Alumni Feature – Anna (Perron) Doherty, Class of 1973

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Anna pictured with her Irish Wolfhound, Myles, taken at her current home in Nashville, TN.

Upstate New York is a major character in the story of the life of Anna (Perron) Doherty and Little Falls is the heart of that character.  She carries the land, the people and the spirit of her experiences growing up there everywhere she goes and thinks about some aspect of it every day.  Here is her story…

I grew up in the house my great-grandfather built on Loomis Street.  Four generations of my family lived in that house and two grew up there.  One of the very magical things about that house is that it was in a neighborhood, but behind it there were acres of land, fields, woods and wilderness.  My grandparents (William and Marie Clarke Perron) kept the part they owned clear to plant vegetables, plums and even a grape arbor.   My Irish grandmother kept chickens.  My mother and father (Joseph and Mary Perron) kept up the tradition of fighting back the trees and scrub plants and, as a family, we continued to plant gardens.  My dad and I planted a spruce right next to the one he and his dad had planted when he was a boy.

My mom was careful in choosing the couple she sold the family home to after my dad passed away and every time I see it, I am so grateful to them for keeping it in such beautiful condition.  It was too much for that couple to continue to fight back nature in the rugged fields beyond so the fields have gone back to forest, but it looks every bit as good as it did when each generation of my family lived there.

When I went back for a visit in 2014, I carried some ashes of the “dog of my life,” Willie, my beloved Irish Wolfhound who had just passed at the ripe old age of eleven.  I wanted to sprinkle them on the grave spot where the three Mickeys and Lady and all the generations of our family dogs were buried.  But the trees were too thick.  I tried to make it to the seedling (now a giant tree), but it was too slippery so I had to settle for another spot.  It was beautiful to look through the thick woods and see the acres my family had cultivated for so many years transformed into such an enticing and mysterious wonderland.  In the old days, I would have traipsed the field to the stone wall where our ownership ended and this would have been just the beginning of the journey up the trails to the top of the hill to all of the beautiful farmlands.  It was a lovely part of the world so many of us – kids, dogs, grandparents, parents and friends – crossing generations easily in so many expeditions used as our paradise.  Our great-grandparents, grandparents and parents fought the wilderness back by hand with scythes so they could use what they needed.  But they loved most, as did my son and I, what was beyond.

I was the kid who needed a young nun to help my mother pry my tiny hands from the painted pipe fence surrounding the front lawn of St. Mary’s Academy to get me in the front door the first half-day of kindergarten.  The ordeal included pleading, negotiating, the rattling of the long, black, wooden Rosary beads of one of the Sisters of St. Joseph’s finest, and some motherly spittle to clean up my tear-stained face.  I did succeed in being the last one seated in my tiny wooden chair.

So how did I go from that to having retired recently from thirty years of working with kids and teaching English to high school seniors?  Little Falls High School is the answer.  In the early seventies, Little Falls High School moved from West Main Street to its current location up on the hill.    It was a brand new facility featuring “open concept” classrooms and a curriculum that rivaled those of many small colleges.  Students were able to choose from genre and author literature courses such as Contemporary Literature and Shakespeare, specialty areas such as Audio-Visual Studies and Agriculture, science classes in Ecology, and many electives even including Independent Studies in disciplines and projects to explore subjects which interested us more deeply.  Our principal, Mr. Robert Huyck, took time from his busy day to teach several courses in Education.

One of the courses offered was an Independent Study of the students’ choosing.  I chose to do one in Irish Literature.  This subject has remained an area of interest to me throughout college, grad school, my career and life.  As a result, I won two grants as a teacher to study in Ireland with world-renowned scholars of Irish authors, particularly Yeats and Joyce.  I was a member of an intimate Creative Writing workshop with my favorite poet, Seamus Heaney, the year he won the Nobel Prize for Literature.

One member of the class behind me stayed on for a fifth year in high school to continue his advanced apprenticeship with the Audio-Visual Department.  As a result of being able to delve more deeply into this area of science while still in high school, another member of my class studied Marine Biology at the famous Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution on Cape Cod.  Students were truly engaged in the learning process.

But curriculum was just a part of this grand experience.  Every school day began with “Forum.” The entire student body gathered in the auditorium to hear and make announcements, bring up subjects of interest, receive awards and accolades, vote on proposals, and say the Pledge of Allegiance before we began our classes.  We had a voice.  We also felt united with our administration and teachers.  Our school was famous in the field of education all over the country for its innovations.  Students were proud of Little Falls High School as we led teams of visiting educators on tours of our brand new facility and participated with them in retreats to further educate them on our unique learning community.

Under this wonderfully progressive model, off I went, with my fellow classmates, to bring some aspect of this magnificent dream to the rest of our lives.  I chose to become an educator.

I graduated from Kirkland with a degree in Literature and a certification in English 7-12.  I lived in Clinton for the next decade, working at the Neighborhood Center in Utica, teaching at the House of the Good Shepherd in Utica, Ilion Junior – Senior High School and Rome Free Academy.  During this time, I sang and played music with several bands, performing Irish music, (as I did growing up in Little Falls), Americana and my own material and finally, jazz and big band with Puttin’ on the Ritz.  I loved when we played in Little Falls and my mom and my old friends would come to the performances.

I commuted to the College of St. Rose, sometimes twice a week, to get my Masters degree, while I was a single parent, often working an additional job evenings or weekends while I taught during the day.  My son decided he wanted to attend Boston Latin Academy where his dad was living, so he took the entrance exam and was accepted.  I waited a year to make sure that was really where he wanted to be, then loaded a truck with my furniture and my Labrador retriever, Maggie, and moved to Nashville – yet another American city built upon the shoulders of immigrants.

I have had as much success in the music business as I ever wanted, although I am still doing some songwriting and get up and do a guest spot from time to time.  I got a job playing Irish music two weeks after I arrived in 1988 and I did that for four years.  My husband of nearly seventeen years is my first Nashville bass player from that gig.  I have played and sung with some amazing folks.  I even opened for Waylon Jennings.  But I have also taught school here for many years.   Growing up in a city with such immigrant roots and influences truly prepared me for working with the diverse student populations I have taught in the last twenty-eight years.  Nashville has the largest Kurdish population in the United States, but we have many folks from all over the globe as well.  My son, who also ran those woods behind my family home, is now the first attorney on either side of the family.  He works as a chief prosecutor to protect the public from crime in a major city.  (One of my high school teachers is his godfather.)

My last name is Doherty because I was adopted. After my parents passed, I looked for and found my birth family and several Doherty siblings.  I am still in touch with many of my Little Falls friends and still close to my first friend in life from Loomis Street.  One of my earliest memories is of the two of us, with her brother, eating M&M’s on her grandparents’ porch across the street from my family home.

I know that things have changed since I grew up there.  But my Little Falls – the land, the people and the spirit of my experiences — is the solid foundation of who I am, and those things remain, not only with me, but with those who came before and after me.  The trees may have grown to the backyard but the forest is beautiful and the shoulders of the immigrants we all stand upon are still strong.  We all must look beyond.

Anna currently resides in Nashville with her husband, Jacob M. Mayer, Jr., while her son, Joseph F. Janezic, III, lives in Massachusetts with his wife, Amy, and their two daughters.  He is an Assistant District Attorney for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and Chief of the Suffolk County District Attorney’s Office’s Gang Unit.

The Little Falls High School Alumni Network’s Where are They Now series was initiated in January of 2015.  This feature highlights individuals who have enhanced their lives and/or the lives of others using the foundation of the education they received at LFHS or St. Mary’s and the family values they developed while growing up in Little Falls.  Success isn’t always defined by financial achievements.  Many people find personal satisfaction by giving back to their communities, organizations or to others in general.  Those on the receiving end of these heartfelt contributions may consider this person in the highest regard as well.  With this being said, we are looking for individual nominations of Little Falls alumni who have made a difference in the lives of others as well their own.  Before submitting your nominations (to AlumniLFHS@gmail.com), please confirm your nominee is currently registered on the Little Falls Alumni Website as this is also a requirement.
Thank you and we look forward to reacquainting with our fellow classmates.

About AlumniLFHS@gmail.com

Chiropractor, Santiago Chiropractic Associates, Lake Hiawatha, NJ. Director of Alumni Communications, LFHS Alumni Network.

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