“I have met and seen angels wearing the disguise of ordinary men and women living ordinary lives.” by Traci Chapman
The Learning Center is bustling and the students are engaged in a variety of learning activities. The energy is coming from the combined efforts of Angela, Markki, and Marguerite. Markki and Marguerite are volunteers who are providing a tremendous service to the Learning Center. If possible, I will provide more detailed information next week on these two outstanding teachers serving in Copey.
The students have been busy developing their version of “travel brochures” which helps to develop knowledge and awareness of different parts of the world. While identifying popular locations and landmarks such as the Statue of Liberty, the brochures helps the students develop their vocabulary about transportation. This activity turned out to be a big hit with second and third grade students.
This has been an unusual year of mourning over the loss of many dear friends who have been part of my life for many years. Last Friday, Ms. Lawrence, my first grade teacher passed away. She joins three prior students who have also passed away this year. Ms. Evelyn Lawrence was the first grade teacher for two of these students as well. Ms. Lawrence would have reached age 100 in November.
In my hometown of Marion, Virginia, for southwest Virginia and beyond, she has become an icon, a celebrity, a historical figure, and for many of us, a National Treasure. The majority of us still living, who attended Carnegie Elementary/High School, were blessed to have Ms. Lawrence as our first and second grade teacher. Her formal teaching covered nearly 40 years in the classroom. But her classroom was not limited to a school building. Everywhere she was, she was teaching something about life, respect, personal accountability, and dignity to others. When she retired from formal teaching, she hit a higher gear and became an important historian of the Black community and school, a community advocate for education, and staunch supporter for many social and educational causes. We all stand together in honor of her extraordinary life and service. We are united in our belief there could be no finer teacher of life and a teacher for a lifetime. The accumulation of her life’s work without doubt will continued to be honored in many shapes and forms as time passes.
The photo was taken in July 2014 when I presented her a bouquet of flowers on behalf of my family as an expression of our gratitude and thanks. She was the pianist for both memorial services for our mother and brother held in Marion in 2013 and 2011 respectively. Fortunately, Ms. Lawrence and I enjoyed a long talk during our visit at the reunion. I spoke of Ms. Lawrence in the July 16, 2014 Post “Farewell Tours”. (Visit the Post)
A very comprehensive study titled “A Portraiture of Evelyn Thompson Lawrence” by Donna Reneé Clifton, a graduate student from East Tennessee State University, documents Ms. Lawrence’s life from start to finish. It is a “must read”. You will learn so much about her life during segregation and post segregation in a very special community. You will come to know and understand the more subtle and not so subtle educational challenges and struggles faced by a community trying to balance love and respect/prejudice and hatred. Ms. Lawrence will teach you well.
Also, last week we observed the second full year without our Mom. It is an old cliché but truthful nevertheless, that time moves on with or without you and that memories really can be precious. It still feels like yesterday when we agonized over the Seattle Mariners losing ballgames, Gordon and Earnhardt not winning races, and the troubles of Tiger Woods. We still miss her at the dinner table when we have our annual seafood feast. It is now an annual memorial dinner in memory of our mother and brother, John. We delight in preparing and serving Maryland crab, oysters, cod and other variety of fish to special guests we know fully enjoy such a feast. A feast Mom certainly enjoyed.
There are still thankfully, those little things we say and do almost daily which keep her memory fresh. Just late last week my sister told me that Mom’s dishes had been found in her garage. These dishes were the center of many discussions with Mom. These dishes were very special to her and we had been in charge of taking care of them. Not knowing their whereabouts was a problem. Therefore, it was a dreaded subject and we would break out in a cold sweat whenever Mom asked if the dishes had been located. Well, after two years, we are resting more peacefully now that we have eyes on these special dishes. Is it a coincidence they were found at this time when we recognize Mom’s “Going Home” day? Mom, for the record, Patty lost those dishes…not me!
I am certain Mom is pleased with the work we are doing with the Anne G. Broady Scholarship Fund. I am sure her pleasure would be doubled knowing Dr. Lin Church is a significant part of its success. She would be very grateful for your generosity while still wondering how did this all come to be. It was her life and her generosity that has inspired us to pass on the wonderful gift of giving. Paying it forward or “livin the givin” impacts lives in ways we can not measure. I wish Mom and those kids at the Learning Center could have experienced this project together.
In closing, it is clear that we had the best Mom there could be. It is also clear that we had the best teacher with Ms. Lawrence to get us started on our educational journey. Both women had a great passion for life and for serving others. They were not alone. Many of my aunts also served in the field of education and shared the same passion and dedication Ms. Lawrence demonstrated. There is no wondering why I have a deep appreciation for those who teach and believe education can change lives. And, there is no wondering why “Friends of Copey” is important.