BY ELIZABETH WONG BARNSTEAD, THE WESTERN KENTUCKY CATHOLIC
Many people can say they owe a lot to their childhood schools – their education, friendships, and perhaps even inspiration for future careers.
Pam Nanny owes her very existence to the former St. Jerome School in Fancy Farm, which closed in 1985.
In a Dec. 5, 2018 interview with The Western Kentucky Catholic, Nanny said her great-grandfather had brought three of his daughters to Fancy Farm because of St. Jerome School. While the other daughters went their separate ways after graduating, one of them met and married a local Fancy Farm man.
They settled in Fancy Farm and raised 11 children, from which Nanny is descended.
“I wouldn’t be here today if not for the school,” said Nanny.
Five years ago this month, nine locations on the St. Jerome Parish campus in Fancy Farm were placed on the National Register of Historic Places.
This includes the St. Jerome School building, which opened and held its first classes in 1909. Currently, it is being restored to serve as a museum of school and local artifacts significant to the Catholic community in Fancy Farm.
The restored main floor of the school branches into several former classrooms. One classroom is set up as it would have been in days gone by, complete with vintage desks, chalkboards, a teacher’s desk and a mannequin dressed as a Sister of Charity of Nazareth.
Other rooms display interesting pieces of local history, including a vintage communion wafer press and an antique bank vault from the old Fancy Farm Bank.
Plans are underway to restore the second floor, but the St. Jerome School and Museum has already been used not just as a museum, but also as a venue for birthday parties, bridal showers, and reunions.
John Carrico, along with fellow St. Jerome parishioners Nanny, Andy Elliott, Gayla Elliott, Denis Wilson, and Bill Higdon, is a member of a committee dedicated to preserving the legacy of the St. Jerome School and Museum.
Carrico credited deceased pastor, Fr. David Willett, for spearheading the initiative to restore the building about a decade ago, and current pastor, Fr. Darrell Venters, for his support of the project.
“Fr. Darrell always supported us and still does,” said Carrico.
Andy Elliott explained that before they could do any renovations on the building, Fr. Venters required them to have raised $150,000 – and for it to be separate from any parish funds.
This stipulation was “critical to our success,” said Carrico.
While the privately-raised donations were crucial, Andy Elliott added that “we had a lot of support from people who donated their time” as well.
Wilson said he has high hopes for the future of the museum.
“As more and more people come in (to visit), we’re hoping people will think of it as a museum, and not just the old school,” said Wilson.
“We want people to know it’s here and they can use it,” said Carrico. “It’s their history.”
Originally printed in the January 2019 issue of The Western Kentucky Catholic.
Copyright © 2019 Diocese of Owensboro/The Western Kentucky Catholic