Alumni Spotlight

Mary Forner Yoxall Class of 1943

Jan Bernath Class of 1958

“Jan Bernath was born in Chelsea in 1940 at the private hospital located in a house at 138 East Middle Street. The house was lovingly restored by John and Jackie Frank, and is now on the National Register of Historic Places.
Jan was a member of the last class to graduate from Chelsea High School in 1958 when it was located on Harrison Street, a street on which she currently resides. She returned to Chelsea after being away for 47 years.
Jan is the president of the Chelsea Area Historical Society and enjoys writing about the historic buildings in town. She facilitates a group of seniors at the Chelsea Senior Center who write about their memories. She wrote this piece in response to the writing prompt “the road not taken.” Jan encourages others to write about that which they know best – their lives!”

The Road Not Taken

I wasn’t unique in not taking the importance of pursuing a profession seriously in the 1950s.
Going to college was a given when I graduated from Chelsea High School in 1958, but not all
females grew up in a house where that was an expectation or affordable. My dad dropped out
of high school six months before he was to graduate having concluded that he was smarter than
his teachers. My mom went to Michigan State Normal College (now Eastern Michigan
University) for two years to earn a teacher’s certificate and taught for several years before she
married. When Mom and Dad married, she had to keep it a secret or she would have had to
leave her job immediately. Was that because marriage meant children would most likely follow,
and women couldn’t handle both a job outside the home and raising a family? Why didn’t her
male colleagues live under that same rule? I suspect this was an expression of the cultural
norm that men were responsible for supporting families financially while women took care of the
children and managed the family. I grew up where roles were clearly defined.

My chosen field of study was Speech and Hearing Pathology and during my senior year, I and
two other female students in the program were summoned to speak collectively with the
chairman of the department. He appealed to us to study for a Master’s degree, but this
assumed we were focused on our careers. It wasn’t required for certification, and I remember
thinking: But, whatever for? Why would I do that? My goal was to ensure that I could fend for
myself should my husband die. Clearly, I was on the “just in case” route.

I graduated from MSU in 1962 – one year before Betty Friedan published her book The
Feminine Mystique. I didn’t fully understand her message about female agency.
I wasn’t unique when I followed the PhD degree – putting my husband through graduate school
for his PhD. When I chose this path, my only consideration of where to work and live was
based on what school would provide my husband with a program that interested him: snow
hydrology – that means measuring runoff from snow as it melts. And so we ended up in
Edmonton, Alberta, Canada where the wind swept prairie defines what one can do at least six
months a year.

I plugged our car into a pole with electricity so the engine block heater would warm the engine
to start the car in the morning. I drove to work on square tires. Our car had an orange flag tied
on top of the antennae to ensure that it was seen over the snow piled at least six feet on the
median of the road. Even in the city the streets had ruts made by tires that created a
treacherous luge-like ride. I shopped on my Friday lunch break hoping the eggs and lettuce
wouldn’t freeze before I got home that evening. I knew that the meat and ice cream wouldn’t

Edmonton was where I learned different perspectives from the international graduate students
at the University of Alberta. I met people from Scotland’s Isle of Skye, Ireland, Sweden,
Germany, England, Australia, and New Zealand. They challenged my belief that the US was the

greatest country on earth, and the Canadians looked south for social ills that they could not see
in their own country. The students I met opened my eyes to what was happening in Vietnam in
the early 60s before the US protests took hold. I learned these valuable viewpoints early in my
life while hitched to someone else’s dream and for that I am extremely grateful.
Nevertheless, I often wonder how different my life would have been had I seriously pursued my
chosen profession with more purpose, drive and direction. During that nascent time of the
women’s movement, I was an observer. Indeed, other women blazed the trail and added new
lanes of possibilities for my daughter and granddaughters. And for that I’m extremely thankful.
Thanks, sisters!

Rayma Smith Atkinson Class of 1963

Where do you now live? 

I live in Castle Rock, Colorado with stunning views of the Rockies, wildlife, and interesting cloud formations.

What was the most impactful experience at Chelsea High School?

The most impactful experience at Chelsea High School was developing the love and respect for our fantastic new campus (our class of 1963 was the first class to attend the new high school for all four years). The move from the “old school” that housed both junior and senior high to the new was exciting for so many of us. The auditorium, lounge, cafeteria, beautiful gym, and all the other amenities brought a great sense of pride.

What did you love about going to Chelsea Schools?

I loved developing a sense of curiosity and having the freedom to explore that through the choices of classes and the terrific teachers who embraced us in that journey.
Who was your favorite teacher?

Wesley Cowell, teacher of chemistry, algebra, advanced algebra, and trigonometry, was my favorite and he probably was sick of my face by the time I took all of his classes. His loved all things “Peanuts” cartoon and had a very sly sense of humor. He was charming, effective, and beloved by so many of us.

What do you do now?

I’m a retired R.N. who took up a paint brush and canvas some 40 years ago. I’m a self taught painter who has had works juried into The Toledo Museum Of Art, been associated with a number of galleries, been featured in various magazines, and have created corporate and private commissions. My children and grands are a big part of “what I do now.” My memories from those Chelsea childhood days means I can teach them hopscotch, play marbles, go snipe hunting, fold the American flag properly, and be home by the time the street lights come on. Chelsea, thank you!

This painting, “Oak Grove Goblins” was done to raise money for Faith in Action in Chelsea
Wayne Welton Class of 1972

CHELSEA – One of Michigan’s most accomplished high school baseball coaches is now being recognized on a national stage.

Former Chelsea head coach Wayne Welton will be inducted into the American Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Fame. The ABCA made the announcement on Wednesday.

Welton spent more than 30 years coaching the Bulldogs and became the Ann Arbor-area’s winningest coach with 767 wins, including a Class B state title in 1991. Welton also earned 13 Southeastern Conference titles and eight regional championships during his tenure.

The Chelsea native also served as the school’s athletic director for more than two decades and spent 10 years as the director of baseball at the University of Michigan. Welton returned to Chelsea to serve as the interim athletic director earlier this year.

Welton also won the MHSAA Allen Bush Award for contributions to high school athletics in 2006 and earned the Michigan Interscholastic Athletic Administrators Association Jack Johnson Award for distinguished service in 2017.

Chelsea named its baseball field the Wayne R. Welton Field in 2018.

Welton was inducted into the Michigan High School Baseball Coaches Association in 2003 and will now join nine other inductees from across the nation in the ABCA class of 2024.

The new class will be inducted in January of 2024.

Dr. Dirk Colbry Class of 1992

Where do you now live?

Okemos, Michigan

What was the most impactful experience at Chelsea High School? 

There are so many wonderful things about my time in Chelsea Schools.  For example, my high school classes (especially calculus) really helped when I went to college as an engineering major.  I also fondly remember being in band and being on the swim team.  However if I were to select the “most” impactful experience it was the amazing friends that I made.  We are still friends today and meet over zoom every month from across the country.  I love them all. 

What did you love about going to Chelsea Schools?

I feel truly privileged to have been able to go to school in a community that strongly supports education, and offers some of the best opportunities for students in the nation.  The size of the school is also perfect, not so small as to be unable to find your own niche and peer group but not so big as to get lost in the noise.  

Although I was never in the “cool clique” I never felt that the tropes we see on TV applied to our school.  The cool kids were extremely nice and  inclusive, and I felt supported by everyone despite the fact that I was an odd duck and didn’t always fit into the typical plan.

 Who was your favorite teacher(s)?

This one is also hard, I had so many.  Here are a few stories that come to mind.

Mr. Jolly, our swim coach, was an amazing teacher/coach and friend.  At the time he didn’t seem young, but looking back I realize that he wasn’t much older than we were and that meant we could really relate to him and he truly wanted us to be successful as students, as swimmers and as people. His encouragement was from the heart and I truly value the friendship that we formed over the four years I worked with him. Thank you Mr. Jolly. 

Early in my academic career I wasn’t much of a student, especially in elementary and middle school (mostly Cs and Ds).  I was in the “essential skills” courses and never really thought of myself as a “smart kid” (probably due to my undiagnosed dyslexia).  

I took English with Mrs. Craige.   She had a policy where we could earn extra credit for every page of journaling we wrote.  I needed the extra credit (it was English, after all) and I felt I was so clever “hacking” the system by writing 2-5 pages in my journal every night, filling up whole notebooks with my writings.  She would just smile and give me the points; now I understand the value of all that journaling, which truly improved my language skills and to this day my personal journal is something I maintain as a valuable way to center my life.  Thank you Mrs. Craige. 

In eighth grade, I joined the yearbook because I loved photography and really wanted a DLSR camera.  My parents thought this was an expensive purchase and in the eighth grade said if I could get all As they would buy me one.  This was the motivation I needed, and I worked really hard that year. The course I struggled the most was taught by Mrs. Brown, and I was crushed when I didn’t earn an A. I remember Mrs. Brown sitting me down and showing me the grade book and why she could not give me an A, which was such a loving and supportive gesture.  She didn’t have to explain herself or she could have just given me an A since I was so close. However, she showed me what I earned, how close I got, and explained that raising my grade would require her to raise other student’s grades, which was not necessarily fair.  It was very memorable and I learned that with hard work I could get good grades and I was the one earning them. They were not being given to me. Thank you Mrs. Brown. (My parents gifted me the camera at my next birthday – thanks, Mom and Dad!)

Although he was not one of my classroom teachers, I remember a day when I was walking to class at the high school (in those covered outdoor hallways) and Mr. Mead started walking next to me.  He mentioned he was looking at my grades and said that if I just put in a little effort I would be able to graduate with honors.  It was this little push that let me graduate 15th in my class of 149 (top 10% if I round) and also really let me believe I could excel in my dreams of becoming an engineer.  Thank you Mr. Mead!

I am grateful to all of my other teachers.  Chelsea had the best of the best, and I would not be the person (and teacher) I am today without their support, encouragement and their character to model.  

What do you do now?

I teach and do research in the Department of Computational Mathematics Science and Engineering (CMSE) at Michigan State University.  My job combines my interest in computers, math and teaching and it is truly a dream job. I do research in machine learning and get to teach programming and experiential learning courses, such as the Data Science Capstone. 

Chad Livengood Class of 2001

Where do you now live?

Howell, Michigan 

What was the most impactful experience at Chelsea High School? 

Playing upright bass through my middle school and high school years had a profound impact on my education. Playing a musical instrument did not come naturally for me. There were some failures along the way. But I look back on that experience as foundational to my education: Learning how to learn something new, practicing and challenging myself to get better at a skill. That hard work and determination is a transferable skill that has helped me throughout adulthood and my career as a journalist in newspapers, social media, television and radio. 

What did you love about going to Chelsea Schools?

Growing up in a tight knit community is something I have come to cherish as an adult and parent. The Chelsea community sets Chelsea schools apart from other public schools.

Who was your favorite teacher(s)?

Jed Fritzemeier and Bill Coelius 

What do you do now? 

I’ve been a professional journalist for 18 years, working for multiple newspapers across three states. I am currently the politics editor and a columnist at The Detroit News. 

Kelly Bertoni Class of 2016

Where do you live now?
 I live in Ann Arbor, Michigan.
What was the most impactful experience at Chelsea High School? 
Though challenging to pick a most impactful experience at Chelsea High School, I look back fondly at my time spent in various music ensembles. From Marching Band to the Chelsea House Orchestra to Company C Show Choir to Jazz Band to concert settings and full orchestra performances, I was able to grow in my love and appreciation for music and the performing arts. In addition, these groups allowed me to make lasting friendships and learn valuable life lessons.
What did you love about going to Chelsea Schools?
Since my time graduating from Chelsea High School, I have been reminded of how truly blessed and fortunate we are within the Chelsea School District. Having access to incredible teachers, musical opportunities, top-tier athletic programs, extracurriculars, and perhaps most importantly a supportive community and peers is something that not every school district has. While I didn’t always realize it at the time, something that I have come to appreciate more and more with time is how the Chelsea Schools, especially the educators and people who shared their time and talents, helped prepare me for next steps and further form my interests and passions – many of which are the same ones that I hold today!
Who was your favorite teacher(s)?
All of them of course! In all honesty, I can remember all of my teachers from kindergarten with Mrs. Plank to my senior year of high school math classes with Mr. Mitchell – and I am grateful to each and every one of them!
What do you do now? 
I am a Development Coordinator for the University of Michigan Health System/Michigan Medicine Development. I am a part of the team that fundraises to support C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital and Von Voigtlander Women’s Hospital, the programs, research, and initiatives taking place there, and the incredible faculty that are providing the best possible patient care every day.

Larry Doll Class of 1974

Larry Doll, CHS Class of 1974, contacted me several months ago offering to donate his father’s World War II era Chelsea Yearbooks to the Chelsea Alumni Association. As odd as it might sound, no longer burdened with the yoke of employment, my free time can be limited. Finally, on a warm fall day more than a month ago, we met up at Zou-Zou’s and had a pleasant chat and Larry handed me the books. A 1942, ‘44, ‘45 and 1946 in excellent condition. Well, here it is another month later, snow has fallen and I’m just getting to acknowledging this very nice gift.

The Doll family has been Chelsea area residents since 1864 when Larry’s ancestors bought a farm located on Heim road west of Chelsea. The farmhouse is thought to have been built in the 1850’s. In 1964 the Historical Society of Michigan placed a 100 year centennial sign at the farm and in 2015 that sign was upgraded to recognize 150 years of family ownership. Donald Doll, Larry’s father and original owner of the yearbooks would have graduated in 1945 but shortly before the school year ended he joined the Navy. When Donald returned home he married Therese Lyons, CHS Class of 1946. The Lyons family owned a shoe store on Main Street for many years.

That Chelsea High School diploma was a goal that Donald didn’t forget. He went to work and earned the sheepskin which was awarded by the Chelsea School District. Anne Treado Mann, CHS Class of 1975, handed Donald his long sought after diploma.

Thank you for the gift and a chance to learn more about our

town and its past Larry Doll.

Jan Bernath Class of 1958

Jan Bernath graduated from Chelsea High School in 1958 which was the last class to graduate from the building where the Schoolhouse Apartments are today. In 1959 a new High School building was opened which is now the Washington Street Education Center.

Jan is currently President of The Chelsea Historical Society and is on the board of the Chelsea Alumni Association.

Jan shares her experiences of playing women’s basketball in the days before women in sports were taken seriously.

Jan relates –

I have a limited pool of experience when it comes to playing sports. I played girls’ basketball at Chelsea High School from 1954 to 1956.

Girls’ basketball started at Smith College in the late 1800’s as a way to provide exercise for its young, women-only population. Yes, girls played the game differently than boys did. Why was this ? At the time it was thought women “ were too fragile “ to play two halves at a fast pace.

What did that mean ?

Were we without much stamina ? This was addressed by having four quarters with breaks.

Were we thought to be more likely to fall given the fast pace of the game ?

Could our easy access to our emotions cause crying when making a mistake ?

Could girls having a period make play slow and stress players and who therefore would not play to their potential ?

We had rules that definately slowed the game down.

We played only half court basketball with only three girls on half the court gaurding the goal against three forwards from the other team. The guards could only pass the ball to each other and eventually over the centerline in the middle to the forwards on their own team. And, only two dribbles and steps could be taken before passing the ball. Only three guards could do this before passing it off to the forwards on the other side of the line.

Once over the centerline, the ball was thrown among the three forwards to try to hit the basket. This, of course, had to be done with only two steps before it was passed off to another forward or a shot was taken on the basket.

The frequent stopping and starting was an effective way to slow the game down for the fragile players.

At the beginning of the season, when players had new shoes, there was a lot of squeaking going on because of the frequent stopping and starting. Not that the squeaking bothered too many people because nobody came to the girls games. Not even the parents or brothers or sisters. Some boyfriends came to watch, but certainly the gym didn’t fill up the way it did with the boys’ games.

At a practice in my freshman year, someone “ passed “ the ball to me and I must have missed the catch or it was thrown poorly. Anyway, it hit me squarely on my nose. I remember seeing stars before me as I fell back against the clay tile wall. Since I didn’t fall down or bleed much, the injury wasn’t deemed dangerous. In fact, my mother didn’t think it warranted a visit to the doctor. My black and blue face was the only indication that something had happened, so I was judged school-worthy the next day – only my embarrassment hurt.

Several years later I needed to have a physical and it was only then that my broken nose was discovered. A referral was made to an Ear, Nose and Throat physician and he was able to detect something I already knew – my breathing was impaired. I remember being in the dim hallway and waiting by myself to enter the surgery room. The room was blazing bright for only a minute before nothing…..

Back in my hospital room the anesthesia quickly wore off leaving me with a throbbing head. My nose was tightly packed leaving me with the worst pain I had ever known. When I followed up with the surgeon to remove the packing in his office, I was dealt a phsycological blow. Only then did I learn that the work I had just endured was the first of two surgeries needed for the repair. I decided I didnt care if I had a deviated septum and looked a little off kilter. In fact I didnt want to play basketball ever again so I claimed I was, indeed, too fragile for the game. Just as they said at the turn of the century.