Carefully and Lovingly Maintaining Our Records
by Sherrill Gerard
Meet Judy (Berryman) McCombs, AHHS Class of ’62. Judy puts her organizational skills and passion for historical information to work collecting and documenting news of the passings of Heights alumni. Judy began helping out by doing data entry when the Association first organized, took on the job of Data Base Manager, then “kept the easy job” of Obituary Manager as the amount of data coming in grew and the task of data management became too much for one person. The Association maintains a database of AHHS graduates from 1922 to 2010. She reads the obituaries daily. Today, most deaths are reported by email. Judy verifies graduation year and other information before adding entries to the database and website. “When the first organization entered the lists for the classes it was for reunion purposes and no one thought to include their deceased lists. So that really evolved and continues to this day. I now have the obits--from the papers, programs from actual funerals that are sent in, emails with the news, letters, notes from phone calls, and whole page news reports in binders.”
The most surprising inquiry came from a man who wanted to know who had reported his death. “I assured him I just LOVED hearing his voice.” It was determined the source was a former spouse. This episode resulted in a new rule…Verify First. “I get letters from parents who request that their child be put in their class year although they died before graduation. My class lost nine classmates in one twelve-month period. There are times it can be very overwhelming dealing with this…but I know it is very important for future generations. It has been a fun labor-intensive organizing effort that takes just a few minutes every few days to enter. It is the easiest job and you get the satisfaction of presenting accurate information and interacting with other alumni.”
We exchanged some Q & A:
AHHS Alumni: How do you keep track of everybody?
Judy: First and foremost is to get it correct! Verify, verify, verify. I still have some pending before I will add them to the database or remove them.
(If you wish to report a death of an alumnus, provide as many details as possible—especially including class year, city and state where he/she passed, or mail a copy of the actual obituary.)
AHHS Alumni: Do your lists include alumni prior to the first class to graduate from the 1936 building?
Judy: One good historian finally gave me the correct dates for AHHS vs. Stripling. It was Arlington Heights High School from 1922 through spring graduation of 1927. From the fall of 1927 through graduation 1937, it was in the current Stripling Middle School building and called Stripling High School. Back to Arlington Heights in the fall of 1937 and in the building we all know and love through today. (The data base goes back to 1922.)
AHHS Alumni: How can the alumni assist you?
Judy: I want to thank all who are diligent in reporting obits daily from the papers or personal news. I would like to have a list of every class Data Keeper…the one person who keeps up with addresses and such who will notify me if they learn of an obituary. I would love to have a young assistant-in-training to pass this torch onto in the future so I can retire knowing the web posting and binders will be continued for future generations.”
Judy is married to Pat McCombs (AHHS Class of ’58) and lives in the country outside Aledo.
They have two married children, four grandchildren, and a yellow lab named Vera Carp.