or pioneersholesschool.org.
But even the most dedicated volunteer eventually needs to move on, and in August, the board of directors overseeing the school, received a letter from the Clauters announcing their retirement. At its annual meeting on Tuesday, the board made a small presentation to honor Hazel and Art Clauter for their many years of dedicated service to "our special little treasure in the woods," as Banner puts it.
According to Banner, it all began in 1979 when Hazel Clauter, then a third-grade teacher at Lincoln School in St. Charles, took her students on a field trip to LeRoy Oakes Forest Preserve in St. Charles. Upon seeing the 1872 one-room schoolhouse set in place on its new foundation after having been moved from Burlington, Hazel was hooked.
Art jokingly says he started volunteering after he retired from the Wrigley Corporation and Hazel was already volunteering there.
"She was gone all day and I needed to find out where she was going," Art Clauter said.
Banner said the couple has acted as docents, sharing history and old school lessons and lore with visitors.
"(Art) would dress up in overalls and I would wear a black skirt," Hazel Clauter recalls.
Board members will miss the Clauters' dedication and involvement, but hope new volunteers will also step up.
"Everyone involved at Sholes is very sad to accept their resignation from the board, but the board understands that at the age of now 95 it's time to let others do their part," Banner said.
"It's a shame to leave it because we liked it so much," Art Clauter said. "We liked all the kids and they loved it too."
"I'm sure they will continue to do good work there. The board has got really good people."
Daily Herald staff photographer John Starks contributed to this report.