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."