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TCPS Education Foundation Event Honors Alumni

The Talbot County Public Schools Education Foundation hosted the fifth annual “Mission Possible – Celebrating TCPS Alumni and Supporting Teachers” fundraiser on Friday, November 17 at the Oxford Community Center.  The event included a cocktail reception catered by Garden & Garnish Caterers and Pirates Cove Oyster Co., and opportunities to support the foundation’s grants program.  Mr. James Redman and Mrs. Eleanor “Tot” O’Mara, Easton High Class of 1967, served as Master and Mistress of Ceremonies. The purpose of the event was to recognize distinguished alumni, celebrate public education, and raise funds, awareness, and support for the Education Foundation. 

Dr. Sharon Pepukayi, Superintendent of schools gave welcoming remarks, expressing appreciation for the community’s support. “Thank you for all joining us for an evening of connection, partnership, and celebration of ALL things POSSIBLE through Public Education! I hope you enjoy learning about some the innovative ideas and opportunities featured in our grant gallery.”

“Our Distinguished Alumni are selected based on their outstanding accomplishments, their commitment to giving back to their communities, and their belief in and support of public education,” Dr. Pepukayi explained. “Mrs. Andrew, Mr. Turner (my Dad), and Ms. Thomas, tonight we honor you!”

Following a thoughtful and engaging introduction from Mrs. O’Mara, each honoree shared personal testimonials about the many ways that their Talbot County Public Schools education impacted their lives.

Mrs. Della M. Andrew – Easton High School, Class of 1955

A lifelong resident of Talbot County, Della M. Andrew grew up in Landing Neck, and attended Trappe Elementary School and Easton High School, graduating in 1955.  She enlisted in the U. S. Navy, serving at the Great Lakes Naval Training Station and the Jacksonville Naval Air Station as an electronics technician.

After completing her military service, Della returned to Talbot County and began working at Thompson Motors as titling clerk/bookkeeper.   She married her Easton High classmate Herbert L. “Herby” Andrew III on July 14, 1962.  Della and Herby lived at Knightly Farm, then Galloway Stock Farm, before purchasing North Dover Farm in 1964.  Herby and Della continued to operate the dairy and grain farm until Herby retired in 2012.  Herby passed away following an automobile accident in May 2017.

Della earned an AA degree in General College Studies from Chesapeake College in 1982, a BS degree in Elementary Education in 1984 and a MEd in December 1989 from Salisbury University (Salisbury State College).  In 1974, Della began working at St. Mark’s Preschool, where she continued to work for five years.  After she received her BS degree, she worked at Easton Day Care Center, Inc. (now CACC) from 1984 to 2001, and was the Executive Director beginning in 1988. During this time, she served on numerous committees, councils, and local boards. Following her retirement from Easton Day Care, Della provided training for family child care providers in Talbot County through the Chesapeake Child Care Resource Center at Chesapeake College, and later provided resources for Caroline and Dorchester family child care providers.

Raised in Grace Lutheran Church, Easton, Della transferred to St. Mark’s United Methodist Church in 1962 at the time of her marriage.  Della has served the Talbot County community as a volunteer throughout her life. She has been a Sunday School teacher from September 1970 to present and was chair/treasurer of the St. Mark’s Missions Committee from 2004 to 2020.  She also served on the church’s Education Committee, Council on Ministries, Administrative Board, and Finance Committee during various years. Herby and Della started the Busy Beavers 4-H Club in 1976, and she is still a volunteer leader of the club.  She has been recognized as a Maryland 4-H Lifetime Volunteer.  Della served on the advisory boards of the Chesapeake Child Care Resource Center and Healthy Families Queen Anne/Talbot.  She served on the Board of the Talbot County Department of Social Services for eight years, and the Shireton’s volunteer Board of Managers as Secretary or Treasurer or both from 2007 – 2020.

As a couple, Herby and Della were true pillars of the community.  They faithfully attended local events together, supporting non-profits such as Habitat for Humanity Choptank, Talbot County 4-H, and the Frederick Douglass Honor Society.  Herby served on the Talbot Bank board of directors beginning in the spring of 1977, and the Shore Bancshares, Inc. board from 1996 to 2014.  He was elected to the Talbot County Council for 16 years. He also served on the Pickering Creek Environmental Center board and was a charter member of St. Mark’s United Methodist Church (originally from Ebenezer Methodist Church) along with many other councils/boards.  In addition, he was a member of the American Legion Post 70 and the Talbot County Farm Bureau.  In 2010, Herby and Della established the Andrew Family Foundation at the Mid-Shore Community Foundation, which will eventually include two of the three farms she owns.

The Andrews are very proud parents of two grown children who also attended Talbot County Public Schools, Roy Lee Andrew and Nancy Lee Andrew.  Della resides in Easton at Bayleigh Chase, where she continues to volunteer.

Mr. Edzel L. Turner – Robert Russa Moton High School, Class of 1958

Edzel Turner, is a native and resident of Bellevue, Maryland, a small village across the Tred Avon River from Oxford. He graduated as Salutatorian from Robert Russa Moton High School where he was Editor of the Class of 1958 Yearbook. Mr. Turner earned a Bachelor of Science in chemistry from Morgan State College (now University), received an ROTC commission as a Second Lieutenant in the U.S. Army, and following college, served as an artillery officer near Frankfurt, Germany.

After military service he was employed as a Laboratory Technician with the U.S. National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, MD, and later as a Personnel Staffing Specialist at the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture in Washington, DC. Edzel left Agriculture in 1970 to join the Bellevue Seafood Company, a family business where he served as Vice President. There, he helped manage the seafood plant and also at times worked on his boat harvesting clams, crabs, oysters, as well as carried patrons as a charter boat fishing captain on the Chesapeake Bay. He recently appeared in the Maryland Public Television production; Waters Edge: Black Watermen of the Chesapeake. After selling the seafood business property, he was employed with The Whalen Company as a computerized machine operator until his retirement in 2007.

Mr. Turner has served on the Talbot County Board of Education and was Vice Chairman of the Talbot County Board of Appeals. Furthermore, he worked for the U.S. Census Bureau during the 2000, 2010, and 2020 Census. He is an active member of Union United Methodist Church in St. Michaels, where he has served as Finance Chairman, President of the Methodist Men, Lay Servant, choir member, and trustee.

Additionally, he has served as President of the Talbot County Christian Men’s Alliance, is a member of the NAACP, the Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, and the Covenant Gospel Choir. He also was treasurer for The Bay Hundred Covenant Churches, the Wye River Beekeepers, and is currently treasurer of the Eastern Shore Chapter, Morgan State University Alumni Association.

Mr. Turner and his wife, Lillian, a retired Caroline County school teacher, celebrated their 59th wedding anniversary last month. They are the proud parents of Talbot County Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Sharon Pepukayi; her sister, Mrs. Deborah Ellis, principal of Minnieville Elementary School, Woodbridge, VA; and brother, Mr. Michael Turner, Vice President of Sales and Operations of Global Logistics Consulting Services, Inc., Lakeville, Minnesota. The Turners have 6 grandchildren and also as of last month, one great-grandchild.

Ms. Marlene R. Thomas – St. Michaels High School – Class of 1980

Marlene R. Thomas, a lifelong St. Michaels resident, and 1980 graduate of St. Michaels High School has been an Early Childhood Advocate for over forty years. She believes that a strong foundation in early education will prepare children for success in their later years.  For the past 37 years she has been employed with Critchlow Adkins Children’s Centers, formally Easton Day Care Center, where she has served as the Director of the St. Michaels Site since 1990. Prior to joining CACC, she was employed with Talbot County Public Schools for five years as an Instructional Assistant.   

Marlene achieved an AA degree in Early Childhood Education from Chesapeake College (Phi Theta Kappa) and a BS degree in Human Ecology from the University of Maryland Eastern Shore (Golden Key Honor Society).

Under Marlene’s leadership, the St. Michaels Branch of CACC was accredited for the first time in 1992 by the National Association for the Education of Young Children (N.A.E.Y.C.) It was re-accredited in 1995, 1998 and 2001. Marlene led her site to becoming accredited through the Maryland State Department of Education in 2007.  It was re-accredited in 2010, 2014 and 2018.

In 2002, Marlene received the Talbot Family Network’s Community Service Award and a Governors’ Citation for her dedication to prepare students in Talbot County to enter school ready to learn.

She is a past member of the Talbot County Childcare Association, Talbot County Department of Social Services board, Talbot County Public Schools Citizen’s Advisor board, St. Michaels Community Center board and the Talbot Family Network board which she re-joined in 2017 for two three-year terms ending in June 2023. Marlene currently serves on the Talbot County Free Library Board and the Christmas in St. Michaels Board.

As a member of Union United Methodist Church in St. Michaels she currently serves as the Administrative Council Secretary, SPPRC Member, Choir Member, Finance Chair, Children & Youth Ministries Chair and a member of the United Women in Faith.  

Other community activities include- Singing with the Covenant Gospel Choir, Maryland Spirituals Initiative Choir and volunteering for the St. Michaels Running Festival.

Marlene is the youngest of three siblings and the only girl. She has one son, Brian M. Acree, Jr. who is also a graduate of St. Michaels High School and a 2004 graduate of Chesapeake College with an Associate’s degree in Criminal Justice.  He has been employed with Acme for 21 years and is currently Dairy manager. Marlene’s step-daughter Jennifer Fital, is a customer service supervisor for the U.S. Postal service and resides in Pennsylvania with her husband Michael and two sons, Michael III and Dominic.  Marlene has over twenty nieces and nephews and enjoys being “Aunt Marlene”.  In her spare time, she loves traveling, spending time with family and watching sports. 

David Short, Education Foundation Chair, acknowledged the many volunteers and sponsors who worked together to make the event happen. “On behalf of the entire Education Foundation Board I would also like to thank Buck Duncan and the Mid-Shore Community Foundation team for their support and guidance, and the invaluable resources they provide to the entire community.”

“We also thank the Grayce B. Kerr Fund and members of “the band”, who provide consulting and design services,” Short added. “Both of these organizations have transformed the capacity of the Education Foundation.”  The list of event sponsors included Dock Street Foundation, the Educational Systems Federal Credit Union, Easton Utilities, Shore United Bank, and Mid-Atlantic Waste Systems.

Following the Alumni recognition, a teacher grant “auction” was held. Six teachers presented grant proposals so that guests could make donations in support of their projects.  The grants ranged across multiple grade levels and academic subjects as follows: Free Voluntary Reading Library for Heritage and Native Speakers, Easton High; Leaders of Equity and Diversity Enrichment Program, St. Michaels Elementary; 6th Grade Math Manipulatives, Easton Middle; St. Michaels Middle; Career and Technical Education Outreach and Senior Recognition, Easton High; St. Michaels Middle High; Engineering Collaborative Workspace, Easton High; Instrument Requests for Band, Easton Middle.

By the end of the evening two of the grants were fully funded and all of the remaining four had received some financial support.  The education foundation is still accepting donations designated for any of these projects.

The Talbot County Public Schools Education Foundation was established in 2016 in partnership with the Mid-Shore Community Foundation.  Its mission is to support public education in Talbot County by raising and distributing funds to fulfill needs and opportunities inspired by TCPS educators and students.