Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Virginia Hayes - Colleague, Close Friend, Co-director Extraordinaire

*Look for a new posting every Tuesday and Friday*

In most all of the letters of tribute which Catherine
Virginia Hayes and her beautiful smile
LeDuke has received thanking and praising her for being such a wonderful, mentoring teacher, two other names are almost always mentioned alongside hers; James Neville LeDuke and Virginia Hayes.

Virginia Hayes must have been about 15 years old when she started teaching English at  Tiptonville High School because she is still as gorgeous as I remember her in the 1950's and 60's.  She, Catherine LeDuke, and about 6 other teachers were responsible for providing at least two generations of students the highest possible academic start to their lives available anywhere in the United States.
These two were constantly "on the go."
These two then took on the added chore of co-directing the Senior Class Plays and even took that a step further by starting the "drama club" at the new Lake County High School in the 60' and 70's.  The learning experience to Catherine and Virginia was never limited to text books and class rooms.  Acting classes became much more to the students of Lake County than reading lines; they were taught as Lyle Lankford recently told us, how to swear with a proper Shakespearean accent and coffee-slurping techniques every teenager should know.

Miss Virginia and Miss Catherine "slurping" together

Swearing and slurping aside Miss Virginia and Miss Catherine taught, guided, led, encouraged, corrected, challenged, and mentored all the kids they came in contact with whether or not they were in their classrooms;  and these life lessons continued long after they both retired.  All who know Virginia Hayes are so very lucky for the experience.

Last summer I had a special reason to reach out to Virginia Hayes when I picked up the Lake County Banner dated July 2, 2012.  The note which I wrote to her was dated much later because my banner always seems to arrive about two weeks late.  (Not that I am complaining, Evan, just stating the facts; just the facts.)  Anyway the content of the note speaks for itself and since I was just thinking again about Virginia Hayes, I thought you folks might enjoy it.


Dear Miss Virginia,                                                    Wednesday  --  July 18, 2012

I am so happy to be able to write you this note today and even happier knowing that you will be able to read it in a few days when it arrives in your mail box.

My “Banner” was delivered yesterday; one week after its printing, as is the norm.  After I scanned the front page I flipped through the remaining few pages in route to the obituary section to see who was no longer with us.

Imagine my shock, disbelief, and extreme sadness as I saw that my dear high school teacher, family friend, and the literary editor of all my books had passed away on July 2nd.  I rushed to Marty’s side to show her the headline: “Virginia Hayes died Monday”.  She was as saddened as I was.

I returned to the comfort of my recliner and began composing the eulogy I would have given had I been asked to participate in your funeral and the memorial essay took shape quickly in my mind; beloved teacher, the standard for all women to aspire to be as Christian, Mother, Friend, most beautiful and constant smile always available to whomever she was greeting, wonderful sense of humor, faithful companion to my Mother and my sister Sue.

On and on the words flowed out until I finally began actually reading the content of your “Obit” in the Banner and quickly realized that I was not reading your Obit.  I rushed out of my chair and found Marty to tell her the good news of your resurrection.  Needless to say she was as excited as I was at the “Good News.”

While I had not put any of my praiseful words on paper they were still there, waiting to slowly evaporate as soon as the evening’s television fare began and started to kill off a new batch of my brain cells.  That’s when I realized that I should at least write you a note to let you know that you had been thought of quite reverently by two people in Georgia on a hot summer evening in July.

Please let Mark know when the time comes some 20 or so years from now I will be prepared, with my speech in hand, to stand before that “packed house” and offer my words that so very many people will agree with.  The line will be long as your faithful students and friends rush to tell me how much they echoed my words and how true my commemoration was.  It’s amazing how even in the fantasy of your funeral I can make it all about me; but fortunately it is my fantasy and not your reality.

I did not know Virginia Hays of Ridgely.  I hope she is at Peace with her Lord and that her family has been able to deal well with the loss of their loved one. 

I do know Virginia Hayes of Tiptonville and I hope that you are doing well and that this note finds you in good health and spirit.  I enjoyed my visit with you recently and will be stopping by again to “check on you”.  Please know that you have always been revered and you still look beautiful on the pedestal that so many of us have placed you.

Your loving student and friend,

                                                                      Jimmy LeDuke   


Virginia Hayes is indeed alive and well and still living on Poplar Street in Tiptonville.  She and Sue Hurst recently made a trip to visit with Barbara Markham at Montgomery Bell State Park near Nashville. 

Yes.  She is still a GO - GO Gal.  


Jimmy LeDuke (I'd love to hear from you...feel free to comment below, or click HERE to send me an e-mail.)

1 comment:

  1. Great post! I loved being in drama club with Mrs. Hayes and Mrs. LeDuke. The two of them took the club to Memphis to see what was my first opera, "Susannah" by Carlisle Floyd. We sat in the highest, smallest balcony in the Music Hall. Key to the plot was the scene where Susannah skinny dips while being discovered by the church elders. The girl playing the role of Susannah was surely wearing a body stocking, but to a 17 year old boy in the third balcony, I was sure I had seen my first live naked lady. Education was indeed a wonderful thing.