[Photo: Hoke Schools retirees gathered for a celebration last week.]
By Catharin Shepard • Staff writer • Hoke County Schools honored more than 30 retirees at a luncheon last week, including several people who retired in 2020 but were unable to celebrate at the time due to the pandemic.
School principals and Board of Education members joined together to recognize each retiree, share a story or reminisce about their time working together and present a token of appreciation on behalf of the school system.
Dr. Dana Chavis praised retiree John Fux, a longtime teacher and Career and Technical Education administrator with 27 years of service in education. Fux enjoys board games, classic rock concerts and often reunites lost dogs with their owners – something that’s happened frequently enough that his neighbors dubbed him “Doctor Doolittle,” Chavis said. She wished him a happy retirement as he gets to spend more time with his grandchildren.
“John has given many years to the students of Hoke County High School, and to the community of Hoke County, but his heart has always been with his family,” Chavis said.
Human Resources Director Dr. Donna Thomas told a story of running an impromptu 5K with retiree Rosa Bailey while they attended an event in Atlanta. Even though it was over 100 degrees, and Bailey initially wanted to turn back halfway, she pushed through to the finish line.
“Rosa’s quiet leadership and compassionate demeanor, and ‘in it together’ attitude make working with her a true delight,” Thomas said.
Gale Virgil wore a tiara and a sash to celebrate the special day as she joined her colleagues to look back on their many years in education. Dr. Lynn Blackshear-Ray praised Virgil for her work ethic and her dedication to her students, and also thanked her for frequently bringing in food for her colleagues, and taking care of their office plants.
“She made sure that things were done and that they were done correctly,” Blackshear-Ray said.
Peggy Owens praised teacher, mentor and coach Ester Hollingsworth-Shaw, who helped launch the freshmen success program and an after-school program at Hoke High.
“We love you, Ester,” she said.
Fellow retiree and now-former associate superintendent Roger Edwards described Hollingsworth-Shaw, who has worked in many roles in education for 41 years, as a leader.
“First of all she’s a wonderful person. Second of all she’s a leader,” he said.
Of the people retiring, Patricia Michael of West Hoke Elementary held the longest record of service with 43 years in education, according to the program. Close behind her were associate superintendent and former Hoke High Principal Roger Edwards with 42 years; Ester Hollingsworth-Shaw, most recently of SandHoke Early College High School, with 41 years in education. Many others who retired had well over 20 years in the field, whether in Hoke County Schools entirely or partially while working at other school districts.
The retirees included teachers, teacher assistants, child nutrition, janitorial staff and administrative staff among them. Together they had a combined total of over 700 years of experience in the education field.
The retirees from 2020 and 2021 included:
Don Steed Elementary – Donna Jackson, 31 years
Hawk Eye Elementary – Sherry Miller, 27 years
McLauchlin Elementary – Carolyn Quick, 12 years
Rockfish Hoke Elementary – Emilie Davenport, 23 years; Kris McCammitt, 27 years; Shirley Perry, 12 years
Sandy Grove Elementary – Janice Endres, 23 years; Brenda Malloy, 14 years; Marion McGregor, 12 years
Scurlock Elementary – Catherine Blue, 21 years; Louise Frierson, 13 years; Mamie McRae, 17 years; William McRae, 14 years
Upchurch Elementary – Robert Allain, 29 years; Bonnie Lunday, 26 years
West Hoke Elementary – Patricia Michael, 43 years
Sandy Grove Middle – Robin Merkel, 9 years
East Hoke Middle – Virginia Bateman, 29 years
West Hoke Middle – Renee Beethea, 21 years; Keneen Culbreth, 30 years; Wanda Glasper, 11 years; Debra Patterson, 11 years
SandHoke Early College High School – Queen Ester Hollingsworth-Shaw, 41 years
Hoke County High School – Rochelle Arrington, 31 years; Kevin Davis, 25 years; Patricia Jackson, 26 years; Michael Monk, 22 years; Godzetta Whittington, 30 years
Exceptional Children – Gale Virgil, 27 years
Career and Technical Education – John Fux, 27 years
Curriculum and Instruction – Rosa Bailey, 25 years
Transportation – Tom Paris, 30 years
Central Office – Roger Edwards, 42 years