Beverly Smith Zacharias
Presented June 17, 1995
at AHS 1955 40th Class Reunion
Thelma Plant *
don’t know if we were luckier than most - I just know we were so very
fortunate to have teachers that taught us much more than Typing, Algebra,
Latin or English ... they taught us life and how to live it. And what they gave us surely did not stop within us - but in
more ways than we’ll ever realize, we have passed their lessons on to our
children and grandchildren.
certainly doesn’t bother me, but if it does you, please give Mr. Longfellow
a bit of understanding if you think he is not politically correct when he
of great men - all remind us - We can make our lives sublime; and departing,
leave behind us footprints - on the sands of time …”
and they DID - their lives are a legacy to us.
we have set aside this time to honor 3 teachers who were always there for us,
and are still, even in death. Somehow,
I hope they can hear their tribute tonight ... wouldn’t be surprised if they
can! And I hope - that somewhere
along the way - I conveyed to them at least part of what I am about to say
attended classes of all three. I
sat in the front of Coach O’Brien’s class - there weren’t
that many of us in summer school! Ms.
Randitt had tried her best to make Algebra stick in my head - but I had a
life-long aversion to math. Ma
Hudson once told me, “Beverly, you can’t do math worth a lick, but then I
can’t play the organ like you can” ... so you can understand, our
Hollywood handsome Coach had a nearly impossible task with me.
Whatever he taught me that summer, I have long since forgotten - what I
do remember, is that he got me through it with a grade good enough to
please my unhappy parents. But my
fondest memories of Coach were at Albany First Methodist - seeing him usher -
he was always there - always dedicated to his church.
And I’ve been told - that never changed - he was there even in
his wheelchair. Wayne Kennedy was
good enough to call me in Atlanta, and he remembers Coach’s great spirit the
night he was honored with a Dove Awards Dinner Banquet.
He also remembers him as an outstanding basketball coach, teacher, and
educator, who believed in DISCIPLINE by the “BOARD” of EDUCATION.
Wayne remembers personally that when someone was beckoned to the front
of the class for LICKS, they were given a choice ... of 1, 2, 3, or even 5 licks!
Some of you may recall - to choose 5 licks was to choose 5 pretty
good ones - but to choose 1 lick - well that was a WHOPPER, and it resounded
throughout the halls!
asked Jackie Clark to name his favorite teacher ... his immediate response
was, Coach O’Brien ... he taught me everything I knew.” Coach was a great man ... a man we all loved and admired.
sat about in the middle of Thelma Plant’s class - but it
wasn’t really what went on in her classroom that stands out in my mind - it
was my experiences in Tri Hi Y. I
don’t remember the actual CREED or PURPOSE, other than serving God and
community; but I do remember swallowing real hard when she had
me sign the dreaded Tri Hi Y pledge - which of course meant, by merely
signing, I was assured of remaining a “proper young lady.”
was a great counselor - she was full of great ideas, and was quite the
motivator. But when I approached
her about my wonderful and unique idea for a moneymaking project,
I thought at first she was choking on something!
Her eyes popped, and her mouth dropped when I suggested a “Powder
Puff football game” - the first EVER in Georgia!
For one of the few times in her life, she was at a loss for words! But I continued explaining my plan - we’d ask Mr. Mac, Mr.
Cordell and Taxi Smith, our mayor, to be referees … interested football players
would be the coaches, and various and sundry other guys would dress as
cheerleaders (now this was BEFORE we knew that drag would EVER mean anything
other than the phrase, “stag or drag”).
But Thelma, as usual, let us spread our wings and test the waters. And that game brought in over $500 – in the fall of
lived for Tri Hi Y and she loved her girls.
But it was the boys she loved, and whom she requested to serve as her
pallbearers at her funeral - even one of our own, Lawson Vann.
And these adult men were as DISTINCT and DISSIMILAR as they could
Thelma lived for others and loved ALMOST everyone - especially if they
tried to live up to their potential. She
always saw the potential in her students, and with that wonderful twinkle in
her eyes; she let you know you could do things you had only dreamed
sat in the back of Billy
Bragg’s class – wishing, on that particular day, to make
myself invisible, and hoping he would not call my name.
Those of us in his class had been given the assignment of reciting a
poem long enough to fill 3 pages in the American Literature book … the theme
being death. I heard him call my
name. I knew I wasn’t
prepared. There had been trauma
in my life during that first week in October 1953.
Across the street in Phoebe Putney was a tiny baby boy - born 3
months too early, weighing just over a pound and barely clinging to life.
This child was a late-life baby for my parents - the boy my father had
always wanted, and the brother I had always longed for.
But now it was my turn to recite, and I headed to the front of
the class. Billy Bragg sat in the
back of the class - glasses slipped down to the very tip of his nose …
waiting ... so I drew a deep breath and began … “To him, who in the
love of Nature holds Communion with her visible forms, she speaks a various
language; for his gayer hours - she has a voice of gladness, and a smile and
eloquence of beauty; and she glides into his darker musings, with a mild and
healing sympathy that steals away their sharpness, ere he is aware.
When thoughts of the last, bitter hour come, like a blight over thy
spirit ..." and at that point, I drew a blank - I couldn’t remember
another word - and I heard Billy say, “Bevly - how’s that little brothuh
of yours doin’?” Tears filled
my eyes, and my throat was too tight to even answer, for my little brother,
Lukie, wasn’t doing well at all. Then
I heard Billy continue, “this is probably a difficult poem for you to deal
with right now - we’ll just let you try this again next week!!
that moment, I was no longer “Frivolous” (his nickname for me) to him - I
was a wounded student, and he had reached out to me with tender care.
When a teacher can teach a student about life through a dark vehicle
such as Thanatopsis - (a poem about overcoming the fear of death) -
that student has been richly blessed. And
evidently there were volumes of people just like me.
Albany First Methodist Church had to print an additional insert in
their bulletin, and again the next week in order to list the people
giving memorial contributions in his memory.
what our parents did for us, these teachers lifted us up - even as the WIND to
EAGLES, and by example and lessons, taught us to fly higher than we ever could
have without them having touched our lives.
you Coach …
Thank you Thelma …
you Billy …
you were the wind beneath our