Toy Fund gift honors memory of Frontier Regional teacher
NORTHAMPTON — The late Catherine “Petey” Peterson lived by three simple rules: Mow your own lawn for as long as you can, give as many gifts to others as you can and always send birthday cards to everyone you know.
According to her longtime friend Judith Averill, those rules are an example of Peterson’s thoughtfulness and generosity. She was a person who always found time to think of others, Averill said.
In that same spirit, Averill and her husband, James, of Amherst, decided to make a gift to the Sidney F. Smith Toy Fund in her honor. Peterson, who lived in Amherst most of her life, died in October, a few days shy of her 92nd birthday.
She had a long career as a French teacher at Frontier Regional School in South Deerfield, which was known as Deerfield High School when she began teaching there. Peterson eventually became head of the foreign language department.
Averill, who taught in the same department, recalled that during the holidays Peterson ran a French boutique at the school to raise money for the department’s extracurricular activities. She escorted several groups of students to Europe over the years, and also served as cheerleading coach.
“She was absolutely devoted to Frontier,” Averill said, noting that that devotion encompassed not just students but also faculty and staff. “She epitomized the idea of family.”
Peterson, who was single, would remember the birthdays of each member of the school’s staff, and never failed to deliver a card. That tradition continued even after Peterson retired in 1984. Often she would include a small handcrafted gift or ornament.
“She just was the bedrock of the school in a lot of ways,” Averill said.
Peterson also helped organize Grace Episcopal Church’s annual St. Nicholas Christmas Bazaar in Amherst for many years, Averill said.
Averill recalled that a casual comment about how much James Averill loved bread-and-butter pickles led to a tradition: Peterson presented him with a jar of the pickles every year thereafter. “She was always thinking of the other person,” Averill said.
The Daily Hampshire Gazette’s Sidney F. Smith Toy Fund provides certificates redeemable at participating local retailers to eligible families who can use them to buy holiday gifts through Dec. 31. Named after a former business manager at the Gazette, the fund began in 1933 to help families in need during the Depression. Today, the Toy Fund distributes certificates worth $40 to families for each child from age 1 to 14. Eligible families must live in any Hampshire County community except Ware, or in the southern Franklin County towns of Deerfield, Sunderland, Whately, Shutesbury and Leverett.
Berkshire Children and Families in Hadley verifies the income eligibility of families. Most families who receive assistance are referred by social service agencies. The Gazette covers all costs of the Toy Fund.
The following stores are participating this year: A2Z Science and Learning Store, Northampton; Deals & Steals, Northampton; Faces, Northampton; F.J. Rogers, Florence; JCPenney, Hadley; Mountain Goat, Northampton; The Toy Box, Amherst; Wilson’s Department Store, Greenfield; and Target, Hadley.
Donations to the Toy Fund may be dropped off at or mailed to the Daily Hampshire Gazette, 115 Conz St., Northampton, MA 01060 or Gazette offices at 67 Main St., Easthampton, or 9 East Pleasant St., Amherst.
Checks should be made payable to the Sidney F. Smith Toy Fund. To donate to the Toy Fund online, visit toyfund.gazettenet.com
Bob Dunn can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.