By Robert Lucke
For the more than 800 former kindergarten students of Miss Donahue, they will be happy to know that not only is she well and happy, but that today she is celebrating her 100th birthday in her home at the Eagles Manor!
Marguerite Donahue was born and raised in Minnesota. As a young girl, she came to Havre to visit a favorite sister, May Graham. She liked the town and did not want to leave her sister so began teaching first grade in the Havre schools. A little later she started her own kindergarten in a tiny house in an alley between Fifth and Sixth Avenues in the six hundred block.
The tiny school is still there, a house these days. And it was the beginning of Havre education for many five year olds from around 1945 to at least 1970.
Donahue was ill last year and her memory is selective about many details of her life, but her wit and good humor make up quickly for a lack of dates and details.
"I do remember that my brother had bought that building that I used for a kindergarten," said Donahue. "It did the job and I just lived a few blocks away so it was really good for me."
Donahue started teaching in the Havre schools, but with one taste of kindergarten behind her, that was all it took for her never to return to any other kind of school.
"I enjoyed my work so very much. The youngsters were so little and they were always trying to do such a good job for me. It was just such fun to teach them," continued Donahue.
She knew just how to handle kids.
"At times I had college students in and I kidded my children about how people liked them when they were good and would say nice things about them. That was all I needed to ever say," added Donahue, laughing. "I never had a bad day. Those kids really tried to please me. I would start out strict with them for the first two weeks and then I never had to worry. They just took it for granted that they would try hard and please me."
In later years Donahue moved her kindergarten to a vacant room in a Havre school, but those early days in the tiny building on the alley are very real to her today.
She tried to please her children as well. When Santa Claus came to visit Donahue's kindergarten, he had knowledge of one thing about each child in the school that he could share with that child, causing one boy to exclaim to his mother on the way home from a Donahue Christmas program, "Oh, Mama, finally I have met the real Santa Claus. He even knew I couldn't put my overshoes on by myself!"
Santa's helper in Donahue's kindergarten was as often as not, Havre pioneer attorney, Jess Angstman, Sr.
These days Donahue is frustrated with all the ice and snow on Havre streets. She fell a couple of times, leading her friends to insist that she not venture out until spring. Usually her trips take her to the post office and all over downtown Havre each day.
"I like to meet people all over town. They know me better than I know them," related Donahue, smiling. "This spring when I am in better shape, I'll go out again. You know it takes more than a couple of falls to knock me out!"
Think of it. Well over 800 Havre kids had the benefit of Miss Donahue's wit, wisdom, and knowledge in over 25 years of kindergarten.
Donahue sums it up best.
"I did pretty well, didn't I?"
From one of Miss Donahue's class of 1946 comes the answer. "You bet you did!" Happy Birthday!