by Marcia Napier, Grain Valley Historical Society
Since beginning this series on Grain Valley teachers, one very special teacher keeps coming to my mind. I have many more “favorite” teachers and administrators in mind to research and write about, but I’m going to fast forward to a more current teacher. And yes, her roots are in Grain Valley. Erma Bumgardner Doty is definitely a “hometown girl.”
Erma Lorene Bumgardner was born on July 30, 1921 to Ona (Stephenson) and Byrl Bumgardner. You may recall that I wrote an article about Ona and her successful teaching career at Oak Hill School for Valley News back on April 25, 2019. While in grade school, Erma wrote an essay, The History of Stony Point, which is still used by historians today.
Erma graduated from Grain Valley High School in 1938. Her class photograph shows fourteen students along with Principal Noel Wilkerson (top photo, top left) and Superintendent Paul Farley (top photo, bottom right) Erma is the pretty young lady on the bottom left in the top photo.
That year the school published their second yearbook and the credits listed Erma as a typist. From that yearbook I also learned that a Commercial Department was added to our school with Mrs. Sarah Thomas as the first teacher and also the yearbook sponsor, but we’ll come back to that. I also learned that Erma’s favorite song was “You Can’t Stop Me from Dreaming,” which I find very applicable to her life. The “Mrs. Doty” I knew always encouraged us to dream big and then go out and DO IT!
Erma attended Central Missouri Teachers College. From her college yearbook I learned she was a member of Alpha Phi Delta, “the oldest honor organization for women on the campus. It offers membership to women who have a high scholastic average during their freshman year and who have shown desirable qualities of personality and leadership. The organization urges its members to participate in all of the college activities; social, departmental and the class organizations.” Something you may not know –Erma was on the synchronized swim team.
After graduation Erma returned to Grain Valley to begin her teaching career. She taught Commerce and sponsored the yearbook. The photo below identifies Miss Baumgardner (lower photo, bottom left) as sponsor of the Class of 1942. Adrian Fullerton (lower photo, bottom right) was the principal.
On September 17, 1946 she married Robert S. Doty. For many years Mrs. Doty was a stay-at-home mom raising her four children, Bob, Larry, Kathy and Dennis. Years later a fifth child was added when a Greek AFS student became a part of the family. Costas lived in their home while attending GVHS. Over the years the members (and friends) of the Doty family have visited Costas in Greece and/or Australia, his present home. Costas has made many trips to America and Grain Valley including attending his 50th year class reunion.
Mrs. Doty returned to teaching at Grain Valley in the early 1960s. Although I never had her as a teacher, she and her husband accompanied my class on our senior trip to a dude ranch in Mountain Home, Arkansas. We left on a Sunday morning, which happened to be Mother’s Day. We couldn’t believe she would leave her four children to be with us! I remember stopping for breakfast in Nevada, Missouri. While the others ate, Tom Woods and I walked around town until we located a flower shop (open on Sunday) and bought her a rose and a card from the class. She was so appreciative.
A few years later Mrs. Doty was able to get a job at the high school teaching her first love, Commerce! And yes, she sponsored the yearbook. Hundreds of Grain Valley students benefited from her knowledge and experience but more importantly her care and concern for the students she taught.
Visit the Historical Society to see Mrs. Doty’s school bell and the yearbooks and newspaper she helped her students produce!
Photo credit: Grain Valley Historical Society