June 24, 2018
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Longtime Bangor nursery school owner dies at 95

By Dawn Gagnon, BDN Staff

BANGOR, Maine — A Bangor woman who prepared generations of children for their educational careers at the nursery school she ran for nearly three decades died Tuesday at age 95.

Leona J. Clukey ran Mrs. Clukey’s Nursery School out of her home for 27 years, from 1946 through 1971, her son Robert Clukey of Bangor recalled Thursday evening.

He said his mother waited until he started first grade to open the nursery school in the family’s Elm Street home. When the family moved to Essex Street around 1960, the school moved there, too, he said.

In the school’s first two or three years, Clukey’s mother would pick up and drop off her young charges in the family car, he said. In later years, she entered an agreement with a local taxicab company, which took over the transportation end of the business, he added.

On Thursday, Leona Clukey was remembered as a woman who made her mark on Bangor’s early education scene.

“It was a wonderful school,” Wilma Bradford of Bangor said Thursday. Bradford said all four of her children attended, as did a granddaughter.

“At the time she started [the school], it was right after the war and everybody was having babies, boom, boom, boom,” Bradford said. Many of the city’s couples who had been waiting until after World War II to start their families began making up for lost time, some having two, three, four or more children in quick succession, she said.

That was about the time that Clukey founded her nursery school, one of few such institutions in Bangor at that time.

“It wasn’t all that expensive, and the kids had a wonderful time,” she said. The youngsters also learned a few things.

“A kindergarten teacher once said to me that she could tell which [of her students] went to Mrs. Clukey’s because of how well-prepared they were, and how well-adjusted,” Bradford said.

Bangor Daily News Graphics Editor Eric Zelz was among the hundreds of Bangor children who attended the nursery school over the decades.

He said that despite a rocky first day — “It was the first time I’d been away from home, Mother, Dad and my brothers” — he quickly settled in and looked forward to riding the pedal cars, including a firetruck with a little bell, that Clukey kept on hand in the era that predated Big Wheels.

“It was a very nice place. It was great, and she was a sweet lady,” Zelz said. He said that each year, the school held graduation ceremonies, and each graduate was required to do a presentation.

“Mine was ‘I’m a Little Tea Pot,’” Zelz recalled with a chuckle.

A graduate of Bangor High School and Beal Business School who also attended the University of Maine, Clukey was married to Robert Clukey Sr., who predeceased her. She was a mother of one, a grandmother of three and a great-grandmother of two.

A memorial service is scheduled for 2 p.m. Saturday at Brookings-Smith Funeral Home at 133 Center St. in Bangor, according to her obituary, which appeared in Thursday’s Bangor Daily News. A family graveside service will be conducted later in the spring at Woodlawn Cemetery in Brewer.

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