Thirty-one years conjures plenty of good memories for Always Friends Preschool & Childcare.
For Joan Kusy, it was her dream come true.
She started the business in 1986 after convincing her mother, Sally Kusy, to invest in her idea.
“I had a good job at Shasta School,” the mother recalled on Thursday at preschool facility located at 907 DavisStreet.
Generations of families have been products of Always Friends Preschool & Childcare, which is closing its doors on Aug. 25.
“We had our last graduation on June – we also had a goodbye barbecue,” said Joan Kusy, who was still tending to a half-dozen youngsters during their afternoon nap time.
That was a far cry from the heydays of Always Friends Preschool. “At one time, we had a 100 plus kids – but not all at once,” he noted.
The capacity of the child care program is 53.
Joan Kusy spent most of her life working in preschools. She started in 1983 at a Head Start program in Modesto before a business proposal came along that would change her life.
Joan not only convinced her mother on the plan, but eventually most of her family as well.
She’s the director of the program while her brother, James, is the associated director. Her mother handles the finances and niece, Haley Kusy, is one of the teachers.
Her father, Joe Kusy – or ‘Chief,’ as he’s known, according to his wife Sally – did various jobs around the place including the installation of the double doors at the front entrance. He recently had a major stroke, causing Joan, who also has health issues, to finally step away from the business.
“This was not an easy decision,” Joan Kusy said.
Always Friends Preschool was originally located at St. Mary’s Episcopal Church. About five years later, the Kusy family happened along the property next door to the Department of Motor Vehicle.
At the time, the building was a duplex.
“We had a lot of people who worked (on the building) during the evenings and weekends, including family, teachers, and people from the preschool,” Joan said.
From August to December 1991, the duplex was finally converted into a preschool.
In January 1992, Always Friends reopened.
One of the reasons Joan Kusy wanted to start up her own preschool was that she wanted to emphasize the educational development of youngsters.
Many have come away knowing how to read and write their names. One of the recent lesson plan included learning of the planets in the solar system.
Kusy also wanted to accommodate those parents of children who had to commute or work long hours.
She remembered coming up with the name of the preschool during a study session. “I was looking for a name that would be first in the phone book,” Joan said.
Little did she know, that name would become appropriate.
“We know of six or seven groups who have remained friends throughout the years. They’ve come from here, to elementary school, high school and even college,” said Joan Kusy said.
She had a few familiar faces stop by for a recent a visit.
“They were two girls (ages 12-13) who remembered how much they loved our Tater Tot casserole,” Kusy said.
She and her mother will occasionally run into a number of parents and former students of the preschool.
“They’re always amazed that we remember them,” Joan said.
Sally Kusy noted that some of the Always Friends family have even been ‘adopted’ by her family.
“We should have called (the preschool) ‘Always Family,’” she said.
To contact reporter Vince Rembulat, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.