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Joan C. McKinney
Her kind smile. Her red fingernails. Her diminutive stature. Her nice clothes. Her seeing the best in children. Her smell.
Virginia Graves Shively of Campbellsville is all of these adjectives and more, according to those who attended an event at Campbellsville University on April 18 in honor of her 92nd birthday, which was April 24.
The idea was conceived by her son, Dr. Eugene Shively, a Campbellsville surgeon, who discussed the idea with Chuck Vaughn, Centennial campaign officer for major gifts at CU.
Dr. Shively said his mother had "done a lot of great things" and he wanted to celebrate her life while she was alive. About 140 people were on hand to do just that in the Winters Dining Hall.
"She had a phenomenal ability to relate to kids," said Dr. Shively of his mother, who was a schoolteacher. "She would buy gloves for children who had none. She provided an incredible knowledge and love for children."
Mrs. Shively taught elementary school in the Campbellsville Independent School District for 33 years until her retirement in 1974. Her son established a scholarship in her honor in 2007 with first priority being given to elementary education majors who graduated from Campbellsville or Taylor County high schools.
Mrs. Shively graduated from Campbellsville University in 1934. She returned for a bachelor of science degree in 1961.
Among those speaking at the event were: Anne Coop Murray, Don Dabney, Dr. Bob Himes, Anne Fraim, Phil Allan Bertram and Phyllis Frymire.
"She was like sunshine in the classroom," said Murray, who had Mrs. Shively in class in the second grade in 1949. "She was like a bright light, and she warmed the room. She had an aura of glamour about her, and she was beautiful inside and outside."
Murray said she wore clothes that matched and "looked like a movie star."
"She spoke kindly, she had a gentle touch and she smelled good. She had the gift of seeing and believing the best in each child. She encouraged us to achieve," Murray said. "She enriched our lives."
Dabney said he was a second-grader in the fall of 1946 when his classmates were losing baby teeth and sharing notes about Santa Claus.
"Mrs. Shively didn't have a paddle," he said. "She didn't need one. We knew who was in charge."
"Thank you for teaching us the basics of life - more than books. Thank you for your 'glass is half full' attitude."
Mrs. Shively's name was number eight on page two of a class with nine people taught by Himes in 1961. He said she always introduced him as "This is Mr. Himes, one of my teachers."
Himes taught government, and Mrs. Shively wound up working the voting polls, and Himes said he always enjoyed voting when she working.
Fraim was in Mrs. Shively's class in 1940. She said she always remembers Mrs. Shively as being "bright as a shiny copper penny.
"We idolized her as 7- and 8-year-olds. We always wanted to make her happy," she said.
"She was an excellent teacher, and she always made us want to learn. We loved her - it's that simple. She was a substitute mother to us."
Phil Allan Bertram brought a report card from when his son, Allan, was in the second grade.
He said he would never forget that his father, George, had had a serious heart attack, and it was thought he would not make it through the night.
Bertram said that his son had a heavy heart, and Mrs. Shively pulled him aside in the classroom and said they could talk "one on one" about his grandfather. He said he was indebted to her for taking that time with his son to discuss his grandfather - who lived 25 years more before his death.
Frymire said she had "Miss Graves" in class in 1939. She hadn't had a good first grade and wasn't happy going back to school for the second grade.
She said Mrs. Shively smiled at her with "eyes that said she was so glad to see me" and "I felt as if the sun had come out."
"Each one of us little people felt special with her as our teacher," she said. "She taught us to appreciate the little things, like Jack Frost coming. She gave us real money to learn to make change with."
She said Mrs. Shively had the prettiest hands and always wore red fingernail polish. Frymire said she got her a small bottle of nail polish for Christmas from Walgreen's and put it under the tree.
"When she unwrapped the tissue paper, her face lit up and she had the most beautiful smile and gave me a hug. She made it seem like that was the very gift she had been hoping for.
"Thank you for your grace and kindness and role model you were for our second graders," she said. "I learned that going to school was good, and we all wanted to be like you."
Vaughn said the evening was an "incredible" one with the many stories told about Mrs. Shively. He said there was an "amazing turnout and that speaks volumes of the many friends" Mrs. Shively has.
Asked at the end of the evening to make remarks, Mrs. Shively thanked all who had come to celebrate with her.
For information about the Virginia Shively Scholarship Fund, contact Vaughn in the Office of Development at Campbellsville University, at firstname.lastname@example.org or 789-5149.
- Joan C. McKinney is director of university communications at Campbellsville University.