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When I was a younger man, in fact about 50, I was running a successful publishing business here in Marceline. I think it was about 1998 and I was coming out of the post office when I was met near the parking area by one of my grade school teachers. She recognized me right away and come right up to me. I recognized her and fully expected a “how are you doing Darrell.” That is not what I got.
Mrs. Washam was my Special Education teacher when I was in the 2nd and 3rd grades and she was about to set me straight. I took special ed because I was a slow reader. I remember in the second grade I thought she was the most beautiful woman in Marceline, after my mom of course.
To give you a little background, I moved back to Marceline after being away for ten years. I was now married, and we had opened a Western Auto store here when we first came back in 1974. Mrs. Washam came in the store once in a while to make purchases. I hadn’t seen her much since closing the Western Auto store in 1976. Since the Western Auto store, I had spent time on the road selling advertising for a plat map company. Then I had a dairy farm for ten years and after the drought of 1988 got out of farming and was an assistant manager of a local grocery store for a couple years. I ended up starting my own publishing company in 1992. It seems I was mostly self-employed all of those years and always a busy person. We had been in the publishing business for only a few years when our meeting happened on that post office sidewalk.
Back to my story. Mrs. Washam came right up to my face and started thumping her index finger on my chest. It really caught me off guard. She said, “Darrell it’s your turn. You young folks are going to have to start stepping up. Us old folks are dying and if you don’t start doing your part, our community will go away.” We talked for a few minutes and went our own ways. But that was an awakening for me. I didn’t realize then how much what she had said really stuck with me.
A year or so later my banker came up to me and asked if I would be willing to serve on the city Industrial Development Authority Board. He said I would be replacing my uncle Bob who had been serving on the board for many years. I said I would consider it and over the next couple days I got to thinking about what Mrs. Washam had said.
I said I would, and still serve the IDA today. I now serve on too many boards, but it has been some of the most rewarding work I have done in my life. Thank you, Mrs. Washam for being there for me, and our town.
If you are proud of and enjoy the community you live in, consider this your thump on the chest, get involved, volunteer to serve on a city board or committee. It’s worth it, and then you qualify to thump on someone else’s chest.