September 2, 2023
McElraths Honored By Jamestown High School Class Of 1980
Visitors to Strider Field this fall will notice bright new benches near the concession stand dedicated to two beloved members of the Jamestown Public Schools family.
Nearly 30 years after his retirement as principal of Jamestown High School, James McElrath Sr. will still tell you he — and his family — “bleed” red and green.
McElrath served for 18 years as the lead administrator at the high school following six years as the principal of Jefferson Middle School. During his time at JHS, he played an instrumental role in developing and improving the athletic facilities, including the gymnasium that bears his name, christened so in 1994 after a student-led effort to name it in his honor. He also worked with Chautauqua Striders to help develop Strider Field.
And though she passed away in 2009, his beloved wife Marianne’s dedication to the community stood just as tall: for 40 years, she dedicated her life to counseling and mental health, serving 14 years as the clinic director for Chautauqua County Mental Health before her retirement in 1996.
For that, upon her passing, the JHS Class of 1980 dedicated a bench at the Martin Road Athletic Complex in her honor. As the class was planning its “60th Birthday Party” last summer, a few members of the organizing committee came up with an idea — refurbishing Mrs. McElrath’s bench and adding another one to celebrate the career of Mr. McElrath as well.
“Mr. McElrath was a big part of our class and his son Mike was in our class, and Mrs. McElrath was beloved throughout the community,” said Josie Monfort, a member of the Class of 1980’s reunion committee. “We noticed that Mrs. McElrath’s bench was getting a little worn and that we could get one for Mr. McElrath and replace Mrs. McElrath’s, so the idea came from that.”
The plaques on each bench state:
“Reflections Bench In Memory of Marianne McElrath – Who Uplifted An Entire Community. Placed By Friends & JHS Class of 1980.”
“‘Meet Me At The Bench’ Reflections Bench In Honor Of James McElrath, Sr. Placed By JHS Class of 1980.”
On hand for the presentation in early August was Mr. McElrath and members of his family: Karen, Amy, Mike, and Maggie.
“It is so nice to be here with you,” McElrath told the group. “I am honored and humbled at the same time. I’ll be 88 next month and I feel as if I could still be your principal. It was 43 years ago that I spoke to you at graduation and at the graduation at Chautauqua, I said to you: you will be successful and every one of you has been successful. I remember you very well as evidenced by tonight and what’s more important: you remember me by this. I thank you.”