Six years ago, Alma Driscoll hosted an open house in the library and media center that was named in her honor at the Maria W. Chapman Middle School in Weymouth.
A few years shy of her 100th birthday, she greeted former pupils who arrived to celebrate a sparkling room that through her prodding and fund-raising had been renovated and updated, and was home to scores of new books.
Despite the passing of decades, she knew by name those who had grown from children into middle age or beyond. They remembered her, too, and could never forget the phrase that adorned a sign under the clock in her classroom, a saying now incorporated into a stained glass window that decorates the library:
“Time will pass, but will you?”
A middle school English teacher for more than four decades and a legend in Weymouth for much longer, Mrs. Driscoll died Jan. 27 in Southwood, a nursing center in Norwell. She was 102 and had lived in Weymouth all her life, until moving to Southwood last fall when her health was failing.
When she turned 100 in 2010, friends held a celebration in the Alma Driscoll Library and among the speakers was one of her former pupils, Mary Jo Livingstone, who was then Weymouth’s schools superintendent.
“We learned so much, but what I want to thank her for the most is teaching us all, but me in particular, to write,” Livingstone said during the April 6 gathering, which was recorded in a video that the Patriot Ledger of Quincy posted on YouTube.
“Before it was fashionable, we learned rigor in our classroom,” said Livingstone, who died in 2011. “We learned to write, we learned to speak in public.”
Mrs. Driscoll and her late husband, Wallace, had no children, “but she always said she had over a thousand,” said Claire Donovan of South Weymouth, who for the past dozen years helped Mrs. Driscoll keep living in the home she and her husband had shared, and assisted her on trips around town.
The pupils who became Mrs. Driscoll’s de facto children spanned generations in Weymouth. Among them was Jack Curran of Weymouth, who sat in her classroom during the 1960s.
“She constantly challenged you to do better than you had done,” he told the Globe at her 100th birthday celebration in the library. “She believed in you so much, you believed in yourself.”
In March 2010, as her milestone birthday approached, Mrs. Driscoll was as enthusiastic about her profession as she had been when she first stood at the head of a classroom in the early 1930s, during the Great Depression.
“I loved teaching,” she told The Weymouth News. “It gave me constant contact with youth. Teachers become part of the community.”
Mrs. Driscoll was a longtime parishioner at St. Francis Xavier Church in South Weymouth, and after Mass often took her morning meal out on the town.
“She never missed a breakfast,” Donovan said. “She loved going to Friendly’s or Bob’s Muffin Shop in South Weymouth, and she couldn’t go anywhere without everyone knowing her.”
Born in Weymouth, she was the only child of Thomas Roche and the former Susan Barrett, said her cousin Philip Merten of Weymouth.
“Her father died when she was 10 years old,” Merten said. “He died of the influenza at that time, and her mother had to go to work for a good many years at Stetson Shoe Company here in town.”
Mrs. Driscoll graduated from Weymouth High School and from what is now Bridgewater State University.
She met Wallace Driscoll, who became a teacher in Brookline, after he had moved to Weymouth. They were married 44 years, Donovan said. Mr. Driscoll died in 1981.
“They had a very good life together,” Merten said.
For Mrs. Driscoll’s pupils, learning wasn’t confined to the classroom. To teach children about Henry David Thoreau, she took them to Walden Pond in Concord. To better grasp the plays of William Shakespeare, she took classes to performances at Harvard University.
Through such efforts, Mrs. Driscoll “made really strong connections with her students,” Livingstone told the Globe in 2010 at the 100th birthday celebration in the school library.
“When I was graduating from high school, I had to give a speech,” Livingstone said.
“I remember I brought it to Mrs. Driscoll to review, even though I hadn’t had her for more than five years. I could have gone to my English teacher or the chairman of the department, but I went to Mrs. Driscoll.”
A funeral Mass was said in St. Francis Xavier Church in South Weymouth at the end of last month for Mrs. Driscoll, who in past years had spent decades as treasurer of the Weymouth Catholic Club and served on the board of the local education foundation.
At the church, she helped launch a program that provided meals and Christmas presents for the homeless, and was among those in the community who helped poor families remain in temporary housing at a motel when they faced eviction nearly 25 years ago.
“We wanted people to know that our community cared,” she told the Globe in June 1988.
And the community, in turn, cared about her, too.
“Everybody loved her,” Donovan said. “From the neighbors to the teachers to the people in the church or the people in the square, she couldn’t go anywhere without people stopping to talk to her. She’s a legend, that’s just what she is. She’s a legend.”