Hammonton's Angela Hernan-dez had a doctorate in education and was running her own private school in Cuba when Fidel Castro's Communist revolution swept it all away.
Castro came to power in 1959 and immediately took over the Catholic schools, she said. In 1961, he took other private schools, too.
"A lady entered and said, 'From this moment, this school belongs to the people of Cuba,'" said Hernandez, now a youthful-looking 91. "Nothing could be touched."
Even the $200 in Hernandez's purse became government property.
So Hernandez and her husband, Daniel, who also had a doctorate in education, decided to leave the country. They had two young children, and wouldn't risk an illegal boat trip to the U.S.
Instead, they applied for permission to visit Spain, saying Angela Hernandez's dying grandfather wanted to see her. (He had died years before, but the government didn't know that.)
The Catholic Church aided them in Spain, and they emigrated to the U.S. in early 1963, first doing sewing and custodial jobs. Then Angela Hernandez became a substitute teacher in Hammonton while taking education courses for her teaching certificate at then-Glassboro State College.
Later in 1963, she was the first teacher hired by the Hammonton School District to teach Spanish-speaking children, and taught Spanish there for about 30 years. Eventually, she earned a master's degree in reading from Glassboro.
Her husband taught Spanish in Egg Harbor City, she said. He died in 1984.
Her eldest son, Otto, lives in Hammonton. Her daughter and younger son, who was born in the U.S., live in New York City and northern New Jersey.
"She is a tall, graceful lady and puts us 'youngsters' of 65-plus to shame in exercise class" at the Canoe Club, said friend Kay Oberempt, of Hammonton.
Hernandez hasn't been back to Cuba, and doesn't plan to return, she said. Most of her family escaped the country, and the only thing she really misses is the climate, she said.
Junior Theatre awards
Upper Deerfield Township middle school students in the Woodruff School ACE music program did well at the Junior Theatre Festival in Atlanta last weekend, program director Spencer Lau said.
The group received many awards, including two All Stars awards - one for Excellence in Ensemble, and the inaugural Sharidan Giles Technical Award in Theatre, won by Desmond Martinez, Lau said.
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