Over 40 retired teachers, family members and friends gathered at the Livingston Parish School Board Office on Monday to honor those who dedicated their lives to teaching in the parish.
The Livingston Parish Retired Teachers spoke about the 12 educators who died in 2012, each lighting a candle in their memory.
Monroe Easley, a retired teacher and principal at Holden School, is remembered fondly among many.
He was born Oct. 4, 1934, and died Jan. 9.
An online memorial book at Harry McKneely & Son Funeral Home is filled with entries paying tribute to Easley.
Livingston resident Vickie Barber wrote, “Mr. Easley was my homeroom teacher when I was in school, and we all had great respect for him.”
Another former student, Ed Norred, wrote that Easley taught many students and gave them values that cannot be taken away.
Student Alan Crnko remembers Easley as a wonderful teacher in the early 1970’s.
“He taught me to do it right or not at all,” Crnko wrote.
“He always told me to persevere through hard work and have some fun while you do it.”
To this day, Crnko still has many projects he made in Mr. Easley’s shop class.
“I look at my projects now and think ‘hey, these are pretty cool.’”
Crnko also wrote how much his former teacher loved to laugh and how he knew how to motivate his students to work hard.
Retired teacher Alton Leggette described Easley as a dedicated educator and a wonderful man.
“It is an honor to a light a candle in Mr. Easley’s memory,” Leggette said Monday.
On Jan. 23, Livingston Parish lost another great educator of 55 years.
Barbara Del Wilkinson Hill was born September 26, 1934.
After receiving her teaching credentials from Southeastern Louisiana College in 1957, she began her public school teaching career.
She taught at Denham Springs Elementary School until she was promoted to the supervisory responsibility of Curriculum Coordinator for Livingston Parish Public Schools, helping teachers at schools throughout the parish.
Retired teacher Evelyn Holden, a close friend, remembers Hill as always having a positive attitude.
“She was a natural born teacher and leader,” Holden said.
Holden said she remembered Hill checking the garbage after lunch to make sure children ate their vegetables instead of throwing them away.
Hill’s husband, Bob, said she loved all her students but gave special attention to the “underdogs” in her classes.
“She was drawn to help students who came from broken or dysfunctional homes who needed that extra bit of love that seemed to be missing from their lives,” Bob said.
Bob remembers reading notes children had written his wife that would bring tears to her eyes.
“She really empathized with them and the life fate had given them,” Bob said.
“She was willing to give them the encouragement that they needed so desperately.”
Hill retired in 1990 after 32 years of teaching.
Hill also taught Sunday school to children and adults at First United Methodist Church in Denham Springs. She worked as a counselor with the United Methodist Youth Fellowship and with the senior adult group Young At Heart for many years.
One of Hill’s daughters and one of her granddaughters also became educators.
Hill was the second of four generations in her family who taught in the Livingston Parish School System.
Walker Junior High School was a dream that turned into a reality due to the hard work of Frederick Randall Mack.
Mack passed away on Feb. 18 at the age of 85.
He retired from the Livingston Parish School System in 1979, after working as a teacher and principal at Live Oak High School and Walker Junior High School.
Retired teacher Lanell Dugas shared her memories of Mack when she taught at Live Oak.
“He was the only teacher at that time who didn’t have gray hair,” Dugas said Monday.
Dugas also said she remembered another fellow teacher, Maggie Graham, who would blush each time Dugas entered the room.
“These two teachers were married for 60 years,” Dugas said.
Maggie said her husband believed in discipline and always made sure to never waste any time in his classroom.
Maggie recalled a remark from students after her husband became principal of Walker Junior High.
“The kids would say, ‘Watch out, here comes Detective Mack!’”
Maggie also recalls a long night of hard work before her husband had to return to Live Oak as principal when the current principal went on leave.
“We stayed up until 2 a.m. making sure all teachers and students would have their schedules ready by the first day of school,” Maggie said.
Audrey Tyler Underwood Chambers was born Jan. 8, 1911, and died April 30.
Chambers’ obituary states that the greatest joy of her life, besides her family, was having the opportunity to teach young children to read and write.
Chambers taught for 42 years, 37 in Livingston Parish schools and five years at Central Private School.
She graduated from Live Oak High School in 1929 as valedictorian of her class. After graduation, she attended Normal College in Natchitoches, where she received her teaching certificate.
While teaching, she went to night school and summer school until she obtained her bachelor’s degree in education from LSU.
Retired teacher Pat Pope said Monday that even at age 100, Chambers’ mind always stayed sharp.
“She taught English to my youngest son,” Pope said.
“She taught different grades, but she mostly taught kindergarten because the youngest ones always held a special place in her heart.”
Her joy of teaching extended to Amite Baptist Church where she enjoyed teaching Sunday school.
Patricia Thigpen Wagner Kennedy was a kindergarten teacher at Freshwater Elementary School for 23 years.
Also known as “MeMe,” Kennedy was born on Jan. 25, 1952, and died on June 12.
Another teacher at Freshwater, Rhonda Miller, remembers Kennedy fondly and signed the Memory Book at the Seale Funeral Home website.
“She was truly an angel from God who will be missed,” Miller wrote.
Pleasant Wilkerson Sibley Jr. was born on April 30, 1927, and died on July 28.
He was a retired teacher at Frost School, a former basketball coach and a veteran of the Armed Forces.
His obituary states he was a faithful servant of God, the Church and the Community. He served as choir director, lay leader, and treasurer of his church, a volunteer for the Boy Scouts, a leader of the District Youth Team and a registrar at Camp Istrouma.
Retired teacher Marlene Lee said she knew Sibley from Walker United Methodist Church.
“He could sing, play the piano, and if the preacher wasn’t there, he would get up and preach himself,” Lee said.
Lee said she will always remember him as a man of many talents who was generous and compassionate.
June C. McIntyre of Springfield taught at Frost School for two years in the early 50s.
She was 84 when she died on May 15.
Retired teacher Linda Hoover said she remembered Wilson Abels being the principal of Frost around that time.
“Mrs. McIntyre later taught at Prescott Junior High in Baton Rouge for 18 years where she taught geography, or as we call it now, social studies,” Hoover said.
After McIntyre retired, Hoover said she moved to a country home outside of Springfield with her husband, Amos, who later preceded her in death.
“She enjoyed all things that a life in the woods and on a the farm has to offer, as well as woodworking projects with her husband, and craft painting,” Hoover said.
Frances Graves LaFleur retired from the Livingston Parish School System with 33 years as a teacher and administrator where she was loved and admired by those whose lives she touched, according to her obituary.
She died Nov. 16 at age 63.
Retired teacher David Tate said LeFleur was well liked and respected by everyone at Live Oak High.
“She realized that everyone at school played an important part of children’s lives, including bus drivers, cafeteria workers,” Tate said.
“From the lowest to the highest paid person at the school, she always made each person feel like they were needed.”
LeFleur graduated from Live Oak High and Northwestern State University, where she was a member of the first women’s basketball team. She received her master’s degree in education from Southeastern Louisiana University.
A former student of LaFleur, Colby Ton, shared his memories of her in the Memory Book at the Seale Funeral Home website.
“I sincerely enjoyed her beaming smile and kind heart every time I saw it when walking down the hallways of Live Oak High. You could tell she had a genuine interest in her students, and she had a significant impact in my life,” Ton wrote.
LeFleur was the sister of former Livingston Parish Sheriff Willie Graves, who was in attendance at the teachers’ memorial.
Anna Belle Tolleson was 92 when she died on Nov. 21.
Tolleson earned her master’s degree in education from Louisiana State University in 1973. She completed 30 hours towards a Ph.D. in education and was certified in guidance.
She retired from teaching after many years of inspiring, challenging and delighting her students, according to her obituary.
She was a member of the First Baptist Church of Denham Springs, Daughters of the American Revolution, Phi Lambda Pi Honor Society, Denham Springs Campers’ Club, Les Amis Ville Club (Old Friends Club) and Denham Springs Bridge Club.
Retired teacher Janelle Carter said she went on many camping trips after retirement with Tolleson and Tolleson’s husband, Bill.
“During one camping trip in Loranger, a group of us got on our electric scooters to explore the campground, when we stopped at a grocery store to get a snack,” Carter said.
“Bill told the man who worked at the store that we had all escaped from a nursing home in New Orleans, which made everyone laugh, mostly Anna.”
Carter also said she remembered how much Tolleson loved playing Bridge because she liked to make up the rules as she played.
“I will always remember Anna as a very active and fun person,” Carter said.
Mary Elizabeth Sharp Orr was an educator in both public and private schools in East Baton Rouge and Livingston parishes.
She was born June 13, 1940, and died on Nov. 22.
Orr’s husband, Glen, met his wife while attending college at Louisiana State University.
“She was a good looking redhead,” Glen said.
Orr taught many subjects including English, Business and Computer Science.
“She taught at Denham Springs High School when they only had one computer from Radio Shack,” Glen said.
Glen said his wife continued to teach at Community Christian Academy after her retirement.
“She came from a family of educators, including her mother and aunt,” Glen said.
Glen recalls a student that his wife taught who would go to sleep at his desk as soon as he came to class.
“She was determined to keep an eye on him each day to make sure he never fell asleep,” Glen said.
According to her obituary, she walked closely with her Lord, devoting hours to Bible study and prayer each week.
She taught various age groups in Sunday School throughout her life. She was also a church organist beginning in her teenage years. She worshiped at Hebron Baptist Church.
Retired teacher Patsy Addison said Monday that she and Orr had children around the same age and would often take turns baby-sitting.
“She is now in the loving arms of God,” Addison said.
Pope also spoke about another teacher who was also her cousin, Charles Dixon.
“He was a resident of French Settlement and was a retired computer engineer,” Pope said.
“He only taught school for a brief period of time after graduating from SLU at age 19, but he had fond memories of being an educator. Teaching was in his blood.”
Pope also said on Monday that today was Dixon’s birthday.
Last but not least, Dugas also spoke about an educator/coach who is remembered by most in the parish, John Leslie McDowell.
McDowell was part of the last two Denham Springs High School boys basketball state championships, first as a player, then as a coach.
He had been inducted in the Yellow Jacket Hall of Fame as an inaugural member in 2011.
McDowell was born Nov. 11, 1930, and died Dec. 15.
He was also an army veteran and the retired owner of McDowell Construction Company.
The memorial ended after Dugas proudly held up a framed picture of McDowell with the 1956 Denham Springs High School Basketball Team.