By Ralphine Major
“We could talk better in person for the interview,” she told me over the phone. When I arrived, she was prepared. Her note pad was filled with names, dates, and other information she wanted to share for a Focus story published in January 2012. At that time, she was almost 100 years old and could still recall events with no problem! Interviewing this retired English teacher made me smile. Ever since then, I always looked for her car in the carport and a seasonal wreath on her front door whenever we passed by her home. She still drove, and I often saw her at the Midway IGA grocery store in Gibbs.
The Milligan College graduate was admired and respected by students for over forty years! Mrs. Acuff was a 1930 Gibbs High School graduate and was recognized at the 100th Anniversary celebration of the school in 2013.
Church was important to Mrs. Acuff. At Little Flat Creek Baptist Church in Corryton, she had served as pianist, Sunday School teacher, and leader of a weekly Bible study group.
Mrs. Acuff was as much an inspiration to former students in her retirement years as she was when teaching. They would often come by and take her out to eat. During my visit with her, Mrs. Acuff shared a piece of advice that she had given to a grandson about how important it was to be happy in whatever work you choose to do. “I always knew that I wanted to teach,” she told me. Perhaps, that is why she was loved by so many.
Mabel Acuff passed away on May 14, 2016, just days after her 103rd birthday! It seems appropriate to close with words written by one of Mrs. Acuff’s former high school students.
“In the long run, we’ll find out someday we grow too old to play football, or basketball, or even baseball; but we never grow too old to use the English our high school and maybe our college English teachers have taught us. Someday, when that time comes, we’ll be very thankful to them . . .” Perry McGinnis, December 14, 1953.
Surely, this long-time educator leaves behind thousands of former students who are “very thankful!”