My mother always advised me to tell people my name when I went to large gatherings. She said that if I didn’t, I would miss meeting someone who was kin to me or who knew someone who was kin to me. At a large church gathering or a funeral, she would go up to people and say, “I’m Vera Chapman Duncan, and who are you?” Well, you can imagine how embarrassing this was to me when I was younger. Now in my later years, I have discovered that a little embarrassment is worth it to make an acquaintance that may be a once-in-a-lifetime thing.

So when I went to the funeral service for my dear Alpha Rho sister Jan Ivie, I saw some motorcycle riders wearing vests that said “Irving” on the back. I got an urge to see if any of them knew some of my former Irving High School students. As I stepped from under the shade of the porch at the funeral home, a young woman came up to me and asked if I was Gelene Simpson. She was wearing an Irving vest. I said I was and she revealed her name. She was one of my former students — Judy McDonald! She told me how nice Jan Ivie had been to welcome her into her group of wives of firefighters. So you see that even at her funeral, Jan brought us joy.

Judy and I walked over to where some other riders were standing near their motorcycles. Another young woman came up to us and told me she was Erlene Baker, another one of my students. Her twin sister Perlene, now deceased, was also in my class. How excited I was! You see, after having taught approximately 150 students for over 30 years, I am pretty lonesome to see some of them every once in a while.

It really took me back to the days of lesson plans, Friday tests, research papers, memory lines, and semester projects. And how gratifying it was to see that they remember our time together and that they are living useful lives. And most of all, how wonderful to discover that our dear Jan was another link in our chain.

I am so glad that they knew and loved Jan just as I did and that she loved them too. Judy told me that they had wondered how Jan would ride her motorcycle with her long hair. But she just tied that bandana around her head and was ready to go.

I don’t know how to tell you how much I admired Jan Ivie. And truly I admired and respected the entire Green family. You see, my daddy always took good care of his shoes when I was growing up. He didn’t have maybe more than two pairs besides his steel-toed work shoes, but he always took them to Green’s Shoe Shop. He would get them half-soled, and at home he would polish them faithfully. One of his favorite polishes was ox blood, a kind of reddish brown. He thought the world of the Green family. And I went to school with Elizabeth Green. We hit it off right away, and I still have a school picture of her in my high school annual from all those years ago in Corsicana. Also I always felt that I had known Pat Kelly in another life somewhere. She would tell me about Elizabeth, and it would take me back to the 1950s in my memory.

When Winona Stewart encouraged me to transfer to Alpha Rho Chapter, Delta Kappa Gamma Society International, from the Irving Mu Omicron Chapter in 1995, Linda Denbow was the chapter president. Meeting her and the other members of the chapter was a very good experience. We met at Navarro College back then, and we had a great many good times. In 1996, Jan became president, and by then I was able to become more active. I looked back at the list of some of the early Alpha Rho members who had been important in my grade school and high school years: Miss Alma Armstrong, Mrs. Bummie McReynolds, Miss Estelle Smith, Mrs. Gertrude Russell, and Miss Winona Stewart. Yes, this was truly where my heart could rest.

Although I am retired, “once a teacher always a teacher” is my motto. And I’m glad that I’ve learned some things along the way. Jan showed us all that young people really count. We say it all the time, but it’s very important. They are our future. Let’s take a cue from Jan and love and inspire them to the very best of our ability. I am here to tell you that they do remember you for it.

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Gelene Simpson is a Daily Sun columnist. Her column appears on Tuesdays.

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