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Franklin - Local Town Pages

Franklin Celebrates Ladybug Legacy at Historical Museum

By J.D. O’Gara
On Saturday, April 20th, the Franklin Historical Museum celebrated the 50th anniversary of the date Massachusetts Governor Francis W. Sargent signed the bill that made the ladybug Massachusetts’ state insect. One second-grade class from Franklin’s John F. Kennedy Elementary School, students of Ms. Palma DeBaggis Johnson, started the bug in 1974 to make the legislation happen. A number of the students, Ms. Johnson’s family and Rep. Jeff Roy joined the Franklin Historical Commission members and other Franklin residents to celebrate the day, which also marked the Franklin Downtown Partnership’s 2nd Annual Ladybug Trail Spring Walk.
Roy applauded the members of Johnson’s class for their efforts, noting that the ladybug bill, such as the Act Concerning Genocide Education which more recently passed, begins with a conversation. 
“Every single bill gets a hearing in the legislature, and I can tell you about 7,000 bills are filed each legislative session and of those 7,000, 300 end up becoming the law,” said Roy, who went on to cheer “an idea that started in a third grade (sic) classroom at the JFK Elementary School and brought up to the statehouse, what an amazing story…And to me the most amazing fact was that one of the kids in that classroom, Jim Vallee, went on to be the State Representative for Franklin for 19 years. You can’t make this stuff up.”
The retired principal of the Kennedy School who was there when Ms. Johnson and her class when they met Governor Sargent, came up from Florida to attend the event. He recalled, “If you met Governor Sargent, he was a real outdoorsy guy … He said, ‘You children did a helluva job on this,’ and Palma, being who she was, said, ‘Governor, you should not use that language in front of the children.’”
Palma’s daughter, Martha Polachi, noted that Palma’s “passion was teaching and educating the people of this community… It is no surprise that she and her 2nd grade class took on the task of passing legislature to make the ladybug the Massachusetts state bug, and forever left an imprint on the history of this town and state. Palma DeBaggis Johnson has gifted a lasting and meaningful legacy to this town and to all of the students of the Franklin Public Schools, but especially those at the JFK school. The Kennedy school mascot is the ladybug, the school colors black and red, the school sign includes ladybugs, and even the boulders in front of the school are painted ladybugs. Each time I see a ladybug in nature, on a greeting card, on clothing or any item, I think of my mother and her ladybug legacy. I hope you will, too.”