Thursday, November 26, 2009

Thank you, Mother and Daddy

In the mist of family problems and personal aches and pains which all seem minor in the grand scheme of life, I give Thanks.

Thanks go to a loving mother who for 67 years has always provided me with all the physical, emotional, intellectual, spiritual, and often financial support I have needed. Thanks to you I know how to live life properly; to love others tenderly; to trust in God completely; to treat the less fortunate with kindness; to appreciate good literature; and above all to love my family with all my heart. I don't profess to do all these things to perfection, but because you taught me so well, I at least know when I fail and to whom I should apologize.

Thanks go to an incredible father who shared all of mother's good qualities. He provided his children a sense of humor second to none; he gave us an appreciation of good music; and his greatest gift of all was teaching us to have a total disregard for the possession of a dollar.

Thanks go to a sister who despite dropping bricks on my head and stealing my marbles when I was 10 has been a blessing and strength to all her family.

Thanks go to a brother who while being the youngest of our brood is the most level headed. He and his bride have raised three fine children who like all of us are no longer children. They both have stars in their crowns for the care they gave to one who could no longer care for her self.

Thanks go to my newest sister and one who has meant so much to all our family and especially to mother. As Mother's companion and friend, her day to day love keeps mother's spirit's high.

Thanks go to a wife who has so many special qualities. Her book detailing her rescue of one lost in the shadows would be second place to the book, when written, detailing her own complex journey raising her two beautiful children.

Thanks go to those two beautiful children just mentioned for calling me dad these last 21 years and for allowing me to call them "son" and "daughter". And especially I thank them for giving me four lovely granddaughters to call me PaPa.

Thanks go to my two gorgeous daughters who are the light of my life. I could never express in a million years the way the two of you make me feel when I am around you. Thank you daughter and son-in-law for two more grandchildren including the first grandson of the batch. I can only hope that I passed on to you girls some of the genes of your grandparents to make you as special as they were.

Thanks go to the mother of these daughters who raised them to be the thoughtful ladies they are today and who gave them their looks and brains.

And thanks go out to all of you who occasionally check into this journal. As I have begun to come to the end of the stack of "Mother Memory Letters" which I have been sharing, I have taken several days off to reflect on the the course of this literary exercise.

When I have convinced myself that this is the right vehicle to use, I will begin once again to share some more pointless stories dredged from my fading memory banks.

Until then, Thank you all and have a Happy Thanksgiving.

James Neville LeDuke, Jr.

Friday, November 20, 2009

The first female I ever saw wearing long pants.

August 6, 2009

Dear Cathie, Jimmy, Richard

Your Mother and Father were both delightful. I grew up in Tiptonville and attended the Presbyterian Church where we were all in Sunday School together.

I first remember your Mother when she started carrying the rural route mail in early 1940's. This was because your father was in the service. My Father was postmaster, and I spent a lot of time at the post office as my mother was a clerk there.

Miss Catherine was the first female that I saw wear long pants. These pants helped to keep her warm in cold weather out on the "route" delivering mail. What a good solution that was to keeping warm.

Miss Catherine later taught me when I was in high school. I think the subjects were Latin and English.

Mr. James Neville taught me Chemistry. I looked forward to his classes.

Recently, when I was in Tiptonville, I went to church and had a short visit with Miss Catherine. I told her that my first memory of her was in long pants. She smiled and maybe connected with that long ago memory.

I hope to see you all in September and I certainly enjoyed the recent article you wrote in the Lake County Banner.


Nell Frances Campbell Scott

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Unselfish, Caring, Understanding, and Occasionally Funny.....That's my Mom.

And now back to business.

August 15, 2009

Dear Cathie, Jimmy, Richard

My grandparents, Mr. and Mrs. Taft Yates were friends and neighbors of your parents and my mother, Corinne, was a friend of Cathie's. Because of this, I felt like Mrs. LeDuke treated me a little special but I think all of her students felt that way. I did not have the privilege of having your father as a teacher but I did have the honor of having your mother, two years in Spanish and a few years in drama. I graduated in 1974 and can honestly say that Mrs. LeDuke was one of my all time favorite teachers.

During the few years that I took drama, your mother made arrangements to take a car full of silly high school girls to Memphis to the Orpheum to see musicals. There were several but the one I remember the most was Fiddler on the Roof. The musicals were entertaining but the trips to and from were just as entertaining.

I had met a boy from Covington during a band trip. His mother had a little boutique in Covington and we had a little spare time so your mother stopped and let us go in shopping. We really just wanted to see what his mother looked like. I knew where he lived so she drove by his house. I was in hopes be would be outside so I could wave and possibly speak to him but he wasn't. No other teacher would have ever done that.

On another trip, I remember this very corny joke she told. We drove by a cemetery in Covington on Hwy 51. She was so serious when she told us that they didn't bury anyone living within two blocks of that cemetery. We asked why and she said they only bury the dead. We all shared a laugh and still to this day, I think about that joke and your mother every time I go by that cemetery.

Your mother was so unselfish, so caring, and so understanding. I feel blessed to have had her as a teacher, role model, and a friend.

Cynthia Beasley Webb

Monday, November 16, 2009

Train Trestle Trespassing Traversing The Tennessee

Add ImageAdd ImageAdd ImageOkay...........This is the last one for a while. There's only so much stupidity one person should share with his family. I would be concerned that I had tarnished my reputation with these stories of deeds and misdeeds, but I don't have a reputation to be concerned about anyway.

Tennessee Train Trestle Traversing

Most fellows begin to shed their foolish ways once they leave high school. If not at that time, then surely by the time they leave college or perhaps by the time they reach 30. I've passed all those milestones and yet somehow I continue to do dumb stuff. I'm beginning to think maybe I was adopted.

This last story I am confessing to happened during my freshman year at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville. I chose UT partly because Tommy Lovell took a group of us Juniors and Seniors up to Knoxville to see a football game in 1959. We spent the night in Coach Lovell's old Fraternity House on the UT campus after seeing a game. The next day got a tour of the "Hill", as UT - Knoxville was called.

Alpha Tau Omega Fraternity members were a quiet, scholarly, demur group of young gentlemen. They frowned on throwing wild parties with loose women; loud music and gyrating dancing was considered beneath them. I was quite impressed with their behavior that evening. Well...........that's what I told my parents anyway.

I have remembered all my life an incident that occurred during the "evening's cotillion" when a Fraternity Brother was found walking around with a large rip in one of the back pockets of his slacks. I thought I was being helpful when I pointed out to the fellow that he had a problem and that his billfold was about to fall out. The somewhat inebriated young man slowly looked back at his pants and then said to me in a scholarly voice; "Let me give you some advice; never, never worry about what's behind you!"

I don't think I ever figured out if he was simply speaking about physical concerns or if he was offering more sage advice about not letting the past get in the way of one's future. You would not believe how many times I have conjured up the image of that evening's quote. And I have lived my life according to the philosophy of that ATO Seer....... who probably spent 20 to life at Attica.

Well, whether it was the weekend glimpse of the social scene or the fact that I had somehow decided to enter an engineering school and UT was the only one in the state, I selected Knoxville as the place to call my home for the next few years. I made the journey east with Bobby Patterson. His dad was our chauffeur. My mother and daddy waved bye to me as we pulled out of the driveway at 114 LeDuke Street. They were obviously glad to be shed of me. I recall heading off to school with a large trunk and two suit cases and being dropped off at my dorm on the Knoxville campus; Neyland Stadium.

That's right, the football stadium. It was built in the shape of a horseshoe and the curved part was a four story dormitory call "The Caves". You could almost get dizzy walking down the circular hallways; and all the rooms were slightly pie shaped. Each room had two small beds, two desks, two chairs, and one closet to share with your roommate. Cinder block walls, one over head light, and a small window made the place look more like a cell-block than a dormitory. But since I was raised in a four foot tall attic with a bathroom tub that you had to roll into, it looked pretty good to me. The walls curved inward, but at least the ceiling did not.

Neyland stadium is built on the banks of the Tennessee River and Saturday football games brought scores of boats of all sizes right up to the docks located outside my window. People came to the games by bus, cars, boats and trains. Oh yeah. This story is suppose to be about a Train Trestle. That would be the one that was visible from my dorm room window and can be seen in the picture above. Be patient; I'm getting there. I need to get a hot dog first.

One of the most popular eateries for college kids in Knoxville was the "Smoky Mountain Market" located on Chapman Highway just south of the Henley Street Bridge. The big deal at this tiny little place was the hot dogs. Just mention a Smoky Mountain Market Hot Dog to any Tennessee student of the 60's or 70's and you will see him drool. A Smoky Mountain dog was similar to a Varsity dog familiar to natives here in Atlanta.

To get to the Market from the "Caves" you had to walk about 6 or 7 blocks up a steep hill to Chapman Highway, walk another few blocks and cross the Henley Street Bridge over the Tennessee River, and the much anticipated dog would be waiting just ahead on the right side of the road. There was a steady stream of dog starved students making this trip at all hours.

On one particular night 4 freshmen nerds being lead by me made the trip to the Smoky Mountain Market, ate 5 dogs apiece, drank 2 coca-colas each (nerds don't drink beer), and contemplated the long walk back to the dorm. That would be the dorm located at the end of the Southern Railway Bridge which happened to be almost a straight shot across the river from the area behind the Market.

This picture shows the railway bridge in the foreground and the Henley Street Bridge
behind it. The Stadium Dorm is at the left end of the trestle and the
Smoky Mountain
Market is near the right end of the bridges.

So..................With a combination of lazy, stupid, somewhat adventurous, and stupid (did I say that already) this crew headed from the Market to see what the bridge route looked like. A short walk to the southern end of the trestle revealed that there was no "cat walk" of any kind on either side of the cross ties. And the cross ties were just what one would expect; 10 to 12 inches apart with air between them all the way down to the water. For some reason there were no hand rails connected to the outer ends of the ties. As the picture above shows, until you get to the middle there is nothing to hold on to at all.

It took some coaxing to get the two timid members of the group to agree but we decided to give it a try. Off we went and surprisingly found that once you got going and set a cadence and got a little bounce to your step, you could move right along. It wasn't until we were about half way to the middle area of the trestle where the supports were that someone in the group brought up the question about train schedules.

No one seemed to remember ever even seeing a train on this bridge although we all had heard train whistles in the middle of the night. As we neared the point of no return our pace had slowed down; partly because we were getting tired and partly because the center structure of the trestle seemed to offer an area of safety if a train did happen to come by. We could just step off the tracks and hold on to the supports.

When we reached the end of the center support portion of the bridge even the cockiest of us was really beginning to wonder what was in those coca-colas we drank. Why would anyone in their right mind attempt such moronic foolishness as we were doing. And we weren't home free yet. By this time there were not two, timid, trestle-walkers making this trip; there were four.

I suppose its extremely anti-climatic to bring you to the end of this story and have to tell you that no train ever challenged us that evening. No one slipped and drowned in the Tennessee River that night, and no one really had much "physical" damage at all except for some skinned knuckles when we were all crawling the last 100 yards to the end of the trestle. Emotionally we were a wreck. The bravest of the crew were the original "two" timid members of this foursome. Did I mention that they were also the smartest of our group; both graduated with honors. I barely got out at all.

I really don't recall any 0f us bragging about this feat to any of our dorm mates. I truly believe we actually realized that telling anyone what we had done would have dropped us down several notches in esteem as opposed to raising us up. And while I have told this story a time or two, I have previously been very selective.

Fortunately no one's really reading these ramblings anyway.

Oh, and my Guardian Angel Guy. He put in for a transfer.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

"Stupid" started at an early age in my family.

Sorry fans of Catherine looking for tribute letters. Just another day or so and I'll have it out of my system. Don't go too far. Some quality "Mother Memories" will be returning soon.


Just in case you think I cornered the market on "Stupid" genes in our family let me tell you a little stunt my sister, Cathie pulled when I was only 3 years old. Okay, so she would have only been 6 herself, but girls are supposed to be smarter.

It was an overcast winter day that our cousins from Memphis, the Becks, came to visit. I'm not trying to be overly descriptive, because the weather conditions probably saved my life. Since it was cold outside I was wearing a hat of sorts when I went out to the back yard to see what the big kids were doing.

As I mentioned, Cathie was three years my senior and our visiting cousin, Bobby Beck was a year younger than Cathie. I found them outside up in the peach tree in the back corner of the yard near the brick pile, another piece of important information innocently woven into this tale.

Cathie and Bobby Beck had pulled an old door up into the tree and had made a kind of "tree house" floor out of it. Bobby Beck was always called Bobby Beck as if Beck was his middle name, like someone called Billy Bob or Betty Sue. This, unlike the brick pile, is not important information, it just always seemed strange to me to call Bobby Beck, Bobby Beck and not just Bobby. Oh well. In addition to the door, Cathie and Bobby Beck had hauled up several bricks from the brick pile and had placed them around the edges of the "floor".

These were their "bombs" they later told their parents. WWII had not been over very long so I guess that sort of thinking was not too far fetched. They were just waiting for Hitler to come marching by.

Enter Hitler

When they saw me coming out the back door, they lured me over to the tree and when they decided I was standing in just the right spot, they began jumping up and down on the wooden floor screaming something in German I think, causing the "bombs" to "rain" down onto their target; ME. Ish bin Jimmy.

To this day I have a scar just above my hair line where a brick crushed my skull causing my brains to pour out onto the ground. Okay, so maybe I exaggerate a little. But if it had not been for the hat I had on, or had this scene played out in the summertime, I probably would have been deaaaaad. The scar is just a reminder that I regularly showed my sister as I was growing up whenever she said "I" was doing something "stupid".

And that's not the only scar that I have that is attributed to her. Another time when we were at our Grandma Patty's house in Memphis (Bobby Beck was not around on this occasion thank goodness) we were playing tag or some sort of running game and as we approached the concrete steps that lead to the back porch, she pushed me down.

I fell forward into the corner of the steps and landed on my face. A huge gash was opened above my eye. My eye ball was hanging out -- blood gushing all around.........Okay, okay. But I did have a large cut over my eye that required emergency treatment and stitches and to this day I have a very visible scar in my left eyebrow (or is it my right eyebrow). Very visible. Ruined my good looks for life.

I'm telling you my Guardian Angels have had their hands full for many years just following me around this earth.

......................The "HOLE"

Remember now, those of you tuning in to see Catherine LeDuke tributes have been given a couple of days off. What follows is just for those who can stand to witness stupidity personified in the form of one of Catherine's children.


I don't know how many kids that lived around LeDuke Street even knew about the "Hole". The older ones of this Street Gang, Bart Smythe and John Taft Yates, I know would not have had anything to do with this project as they had already begun to grow "brains" by the time Jerry Cooper and I began the "dig". Bob Donnell was the right age to have been a part of this activity, but until I talk to him, I'll give him the benefit of the doubt and say he was intelligently absent.

The "dig" took place in a large field that was about three houses down from and on the same side of the street as my house. The field was behind Jerry Coopers' house and was a popular place to play a wide variety of games. It had a tall growth of some kind of weed that produced a golf ball sized seed pod on its top. The stem of the plant was very sturdy and when cut at the bottom provided a perfect weapon for "konking" opponents on the head; you know like little brothers. Richard has to this day a large knot on the back of his head from repeated "konks".

The football sized field was the perfect place to play war games, tag, cowboys and Indians, and cops and robbers. Year round the reeds and other grasses were taller than any of us could see over. We had a maze of paths worn through out the field and one could get lost easily were it not for the houses and trees that remained in sight at the edges.

I remember that it was late summer when Jerry and I got the bright idea that what we needed was a hiding place in the field that would completely conceal us from everyone else. It was to be our secret and would give us a great advantage in times of "war". So we very carefully found a spot in a thick stand of reeds off the usual paths and began digging.

At first we dug down about 3 feet, just enough so that we could lay down slightly below the surface. This was so cool. We could not be seen by anyone as proven by several victorious battles with our rivals. But kids get bored quickly so we decided to make improvements to our hiding place. We widened. Then we deepened. Then we brought in by cover of darkness no doubt, lumber to cover the "hole".

By the time we finished we had dug at least 6 feet deep, 6 feet wide, and 8 feet long. Had any local businessman had need of such a hole, and had asked us to do the digging, we would have looked at him like he was crazy. But this was our "hole" and we dug it with gusto. A ladder was required to get out. I know what some of you are thinking. We did realize the need for this beforehand.

We managed to conceal the short pathway to the "hole" that ran off the maze of paths that already existed in the field. And for several weeks we dominated all game playing that involved the field as part of the venue. We finally had to share our "hole" with the others in our group as it became obvious we were "cheating" somehow and no one would play with us. So we finally shared our "hole" with the gang.

The "hole" became the center of attention and whole new games were devised because of its existence. We dragged a large beam into the field and managed to position it across the open "hole" and began walking across it as if it were a tight rope. We imagined crocodiles were in the "pit" and falling off the beam meant a cruel death being eaten alive. Of course in reality, falling off could have meant a broken leg or busted head, but we didn't consider that possibility.

You may recall I stated earlier that it was late summer when we began this project. By now it was early winter and life around the "hole" was chilly. So, let's put a more complete top on it. More lumber was brought in to cover all the cracks of the first roofing job. A trap door of sorts was fashioned. Candles were used for light in the darkened cave.

Were we satisfied? We were not. And here comes the scariest and most insane part of this story.

We decided since it was cold and getting colder we needed a fire place. So in one end of the "grave" we dug a fairly large hole about 3 feet wide by 3 feet high by 3 feet deep. We even dug a small hole up through the roof of the fire pit to act as a chimney. And most astonishing of all, we actually built a fire in the "fire place"; on several occasions.

Have you got this picture:

A six foot deep hole,
hidden in a field covered with tall weeds,
unknown to any parent,
with a semi-solid roof on it,
with a fire blazing in the make do fireplace,
with about 5 kids inside,
filling up with carbon monoxide gas.

And can you visualize the Headline in the Banner.

I'm telling you we worked those "Guardian Angels" nearly to death. Thanks to them we are all still here today.

And as Richard and I were just reminiscing; the "hole" is still there in that field.

And no parent has ever been told this story---until today; but then my beautiful mother does not even know what she had for breakfast this morning.

Where was my Mother and all Her Intelligence when I needed her Most.

I sometimes wonder how I managed to live past twenty. When I look back at several truly "dumb" stunts I pulled as a youngster, I have to question whether I received any "smart" genes from either of my parents. I probably should "change the names to protect the innocent" as I recount these tales but I won't. Heck, no one was innocent.


Somewhere about 12 or 13 years old I recall one particular day playing with the Maple Street Gang. That would be Johnny Vaughn, Loverd Peacock, and Johnny Morrison. I'm sure there were others in that gang at one time or another; Loverd's sister Paula was probably there, but I never really noticed her until I was in the 10th grade.

I can't remember if there was a specific agenda that began that day but what I do know is that we discovered 5 or 6 large wasps nests hanging from the eaves of Loverd's house and felt called to destroy each and every one of them. Now in today's world we would have gone down to the local hardware stores next to the banner office and purchased a couple of cans of "Wasp" spray.

But in 1955 wasp spray didn't exist, at least we didn't know of it if it did. But this brilliant foursome decided to invent our own version. One of the rages at that time were rubber "water-gun" hand grenades, and we had discovered that when squeezed really hard they would shoot a stream of water 10 or 12 feet; plenty far enough to reach the wasp nests on Loverd's house.

Quickly, we learned that squirting water on wasp nests just pisses them off. We put our heads together and came up with the "plan"; gasoline. Wasps hate gasoline. In fact they die quickly if hit with a good solid spurt of it. We all loaded up our weapons and headed back to the enemy lines or rather eaves. Within 30 minutes we had eradicated every wasp nest on that house. Harper Peacock would have been so proud of us knowing that he would not have to worry about being stung by a wasp in his yard. The fact that his house was now soaked with gasoline might have caused him some concern, but it sure didn't dampen the spirits of the Maple Street Gang.

Once we had conquered the wasps and not feeling the need to follow the enemy to any of the other houses in the neighborhood, we decided to experiment with our "toys" a little further. A favorite pass time of every kid in town in the 50's was playing war; usually with pea shooters and cap pistols. We now had "flame throwers".

You got it. You knew all along where I was going with this. It was just a matter of time until one member of this brilliant foursome would realize that all we needed was to light the stream of gasoline and "presto", we would have a flame thrower just like in the movie "Sands of Iwo Jima".
Or, if we threw our "now much more real hand grenade" at the enemy's pill box we could blow it up like in "To Hell and Back".

Okay...................Let me ease you down gently.

No, we did not burn down the Peacock's house that day.

No, none of us was soaked with gasoline and, ignited, ran through the neighborhood.

No, none of us was even burned that day in spite of the fact that we did find those matches and we dispelled the commonly held notion that a container of gasoline will explode when lit. We found that day that you can ignite a stream of gasoline shooting from a rubber hand grenade. And it looks really cool, just like a real flame thrower. However, when you stop squeezing you better let go quickly because the flame will follow the stream back to the container; you know, that rubber thing you're holding.

When that happens you better let go of it real fast. You drop it on the ground. It doesn't explode, but it just sits there with a flame coming out the end of it. Gotta put the flame out. I know I'll stomp on it. Not smart. When you stomp on a "lit" rubber filled container of gasoline, the end of the "rubber thing" where you put the gas in will shoot off releasing all the gasoline at one time allowing a gusher of ignited gasoline to shoot out setting fire to whatever is in front of it.

There is no doubt in my mind that on that particular sunny afternoon the "Guardian Angels" of each of these young boys were looking down laughing their asses off. Undoubtedly wondering why they had been assigned to this crew of idiots. But they "were" there, and they did their job, and none of us were even burned badly that day.

And after we put all the small fires out caused by the climatic "stomping of the grenade", we all looked at each other silently thinking, "How did I get mixed up with these stupid morons."

And my original question remains: how did any of us make it through high school alive?

Believe it or not I have several more of these stories that for some reason I feel compelled to confess to. So you all have my permission to tune out for a few days while I purge my conscience. Children of mine, please delete these postings so my grand-kids won't get too depressed concerning their gene pool.

Friday, November 13, 2009

If You Want to Play the Friday Game, You Got to Play my Weekday Game

August 29, 2009

Dear LeDuke Family,

Your mother is a sparkling gem. We need more teachers like her. She was a true "teacher", in every sense of the word.

My story began about 1951 - 1952 school year. Being a tall, sports-minded guy, I played both football and basketball. And, I was not doing my work in Ms. Catherine LeDuke's English class. I sat in the back of her room, looking out the window, not paying attention, as usual. Suddenly, Ms. LeDuke said, "Luther, you are not doing your work and you are not going to play in the next football game", which was only a week away. "And, I will talk to Coach Truett and make sure that you do not get to play in the next game."

She gave me an option. She stated, "if you learn the rules of grammar and pass a test on them before the game, I will ask him to let you play. Here is a book of rules you can study."

Needless to say I was an athlete and felt I should be graded on my athletic ability not my academic ability. How wrong could I be?

Of course, I wanted to play in that football game, so I studied like I had never studied before. It paid off because I made one of the highest scores on that test. Mrs. LeDuke did talk to Coach Truett and I did get to play football that Friday night.

Mrs. LeDuke knew how to motivate me. Because of her and her excellent teaching ability, I not only passed the rest of the year, I also won the Best All-Around Athlete for 1953 in both basketball and football for Tiptonville High School.

Not only did she influence me to achieve what this story tells, she also was a great influence in my college years, where I received a BS in Education, and MS in Education in Administration and Supervision and half the required hours toward a Doctorate in Education. The Doctorate was never finished due to health reasons. I have spent my entire adult years trying to teach and educate children.

Yes, Mrs. Catherine LeDuke was a great inspiration to me and has been the epitome of a teacher who has influenced countless, poor, struggling kids. I am only one of them. Mrs. Catherine LeDuke deserves all the accolades we can bestow upon her.

Most sincerely,

Luther Burrus, Jr.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

We were RUDE; R-U-D-E

August 22, 2009,

Dear Cathie, Jimmy, Richard,

As your mother's former English student, I have typed this letter very carefully as if she were going to "grade" it, red pencil in hand. I am hoping to avoid incorrect sentence construction and/or punctuation. As you will note, I do not think I escaped the "run-on" sentences trap. You know she definitely frowned on those, therefore, please feel free to adopt editorial privileges, prior to anyone else's viewing.

Here are my thoughts on the legacy of educational excellence left by your parents. First, experience with my children and grandchildren revealed this fact--The quality of the public high school education I received (and took for granted) as a student of Catherine and James Neville LeDuke is rare in today's world. Currently in the area where I live, an education of that kind is available mainly at a premium from a private school or in the sacrificial commitment of a home-school setting.

Second, since I did not complete requirements for graduation from an institution of higher learning, the result of your parents' dedication to the practice of classical education principles became a sort of college-degree equivalent for me, and I am grateful. It has served me well.

Your parents certainly set significant and elevated standards in their teaching practices, but just as significant to me is the fact that they were caring people who demonstrated a sincere desire for the success of their students. There is a word that defines these qualities: It is simply "LOVE", the one thing Scripture says "will never come to an end". Perhaps, that factor is the key to the ENDURING nature of Catherine and James Neville LeDuke's legacy.

God's best to you, Miss Catherine, and all your family.


Carolyn Wyatt Cantrell

P.S. For a short trip down Memory Lane, recall with me this incident in your dad's Latin class. The second bell had rung for class to begin. Since your dad was late getting to the classroom, those of us in the class (all of the class of "61) continued with our own agenda-talking, joking, etc., completely ignoring your dad when he came into the room. Having had enough of our blatant disrespect, he began to BANG sharply on his desk and to raise his voice to declare to us truth that was long overdue; "You may be the cream-of-the-crop to the rest of the faculty, but to me, you are RUDE, R-U-D-E.
(I was seated near your dad's desk, and I can still remember the involuntary shudders that coursed through me as he rightfully made his point.)


Thank you, Carolyn, for reminding me about how RUDE that class of '61 was. Those snobby kids. I tried to warn my parents time and time again about them. Oh, Well.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Happy Thought

Happy Thought by Robert Louis Stevenson from his book: A Child's Garden of Verses.

The world is so full of a number of things,
I'm sure we should be happy as kings.

My Mother just continues to amaze me. I just got off the phone with her and I picked this little poem (along with a couple of others) to read to her; before I could finish the first line, Mother had recited the last line. This little exercise is more fun and exciting for me than it is for her probably. I can't get over how gifted Catherine LeDuke was all her life and how she continues to be even now.

So with that "Happy Thought" I return to the task of sharing your letters of tribute with others who are equally amazed by Catherine LeDuke.



Dear Cathie, Jimmy, and Richard,

I am so thankful to your mom and dad for the professional manner in which they both approached teaching. (1) expect nothing but the best from your students and (2) always continue to grow in the learning process.

There are some stories I remember fondly (fudge in your mom's third/fourth year Latin classes; acid spill in your dad's chemistry lab; etc.). But honestly, I prefer to concentrate on the remarkable way in which both truly understood the importance of their professions.

First, their superior knowledge of their subject matter was unquestionable. Remarkably, they were able to present that knowledge to me in such a way that I could grasp it. Furthermore, because they always expected me to do my best, it never entered my mind that I could do less. They understood that in order to get the best from their students, they must expect the best.

Finally, although I did not realize it in high school, they both inspired me to think, to question, to continue the learning process into my adult years. WOW! What a gift!

The older I become, the more I realize how fortunate I was to have had such wonderful mentors during my high school years. I will forever be indebted to them, and they will always occupy a special place in my heart.

Connie Donnell Riley

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

A Happy Birthday Message from 2006

January 14, 2006

My dear Ms. LeDuke

While contemplating this special birthday message to one of the dearest and most influential women in my life, I recall her sage advice given over forty-five years ago; "Like the girl's skirt," she said.

And that's not all she said! After all, you were one of our mothers, offering wise counsel along with firm, but loving, discipline. In addition, you were the "real" mother of my best friend and, therefore, I was introduced to the LeDuke family early in life with one of the "happiest meals" I have the pleasure of remembering! We laughed our way through fried chicken and rice!

Of course, you are English teacher, extraordinaire. Hardly a day passes that I don't silently sing the praises of one who insisted on endless grammar exercises, diagramming, and writing. When I am required in my work to edit another's writing, I think to myself- and sometimes aloud!-"You obviously did not have Catherine LeDuke for grammar!" And, oh, the lovely literature to which you introduced us: reading to us and allowing us to experience the beauty of reading (or butchering) those words aloud. Your Lady Macbeth still rings in my ears! Of course, you were the only one in the room mature enough to say the word "damn" without sniggering! Also short stories and Christmas stories are pleasantly remembered. I particularly recall the story which ended, "I seen the little lamp" and still get a lump! Was that Katherine Anne Porter?

My love for history goes farther back than American history! But our exploration of our country's history certainly enhanced my appreciation for what transpired in the past and how it shapes our present and future. Inspired by mentors like you and Mr. James Neville and "Miss Davy, I spent the first half of my career in teaching: music, drama, and art. I have spent the last half of my career in Public Affairs using other skills so skillfully taught me in a little west Tennessee town fifty years ago. English, Latin, and history! It was with great pride and much pleasure that I could be present at your induction into the Tennessee Teachers Hall of Fame.

And then there was drama! You brought out of a bunch of "country kids" talent they only dreamed of having! And that, I know from experience, takes "talent!" Thanks for teaching me how to "slurp" coffee from a saucer, a valuable lesson in life! And, of course, I shall never forget the night you taught ReeRee how to walk like an "old woman," another valuable lesson!

Well, since "covering" the subject requires more yards of verbal fabric than I have the time, talent, or space to weave, I've opted for "interesting." That was extremely easy, for your blessed life as a devoted teacher, and mother has been, and continues to be, immensely interesting!

I wish you good health and happiness as you continue to enjoy an interesting life and to inspire your countless adoring "children." Happy Birthday, "Ms. LeDuke!"

Love from one of those adoring "children."

Lyle Lankford

Monday, November 9, 2009

Catherine LeDuke never misses a Sunday with the Lord. And He never misses a day with her.

Catherine Frazier Patty grew up and was baptized in the Chelsea Avenue Presbyterian Church in Memphis, Tennessee. She attended services with her mother, Mary Reder Patty and several of her Aunts; the most religious of whom was Sally Swaine Reder. Aunt Sally taught Sunday School just about all of her life. In addition she taught the piano, most likely using a borrowed hymnal.

When Aunt Sally moved to the Tiptonville Nursing Home at the age of 99 she brought her worldly possessions in three boxes. These boxes contained teaching materials related to her Sunday School and Piano teaching. When anyone visited Aunt Sally they had to endure at least a half an hour of listening to her recite John; 3:16 or watch her pull out her cardboard piano keyboard and then listen to a lecture concerning the proper way to play.

I mention Aunt Sally not to belittle her, but to explain why I think Mother never used that kind of "hit'em over the head with religion" approach with her own kids or with those she taught in her own Sunday School Classes. I believe Mother was every bit as "Religious" as any of the members of her Church Going Family. However, just as she had a quiet, low key method of teaching in her High School Latin classes, so also did she demonstrate her considerable Faith in her dealings with others.

If ever there was a perfect example of how one should let their light shine brightly, and never let that light be hidden under a basket, that example surely would be Catherine LeDuke.

It has been mentioned that Mother used to write "Stuff" on a blackboard kept at the front of her class, and even though on occasion that "stuff" would be a bible verse, she would never preach a sermon using that verse. It would simply be there for all to look at and be meaningful only to those who might need that verse on that day.

Similarly, Catherine witnessed for the Lord by her actions. She could certainly quote scripture if the situation called for it, but she was not one to carry a soap box with her. She believed that a person should be presented with the tools to discover their own Faith. That the person with an inner religious struggle should be led gently to realize the Truth in their own way and time. In this way, she believed, their Faith would be made stronger and more durable for the long journey that most all true believers must travel.

I can honestly say that I do not believe that Catherine LeDuke has ever wavered from her deep faith in Christ. As Richard so accurately identified, a favorite Bible verse of Mother's (from Philippians 4:11) is and remains today: "in whatsoever state I am, there within to be content." This was not resignation of her inability to effect change of her circumstances, but rather her recognition of the acceptance of God's ultimate plan. She has faith in that Higher Power and believes she should dedicate her efforts to dealing with her circumstances for His glory.

Mother and Daddy were married in the Chelsea Avenue Presbyterian Church she knew as a child and young adult. When James Neville and Catherine returned to Tiptonville in 1938 they joined the Tiptonville Presbyterian Church. Our life growing up was centered around that church. I can't tell you how many pictures Mother has of all our various families gathered in front of that beautiful little church.

James Neville was the organist for many, many years. Mother became the first female Elder ordained there when the Presbyterian Church USA finally became a part of the 20th century. Christmas time always brings back special memories of a huge decorated tree that always reached to ceiling; Easter Egg Hunts on the grounds; Mother's day corsages of either white or red roses; Miss Marian Burnett singing the Old Rugged Cross; Daddy playing the organ with his shoes off and then struggling to find them.

Sue drops Mother off at 10:30 every Sunday morning at the Tiptonville Presbyterian Church. She may be frail but she was there yesterday and will be there next Sunday as well.

I am provided with a special memory every time I am in town. I get to take my Mother to church. And at the appropriate time, I get to watch her remove a blank check from her check book and drop it into the collection plate; unable to see well enough to fill it out or sign it, she leaves it to the current treasurer to do the honors. "And there within she is content."

Even today, Mother speaks to every person in attendance before we leave and I believe God clears her memory each Sunday so she knows exactly to whom she is talking.

Of course, she then takes my arm and says: "Okay, I guess it's time to go home, Richard."

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Eating Meals with Grand Daddy Ben

I think I'll give Mother a break and pick on someone else today; Ben Neville LeDuke.

Many of my memories of my Grand Father seem to center around the dinner table. I suppose if you can remember how "round" Ben Neville was that would not be hard to understand. It's not his fault however. If you ever had a meal cooked by Miss Maude, you would understand why Grand Daddy Ben never wanted to miss a meal if it could be helped.

Ben Neville married his first wife, Odie Lee, in 1914. They had two children, James Neville and Martha Naomi (Carter). Odie Lee died in the early 20's. Ben Neville took his second wife, Maude MrCreery, in 1926 and she bore him a son, Charles Franklin. James Neville, Martha, and Charles Franklin grew up on "Miss" Maude's cooking being served around a large dining room table at 325 Cherry Street in Tiptonville.

It was around this beautiful oak table that I learned what a real "southern" meal was suppose to look like. Miss Maude performed miracles out of her tiny kitchen. When we went to her house for a "Dinner" you could count on just about every meat imaginable being served: fried chicken, baked ham, fried rabbit and squirrel for the "gamier" eaters, and roast beef was not an uncommon spread. Veggies would be equally represented: corn (on or off the cob), greens, fresh pole beans, boiled potatoes, and green peas shelled that morning. Sliced tomatoes, spring onions, and two kinds of rolls would find a place somewhere on the table or on the side board.

I seem to remember taking a short break to clear the table after dinner to make room for the desserts that would follow: pecan pie, apple pie, strawberry shortcake, and some kind of layer cake would appear. It would be insulting not to take a small slice of each offering; so most of us did.

Now not every meal that Grand Daddy Ben ate was like the "Dinner" just described. Just as fine a meal to Ben Neville was another country favorite which I remember consuming with him when he would take me on an outing to hand out "hand-bills" to advertise one of his up coming auctions. We made the rounds to every small country store within 20 miles of the location of his next sale.

There was a time when I knew every old-time country store in Northwest Tennessee and Southeast Kentucky. I'm talking about pot-barreled stove in the middle of country store. Pickle barrel at the front counter country store. Candy dishes full of licorice lined across the counter country store. Checker board on a barrel country store. I'm talking "Norman Rockwell" country stores.

And every one of these stores had a deli-box of some description in the back where I got to have that other special southern favorite of Ben Neville LeDuke's; bologna and crackers, a moon pie for dessert, all washed down with an RC cola.

Now there is no doubt in my mind that some of you are thinking that I'm just making that up just to sound like some old cliche: Moon pie and an RC. Think what you want. Those memories are real. Just as real as the memory of how those crackers and moon pie stuck to the top of my mouth. But when you had been riding dusty roads all morning nailing hand bills to phone poles and trees and talking to every store owner in every little holler in the hills, I came to look forward to those crackers and RC almost as much as Miss Maude's dinner table.

Now I don't want you to think that Ben Neville chained Miss Maude to the kitchen. She did not have to cook every "fancy" meal that Grand Daddy Ben ate. He gave her a day off every year; Christmas Eve. That's the night the whole "LeDuke" clan gathered at Lakeview Restaurant for our annual family dinner and gift exchange. We always had dinner in the private dining room in the back corner of the restaurant and every LeDuke who was able attended.

Most years saw Grand Daddy Ben and Grandma Maude; James Neville and Catherine with Cathie, Jimmy, and Richard in tow; Martha and Shelton Carter and their daughter Martha Sue; Charles Franklin and Chris bringing Linda Lu and Buster. Also we had Grand Daddy's two sisters; Aunt Mary Belle Campbell and Aunt Ethel with her husband Uncle Pete Smith.

Anyone's who's eaten at any of Reelfoot Lake's restaurants knows you won't go hungry with the spread they all put out. The Christmas Eve dinner table at Lakeview was always full of fried chicken, baked ham, catfish and crappie, a large assortment of vegetables and, of course, baskets full of hush puppies and soft dinner rolls. However, we never ate dessert there because after the dinner we would all retire to Grandma Duke's house while she was still living and then later to Uncle Charles Franklin and Chris's house for our gift exchange.

Extra special at Aunt Chris's house was the "Gourmet" assortment of Christmas Cookies which were a tradition with Aunt Chris. She would start baking weeks in advance of the Holiday and her cookie spread covered her entire dining room table. I'm not talking about simple chocolate chip thingies. Go find a holiday edition of a fancy cooking magazine and somewhere inside you will find the kind of cookies made by Aunt Chris; thousands of cookies; hundreds of varieties. Many trips to the "cookie area" were made by everyone during the evening. Being around Grand Daddy Ben was a good thing because where he was, good food was.

Ben Neville didn't rely on the groceries of Lake County to stock his dinner tables. He was an avid hunter and fisherman. Two good things stand out in my mind about hunting or fishing with Grand Daddy Ben; gathering the game that would eventually end up in Miss Maude's kitchen on its way to her dinner table, and eating the lunches she would pack for Ben Neville and crew to eat while they were out in the wilds. Fried chicken, deviled eggs, biscuits, and pecan pie were staples in a Miss Maude prepared lunch box. Sometimes I think Grand Daddy Ben went fishing just so he could show off his lunch fixings to whom ever was near by.

As to the actual hunting experiences; I will have to leave that for a future posting. There are simply too many memories of our adventures and miss-adventures to cover at this time and I've probably bored you enough already.

Besides I'm hungry and I think I left some chicken in the fridge.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Her Greatness as a Teacher was apparent from the Start of her Career!!!!

August 15, 2009

To Mrs. Catherine LeDuke

Thank you. Thank you for the blessings you have given me, blessings you had no way of imagining you had so generously presented to me. You were only going about your business the best you knew how. Now I want to tell you how profound your efforts proved to be - at least in one instance; I'm sure there are many more. However, before I do, I want to thank you for being a lady of dignity and substance. I am blessed to have lived in the days when ladies of your distinction were in vogue. I am sorry to learn that you are not in the best of health, but as Cicero was wont to say: Dum animus est, spes est.

Omnia Gallis in tres partes divisa est - as taught by Mrs. Catherine LeDuke, which is more correct than Caesar penned it in his Caesar's Gallic Wars; and which also proves that you were perhaps a better teacher of the Latin language than even the magister who taught that famous Roman general his rhetoric.

It is difficult to express the depth of my gratitude for all you did for me, or that I did for myself as a result of your tutorial efforts. For example, the basic Latin principles you planted so indelibly in my mind in those two years enabled me to win a Latin scholarship which in turn provided exactly enough money to pay tuition for my final semester at Memphis State. Then, to follow in the ever-spreading wake of your influence even farther, I did by best to teach Latin in the professionally personal manner that you taught me. In turn, many of my students - one of them my son - gave credit to their Latin background for their outstanding success in other fields of study such as English, History, Biology, and in Journalism, Etymology and pre-law at the college level.

However, Mrs. LeDuke, that isn't half the story. Your erudite spirit went with me - as if you were standing in my jumper pocket - all the way from your World History classes held in the Science Lab at THS to ports of call in almost every country in Europe, to Iceland, Scandinavia, the Caribbean Islands, and parts of Northwest Africa aboard a Navy ship. How can I express my gratitude to you for the insight you gave me that elevated my experiences in those countries from that of a mere traveler to an eager visitor with a deep understanding and appreciation for where I stood and for the people I conversed with - the progeny of heroes and villains, as you had described them to me with such eloquence.

I stood on the coast of Plymouth, England and visualized the Mayflower as she set sail, not realizing that they were about to plant seeds of wisdom that would grow into the greatest country the world has ever known - aware only that they were seeking freedom, freedom to worship God the way they believed to be proper, and to speak as their conscience gave them utterance, without fear of a moronic King and his merciless minions, or of a self-proclaimed god-on-earth and his corybantic priests who loved to light up the night with the blazing bodies of "heretics".

From a seaside mountain near Bergen, Norway, I could see miles of fjords from which the warlike vikings sailed; and, from the shores of Scotland, the firths where they landed to wield their murderous swords and battle axes. And so it was with every country. I could hear your voice describing their rebellious rump parliament, Henry the Eight and his unfortunate wives, William of Orange, Robespierre, the Teutons, Celts the hosts of armies and their generals. I sailed past the white cliffs of Dover, and listened again to your soothing voice telling about the Nazi bombers roaring in from Belgian bases. Then I listened to young women describe the fear and the devastation of cities in almost the same words you had used. It was sometimes uncanny.

History is a witness to the passing of time; it illumines reality, vitalizes memory, and provides guidance in daily life; that is, if the historian is true to his craft - unlike many modern "Social Studies" engineers, and would-be chroniclers. (O tempora! O Mores! As Cicero might repeat today.) Nevertheless, even with an excellent text, an excellent teacher is required to make History come alive. That is what you did for me, dear Mrs. LeDuke, and I thank you profoundly. You made my life fuller, my world more interesting, my faith in God and man more extensive, and, consequently, those I love happier.

Amo te,

Lloyd D. Ervin
Class of 1948

Friday, November 6, 2009

Catherine LeDuke's recipe for pecan pie

I couldn't really say that Catherine LeDuke qualified as a great cook; certainly not a gourmet cook. She made a pretty good "fingerless" meat loaf and a fair pot roast. All in all I would have to rate Mother as a "good" cook who never let any of her children go hungry.

Mother did, however, have one particular specialty: Pecan Pie. As I think back I have to wonder if the pie was great because of the ingredients that she put in it or if, perhaps, it was the total atmosphere surrounding the making of the pie that set it apart.

I think I'll have to let you be the judge.

Catherine LeDuke's recipe for Pecan Pie:

Start with a Holiday. Thanksgiving is most appropriate but Christmas will do. In a pinch the homecoming of any child will suffice.

Children age 5 to 15 are required; Grandchildren are preferred.

Send kids out to the back yard with a short handled pecan picker upper. It's a funny looking thing shaped like a wire bird cage on a stick. If you smash down hard enough, the pecan on the ground will be smooshed through the wires and end up in the cage part. Sometimes two smooshes are required.

Pecan picker upper should be passed around from kid to kid so that all have a chance to gather some pecans. Adult supervision is recommended during this phase of the pie making process. When it becomes apparent that the quantity of pecan picker upper picked pecans is not going to be enough to make at least three pies, supervisors must switch picking crew to "manual" mode.

When a sufficient unprocessed supply of the main ingredient has been obtained, bring picking crew into house and begin the "nut cracking" phase of the pie. Once the nut cracker is located (usually requires 30 of searching), place on top of spread out newspapers, and begin cracking.

Keep in mind that a nut cracker to a 8 year old is heavy machinery. A nut is placed in position on the nut holding bar and then the handle which is attached to a squeezy contraption is pulled down slowly (slowly is important) but firmly compressing the nut until it cracks with a bang. If all goes well, no fingers will be broken and all nuts will be cracked.

From there the whole mess is moved to the sorting department where the "meat" of the pecan is separated from the shells. Supervisors will need to caution workers not to eat pecans at this stage or they will be sent back outside with the short handled pecan picker upper thingy. Experienced supervisors make sure to begin with that more raw product is picked than needed.

When sufficient pecans have made it through the sorting department, deliver them to "Bubba" who then turns them into delicious pecan pies.

After dinner cut each pie into eight pieces and distribute to those diners who left room in the "pecan pie" area of their stomachs. Cool whip topping is optional. Prepare to hear many forms of YUMMMMMMO !!!!

Be sure and leave several pieces for seconds to be consumed after the evening game of Michigan Rummy.

And that's how to make Catherine LeDuke's pecan pie.

Whattttttttttttttttttt!!!! You were expecting to hear about sugar and syrup and crust and how much, and how long in the oven.

Geeeezzzze. That information is on the back of the bottle of "light" karo syrup. That's what Mother has always looked at when she baked pecan pie.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

He kept students awake, aware, and sometimes apprehensive!!

Another letter received in September:

The THS Class of 1955 was fortunate to have Catherine and James Neville LeDuke on our high school faculty. We have always claimed to be the largest graduating class and believed we received an excellent high school education.

Miss Catherine and Mr. James Neville played a large role in that education. Most of us had English under Miss Catherine our freshmen, sophomore, and senior years. The thoroughness of those classes was reflected in the fact that 3 class members qualified for Honors English as freshmen at UT Martin. This was a class of 30 students which earned credits for the first two quarters of freshmen English.

We didn't just do grammar, however. We read classics and did special projects which were the result of graduate work that Miss Catherine was doing at Memphis State. Her students were benefiting from her efforts to continue developing her teaching skills.

Mr. James Neville did not impact as many students, since his teaching was part-time. The impact of his teaching style and knowledge would never be forgotten by anyone who was in his class for a year (or less). He taught Latin, Physics, and Chemistry. It was possible to take 4 years of Latin, plus the sciences. How many small high schools of that day offered as much. His teaching style and personality kept students awake, aware, and sometimes apprehensive. Most of those who were in his class have a least one unique story to tell from the experience.

Our education was greatly enhanced by these two excellent teachers. They taught us more than facts, as they insisted on appropriate behavior and required high standards of work in their classrooms.

Helen Lovell


Thank you, Helen for bringing back a memory from 1955; the year Mother spent traveling to Memphis State University each Saturday taking classes to earn her Masters Degree. All year long Mother was doing her own homework while assigning some to her own students at THS. Then in the Summer she stayed on campus for about a month to complete her degree. It was a proud moment for the family to watch her graduate.

The moment was especially proud for me because I paid for her masters degree. Well I contributed greatly at least. You see for about 5 years I had a paper route for the afternoon paper; The Memphis Press Scimitar. And after about three years I had saved and banked about $500.

I remember the day somewhat vaguely when Daddy and Mother called me to the dining room table for a "talk". Boy, was I nervous. I wondered which of the many "sins" I had committed they had found out about. I even took off my belt and hid it just in case I was in Major trouble.

Imagine my surprise when I discovered that what they wanted was to borrow my "life savings" so that Mother could enroll at Memphis State to earn her Master's Degree. Wow, did I feel like a big shot. How many people get a chance like that; to be a major player at age 12 and make a financial contribution to make a mother's dream come alive.

They cleaned me out that year but I gave them an extremely favorable interest rate and repayment schedule. Only a few payments left and I'll tear up the marker.

Yeah, Yeah, Yeah. I know; I've been repaid a thousand times over. And not just financially.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

She Is a Teacher; "IS" a Teacher.

In the last several years I have tuned in on "Oscar" night for the opening portion of the show. I have found that the first 20 minutes of the evening's festivities are usually quite interesting. Aside from the Host's elaborate monologue and/or comedy-musical-parody number I have come to enjoy the camera panning about the theater and zooming in on one individual star after another.

The Star looks into the camera and recites a few somewhat interesting lines written just for that person and then says: "My name is Michael Douglass and I am an Actor." The camera pans away, finds another who ends his speech the same way: "My name is Teri Hatcher and I am an Actor."

When Catherine LeDuke was inducted into the Tennessee Teachers Hall of Fame in 1994 a camera should have been present at that ceremony panning about the room which was filled with members of the three inductee's families, close friends, interested guests and most importantly many, many teachers. The camera could have panned around the banquet hall and then zoomed in on the Honorees one at a time who would have said a few words ending with: "My name is Ruth Bowdoin and I am a Teacher." Then zoom-zoom: "My name is Terry Weeks and I am a Teacher." and lastly, zoom-zoom: "My name is Catherine LeDuke and I am a Teacher."

Catherine Fraizer Patty became a teacher in 1936 at Alcoa Junior High School in Alcoa, Tennessee. She was there teaching English and Latin for less than three months when she left to join James Neville LeDuke and become his bride. The two of them lived in Spencer, Tennessee while James Neville was teaching at Burritt College.

Catherine did not re-enter a class room until 1946 when she was asked to fill in for one year to teach Latin at Tiptonville High School. She remained there for almost 40 years.

When Catherine retired from LCHS in the eighties, she simply shifted her focus to her family, her church, a variety of clubs, the Historical Society, a hobby in photography, and a bit of world travel.

Today Catherine gives all appearance of being totally dependent on others to make it through each day. Given her problems with her memory and her increasing frailness, one could look sadly at her existence and think that the meaning for her life is over. HOW VERY VERY WRONG THAT THOUGHT WOULD BE!!!!!

Catherine LeDuke is a Teacher. IS a Teacher. Became a Teacher in 1936 and has never "not" been a Teacher since. It would simply be incorrect to say that Catherine LeDuke "was" a teacher.

For Catherine LeDuke,
teaching is not something you do;
teaching is who you are;
and the class room is where ever she is.

And as long as there is breath in her beautiful body, Catherine LeDuke will continue to teach. Class is held daily at 114 LeDuke Street. Telephone classes available at the touch of a button. If you haven't attended lately, the loss is yours.

Bring your camera and zoom in. You just might hear her say: "My name is Catherine LeDuke and I am a teacher.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

You "CAN" teach an old dog new tricks.

August 19, 2009

Dear Cathie, Jimmy, and Richard,

I truly enjoyed reading your "Request for Memories" recently printed in the Banner and enjoyed your current thoughts about Miss Catherine and Mr. James Neville.

Both were my teachers in high school. I have often said that Mr. LeDuke was my favorite teacher during my four years in high school. I took 1st and 2nd year Latin. Then, I wanted to take 3rd year Latin. Mr. LeDuke persuaded me to take 4th year. I sat in the class with 2nd year students, and received instruction from him directed to me during the hour. I won third place in 4th year Latin at the Latin Tournament in Memphis that year.

Mr. LeDuke was very witty, sometime strict with his students, but so inspiring. I will never forget his response to Easton LeBo when Easton would stutter in trying to answer a question correctly. Mr. LeDuke would say, "Now Easton, quit stuttering and give me an answer". But he spoke to Easton in a manner that did not "put him down" in any fashion. He retained respect from each of his students. The only book which I kept from my high school years was my 4th year Latin book. It is on one of my shelves still.

I also remember going to Memphis for one of the Latin Tournaments when Bill Lewis was driving the bus and had gotten on a one way, busy street going the wrong way. I can not remember Mr. LeDuke's exact comments to Bill, but I do remember that it was a dry humor remark which made our Latin test less stressful. We were all in a more light-hearted mood.

I cannot describe Miss Catherine as I would truly desire. I have published a book in previous years about a village that was my home during my youth and teen years. It was easier writing that entire book than describing Miss Catherine LeDuke.

She was my senior year English teacher. She instilled a desire to succeed in each student, and she related to each student in a manner which she believed was appropriate for that particular person. She even inspired you to enjoy Shakespeare. Two students in my class who did not strive for their potential in their senior year were threatened by Miss Catherine. I remember her telling them during the latter half of that year; "If you do not put more effort into your assignments you are not going to graduate with your class". Those two students did graduate. One of them is deceased, but was a successful farmer prior to his death. The other retired as a principal of an Elementary School in Memphis.

During the past years I have been associated with Miss Catherine as a former member of the Reelfoot Woman's Club and with the Lake County Historical Society. She has been a tireless worker with the Historical Society. She taught herself to type and use the computer about 10 years ago. At that time she was in her eighties. She typed many biographies of men from Lake County who served in World War II. At that time we were working toward the publication of our WWII volume which was a successful endeavor for the Society. During part of that time she was living in Nashville in order that Sue Hurst could continue her education toward becoming a Nurse Practitioner. She would type the biographies and then mail them to me. Then I would retype them in the final form for the book. At that time she had reached out for certain computer tools that I had not utilized in my work. She was for many, many years so supportive of the Historical Society. Lake County is indebted to her for her efforts in preserving our county's history.

I can proudly say that she is still my beloved friend. She has been remarkable!!!!


Arline Erwin Orr

Monday, November 2, 2009

The lighter side of Catherine

So many of the letters of tribute to Catherine LeDuke speak of lofty, intellectual, and inspirational feats of wizardry which Mother performed. But the truth is Mother had a lighter side to her image that is quite varied and equally unforgettable, especially to the individuals who got to witness those times.

A writer whose letter will be posted in its entirety at a later time tells us of a trip to Memphis to see a musical at the Orpheum. Mother is driving a call full of silly girls (is there any other kind) and overhears that one of them has met a boy recently who lives in Covington. Since they knew where he lived Mother drove the giggly crew past the house to give her heart throbbing passenger a thrill. Alas, no boy, no wave, no kiss-blowing on this trip.

They did however pass a cemetery. So serious was Miss Catherine, as she chose this opportunity to do a little "teaching" on the drive to Memphis. "Do you know why they do not bury anyone that lives within two blocks of that grave yard?" she asked her charges. Silly girls! It took them 20 miles to figure out that they do not bury the living.

Well, I didn't say her lighter side qualified her as a great comedian.

Another letter writer tells about the somewhat "zestful" way Mother would say the word "Damn" when demonstrating proper enunciation of all the words spoken by Lady Macbeth. Remember, she always emphasized speaking clearly and distinctly. "If the play calls for a curse, then do so with gusto." And if the scene calls for poor English, then lay it on with clarity: "I seen the little lamp".

And who else could direct by demonstration to the Drama Club members the art of "slurping" one's coffee from the saucer or the proper way to "walk like an old woman" at her then young age of 45.

And of course she often reminded us when we were tempted to get long-winded with our essays that when writing or giving a speech, "keep it short, like the girl's skirt". Catherine LeDuke said that???

Yet another describes Mother taking a group of young people on a "cultural" trip to Memphis during which Catherine LeDuke took them all to a fancy restaurant. "The first time a ever ate at a McDonald's was with your mother", she writes. Catherine spared no expense in exposing her students to the finer things in life.

This short letter spoke volumes:
When I think about your parents, I think survival. We would not have survived without your parents help. So in a sense I believe that I had two moms and two dads. Your mom bought me my first pair of real earrings. She will always have a special place in my heart. She was part of my inspiration to become a school teacher.

From another letter writer; Miss Catherine was the first female that I ever saw wear long pants. Remember now, just prior to Mother teaching school at THS she was a "rural mail carrier".
"Neither rain, nor snow, nor sleet, nor cold of morning..............." or something like that. Anyway Nell Frances Campbell Scott was remembering that while James Neville was winning World War II, Mother took over his job at the Post Office when Nell Frances' father was Post Master. "Those long pants helped to keep her warm in cold weather out on 'the route' delivering mail. What a good solution that was to keeping warm."

Is there a woman's closet today that is not three quarters full of pants??????

Yes, She had a lighter side. But even as we remember those moments and write about those memories I know each of us mentally call up an image of Mother's smiling face while continuing to feel the serious emotions of love, thankfulness, and awe at the multi-faceted life of Catherine Patty LeDuke.

Knock knock

Sunday, November 1, 2009

To Teach is to Touch a Life Forever!

July 27, 2009

Dear Cathie, Jimmy, Richard,

How many mugs have we seen with that statement on them? Probably everyone who has ever taught has one on her/his desk or stashed somewhere in a box titled "Rewards for teaching". Most of us who have ever received one as a gift from a student think it was made specifically for us. However, I did receive one once which stated "She who must be obeyed" in bold print. Was that a good thing!!!!! Anyway, the original mug message has always carried a subtitle for me, one that says Caherine LeDuke (underlined)! I realize that I am not unique in my love for her, just as she loved us all, we ALL loved her in return.

I remember our 10th grade English class fondly, not because of any great strides that I made in my knowledge of great literary works or grammar achievement (not the fault of my teacher), but because I have always been a sucker for fitting quotes. I guess I'm a Reader's Digest kind of girl. I appreciate the written work that is short and to the point, unlike my own method of communicating. One day as I walked into Miss Catherine's class I spied the new daily quote written on the blackboard. Yes, blackboards really were black in those days. At that particular time in my life I thought that I would always get everything that life had to offer, as long as it didn't cost too much! That day's quote was: "The secret to happiness is not getting what you like, but liking what you get." Well, after considering it for most of the class period, I finally decided that it really didn't apply to me. So young, so innocent, so wet behind the ears. Life has taught me the truth of what Miss Catherine was trying to place in our hearts that day. Like Garth Brooks sings, "Sometimes I thank God for unanswered prayers." Thank you Miss Catherine for placing such great wisdom in my heart and helping me see treasures close by.

We were blessed each day of our high school careers to have had such caring and gifted teachers as both Mr. and Mrs. LeDuke. It is difficult to separate them in my memories of THS. I remember that Miss Catherine didn't stop with teaching when our English or American History class ended. She taught us LIFE 101 and we never thanked her enough for everything she did for us. When we needed anything, all we had to do was ask her. She gave so freely of her time and energy. Who of us will ever forget the Drama Club that she started and whet our appetites for more of Show Biz, beginning with one-act plays and following with the Senior Play. I can still see her sitting in the stands at all of the basketball and football games, usually after taking up the meager fee for attending those functions. She never missed one of our class reunions and remembered something special about each one of us. I can still see her smile as she worked at the Reelfoot Arts and Crafts Fair every fall and welcomed me back home. I can remember how she touched my life and made me want to be like her as a teacher. I don't think I was ever anywhere close, but I certainly tried.

There is a destiny that makes us brothers,
None goes his way alone;
All that we send into the lives of others
Comes back into our own.

Edwin Markham must have been a kindred spirit with Miss Catherine. I know that she has reaped so much love from all of the students she touched. She would certainly say that all she did was her job, but we all know better. She willingly gave us her life. I used to feel sorry that Jimmy, Richard, and Cathie had to go through high school with their parents being teachers. Now, I envy them. All of those special high school memories must have been even sweeter when they were able to share them with their friends and and their parents. I will never forget that day in chemistry class when Mr. James Neville bumped against his desk and the kitchen matches in his pocket caught his pants on fire!

After college and three years of marriage, I returned home to live with my parents while Bobby was sent on a remote assignment in Alaska. I joined the Woman's Club that Miss Catherine belonged to at the time. She insisted that I call her just Catherine. for some reason, I couldn't do it. I did stop calling her Mrs. LeDuke, however, but kept the "Miss" in front of Catherine. I think in her heart she understood and eventually dropped the subject. That was a precious year for me. I got to live with my parents as an adult and be friends with my teachers, as I had never dreamed possible before. However, you should have seen my mother when she got her first phone bill with all those calls from Alaska on it!

I retired last year after 23 years as a classroom teacher/college counselor. I took all that Miss Catherine taught me and passed it along to hundreds of other students. I see now what a unique and blessed school adventure we all had. Our parents never had to worry about what or how we were being taught because they knew the hands that guided us through Margaret Newton Elementary and on through High School. We knew if we got into trouble at school, we got into trouble at home. Nobody even thought the word "sue", much less threatened it. It was the 50's and life was good. I chose to be a teacher because of those who taught me, especially Miss Catherine. She just had that something special about her that was too good not to allow it to be passed on to more generations. I will always be in her debt, and pray that somewhere a student that I touched can say the same about me. It would be because of the excellent influence of Catherine LeDuke and not any grand venture on my part.

Touching Shoulders
There's a comforting thought at the close of the day,
When I'm weary and lonely and sad,
That sort of grips hold of my crusty old heart
And bids it be merry and glad.
It gets in my soul and it drives out the blues,
And finally thrills through and through.
It is just a sweet memory that chants the refrain;
"I'm glad I touch shoulders with you!"

Did you know you were brave, did you know you were strong?
Did you know there was one leaning hard?
Did you know that I waited and listened and prayed,
And was cheered by your simplest word?
Did you know that I longed for that smile on your face,
For the sound of your voice ringing true?
Did you know that I grew stronger and better because
I had merely touched shoulders with you?

I am glad that I live, that I battle and strive
For the place that I know I must fill;
I am thankful for sorrows, I'll meet with a grin
What fortune may send, good or ill.
I may not have wealth, I may not be great,
But I know I shall always be true,
For I have in my life that courage you gave
When once I rubbed shoulders with you.

So, Miss Catherine
, you helped me to build something good of my life, and I feel blessed to have had you in mine all these years. I do want you to know that you made a BIG difference to all of us who considered ourselves one of your kids. Our class of 1961 felt a strong bond with the LeDuke family because we had Jimmy in our class. I can't look at him now without seeing Mr. James Neville, or hear him laugh and not think of all those times when laughter was the most any of us had. You and Mr. James Neville added joy to our lives and we will be forever grateful for that. You could not imagine the impact you have had on so many other students you will never meet because of the way you touched those of us who followed your career path. I shared you with all of my classes because you are so much of what makes me ME. Thank you from the bottom of my heart for being just YOU when I needed you most. You will forever be in my heart and in my prayers. May the Good Lord hold you in the hollow of His hand and keep you safe and happy. You are more special than you realize!!!

My love forever,

Elaine "Shug" Pierce Landrum

Saturday, October 31, 2009

The Games People Play.

Catherine LeDuke was a world class "Game Player". To the best of my knowledge she never won any trophies but if one had been awarded for willingness, eagerness, availability, variety, or sportsmanship her case would be over flowing. And how her children and grand children became so fiercely competitive in the game playing arena is beyond me. Nothing satisfied Mother more than the look on a child's face who had just defeated her at old maids, checkers, or connect four.

"Anybody want to play Somitpqirsh? Count me in, I'll play, shuffle and deal. By the way, how do you play somitpqirsh?"

Mother grew up playing Canasta with her mother, daddy, and brother, my Uncle Bud. Her sister Mary Elizabeth was the baby of the family and I believe was less involved in the card games. They made her the "chief kibitzer" and she was good at it. When our family went to visit our Memphis grand-parents in the fifties, Cathie and I were always eager to go because it gave us a chance to play cards with the grown ups.

Richard was the baby of our family so we made him the "kibitzer". He was never very good at it so we eventually had to teach him how to shuffle and let him join us. That was a mistake because fairly quickly he was beating us. Baby's of the family should be outlawed.

In the thirties and forties Bridge was the popular card game of choice and Mother and Daddy were extremely good. There were bridge games going on all over Tiptonville and Catherine and James Neville played in many of them. Most often I recall them being down the street at Annie Lee and Taft Yates' house.

James Neville and Catherine had returned to Tiptonville permanently in 1938 and lived across the street from Ben Neville and Miss Maude until they had a house built at 114 LeDuke Street in 1939. This was built on a lot deeded to them by Grand-Ma Duke who lived on the corner where the Post Office is now. Their two story house (that is if you walked up stairs only where the steep part of the roof was) cost $17,000 and when built had only the first floor finished.

But this house was large enough for the two of them and with room to spare for Catherine Lee LeDuke who was born in in in in in ....... Well, I was born in 1943 and Cathie is slightly older than me. Cathie and I shared the second of the two downstairs bed rooms until Richard came along in 1948. At that time the second floor was declared livable if the inhabitants would just not grow above 5 feet. Cathie and I both played center on basketball teams at THS.

Three rooms and a bath were added to the upstairs that were accessed by a flight of stairs that broke every safety code in the book. Climbing those stairs was very much like climbing a ladder. When Cathie and I got older and were about to receive punishment for some wrong doing, we would run around the house until we had out maneuvered which ever parent was chasing us and shoot up the stairs. We knew that if we could make it through the upstairs door we were safe. Neither Mother nor Daddy ever attempted that flight of stairs with anger in their heart.

Life on LeDuke Street was not just about bridge games with Annie Lee and Taft. There was a lot of gaming going on in the late forties and all during the fifties. I don't remember if the "gang" that played on this street had a name or not. Corinne or Cathie might know. All I remember was that I was barely old enough to be included in the street activities of the time.

And I remember that all of us in the area could be summoned by any Mother with just a few hollers from a front porch. Miss Annie Lee lived across the street and down about two houses. She and Taft had three children roughly the same ages as the LeDuke brood. Corinne, John Taft, and Gail. Behind the Yates lived Miss Jane Donnell who also had three kids, Bob, Connie, and Sue. Around the corner on Lake Street lived Dr. Smythe's two children, Helen and Bart. Helen was too smart and sophisticated to hang out with the likes of us but Bart was a regular in our crew. Later years found Phil Wesner, Paul Moore, Jerry Cooper, and WickyHearn mixed in with this bunch.

Kick the can, tag, roly-poly, baseball, bike riding - on handle bars, lightning bugs, red light - green light, crickets, tree climbing, pea shooter wars, cowboys and indians, putting a playing card in the spokes of your bike, double dog dare. And these are just a few of the games we played. And if we ever needed a referee, any mommy in the area had complete authority over the whole crew to administer what ever justice needed to be doled out to whomever.

Ree Ree Rogers lived at the end of the street. She had a hole in her house that was made by a cannon ball; at least that's a story I remember. Wish I could remember the point of the story. I do remember having dances at Ree Ree's house in our teen years. By then most of my street crew had graduated and gone on to bigger things. Which was alright since I had graduated to teen stuff and kick the can was not on the agenda.

If Catherine LeDuke's grandchildren and great grandchildren have even one memory of her, it would be at a dining room table playing cards, clue, monopoly, jacks, shoots and ladders, checkers, scrabble, connect four, rubbicube, michigan rummy. If it was a game, deal "Bubba" in.

Catherine LeDuke remained a game player extraordinaire and only very recently was forced to turn in her play book. One of her favorite games was domino's and I can remember playing with her until just a year or so ago. Her eye sight was the main reason she had to quit. For years we found progressively larger and larger domino tiles to play with until their size out grew the playing field of our dining room table.

Today as her memory fades I am convinced that just as she can recite poems learned long ago, I know she could hold her own in a game of canasta right now if she could just see the spots clearly enough.

And if a deck of cards were required for any game she played today, only the "Hearts" would be needed.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Throw a rock into a pond and the effect will be felt on all shores.

Sept. 20, 2009

Dear Miss Catherine,

I was pleased to read in the Banner some time ago that your children were looking for people to share their memories of you and Mr. LeDuke. You and I have visited several times through the years, and you already know that you have meant so very much to me. I'm glad to be able to have the opportunity to share some memories with you and with others who might read this.

My class was the last one to graduate from the old Tiptonville High School, that grand old multi-storied building that had graced the corner for so many years, but was literally falling down by the time we graduated in 1963. As children I recall swinging in the front yard of the old school with Ray Allison, Jeannie Hyde and others. What wonderful swings those were!

As I recall, I had you for freshman and junior English and for American History as a senior. There were lots of good teachers in Tiptonville, and going into high school shortly after Sputnik was launched, there was a first rate education available to anyone who chose to avail themselves of it.

But, you, Miss Catherine, were the best! Your teaching style and my learning style were perfectly matched. I loved your classes, and felt your genuine love and concern for every one of your students. I was a very strange teenager in that I ACTUALLY BELIEVED that adults knew more than I did, and that they truly did want the best for me. (Just how bizarre is that?!?!)

As adults, many of us have attended seminars, classes, etc. in which we were asked to speak of or just recall the most influential people in our lives. There are two that, without a doubt, made me into the person I have become. The first was my dear daddy, who died in 1984, and a very close second is you, Miss Catherine. The two of you taught me so many things about life and the love of learning. You were both on the same page as far as your character and philosophies were concerned, and I'm still trying to live up to the lessons you both taught me.

One thing I especially remember was that little blackboard you had in your room. It was really too small to use for teaching, and you would write a poem, quotation, bible verse, etc. on it and leave it there for some period of time before a new one would appear. Some in the class thought that you were being overly moralistic and "preachy", but not me. Did you know that I copied all of those down? I have them still.

One in particular I liked and have said over to myself many, many times since. In fact I wrote it on the blackboard of an adult Sunday School class I was teaching just a couple of weeks ago. It was this:

"Boys flying kites
Reel in their white winged birds,
But you can't do that
When you are flying words."

This was just the sort of poem my daddy would quote to me. He loved poetry, too, and taught me that it must be read aloud to be fully appreciated. I shared this with him, and he liked it a lot. It was a rule he lived by as I know it was a rule you lived by, too.

My husband and I are very active in our church, and one of the things I love to do, is to be the Lay Reader. I've been told often that I seem so relaxed speaking in front of groups. I always say that we can thank my high school teacher, Mrs. LeDuke for that.

You probably don't remember this, Miss Catherine, but one day you took me aside after class and said that you were going to call on me to do something in front of the class once a week, not as a punishment, but to help me become more confident. Sure sounded like a punishment to me, but again, I had that crazy notion that adults really did want to help me, and it was without a doubt, a God-send. I now have no difficulty doing anything in front of crowds of people, and have been blessed many times over because of your insight and care into what was needed by one terribly introverted teenager.

I got my first taste of success, and enjoyment in this endeavor when, toward the end of our junior year we were each given the assignment of reading a short story or book and then standing up and telling it to the class. Pondering what to read, my daddy suggested to me the short story "The Lady or the Tiger?" by Frank R. Stockton. What an excellent choice it was. I'd never read it and loved the story. I practically memorized it, and I remember the feeling I had when I knew that the whole class was hanging on every word I said. I'd NEVER had that kind of attention in my life. What a thrill! What power!

The story ends with a cliff-hanger, and when I got there, I just sat down. Frankie (now known as John) Rose and David Ramsey were practically yelling "What happened? What happened? No fair!" I loved it! Thank you, Miss Catherine. I was never nervous in front of a crowd after that.

Mr. LeDuke was just a hoot. I don't mean any disrespect by that. He was just plain fun as far as I was concerned. I had him in Chemistry and have always regretted that I didn't take Physics as well, but instead I took four years of the only language offered at that time - Latin - taught by Mr. LeDuke. There were not many of us who took four years of Latin, and Physics probably would have done me more good in the long run, but I have always enjoyed languages. As a result, I have always had a very good vocabulary, and can figure out the meaning of most words.

In fact, as a young adult, one of my sons said to me one day, that he wished I hadn't taught him so many big words! Some of his friends thought he was being snooty, but he was just speaking normally as far as he was concerned. Too bad, so sad to be smart and speak well.

I could go on and on, but the bottom line would be the same: The LeDukes were a blessing to countless numbers of young people and are/were loved more than they can ever know.

You have wonderful children who are willing to put this tribute together for you. Clearly you have blessed your children's lives as you have blessed the lives of all your students.....

My love and best regards,

Nita (Jones) Heard
Houston, Texas