November 11, 2009 Edition

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Farewell, Mrs. Bush

John Bland

Jeanette Bush, who died Thursday at age 90, would have enjoyed the recent Walnut Ridge High School Alumni Reunion more than anyone. She graduated from WRHS in 1935 and taught at the school for 33 years before retiring in the late 1970s. Everyone there would have known her, and she would have been delighted, as she always was, to see any of her friends and especially her former students.

Mr. Ben R. Bush, longtime elementary principal at the school that now bears his name, and Mrs. Bush, as 11th and 12th grade English and literature teacher, were each legends in their own way to Walnut Ridge students. Together, they were a part of most school functions from spaghetti suppers to sixth grade promotions and senior graduation activities.

Mrs. Bush was my teacher for two years, and she took reluctant students and introduced us to English and American literature and imbedded it in our minds. We read Shakespeare's "MacBeth" and memorized famous parts of the play, such as "Out, damned spot! Out, I say." We learned in that scene that no amount of hand washing could wash away the psychological stain of murder. That was heavy stuff. Robert Frost's "Stopping By Woods on a Snowy Evening" was another piece of literature she committed to our memories, while we also considered Frost's intended message in the poem.

Throughout the year, Mrs. Bush encouraged students to relish their high school days. She shared stories about former her students, some of them parents of classmates, and told stories of her son, Ben Robert Bush Jr. and by the time I was in her class, her daughter-in-law, Pam Harrell Bush. At the same time, she drilled into us the importance of preparing for college by learning how to write a proper research paper. And yes, she also demanded respect and had no tolerance for inappropriate behavior in class.

"Sunset and evening star, And one clear call for me!" the first lines of Alfred Lord Tennyson's "Crossing the Bar" are more verses we learned in her class.

Another stanza from the poem goes: "Twilight and evening bell, And after that the dark! And may there be no sadness of farewell, When I embark;"

Despite what the poem states, those of us who knew and loved Mrs. Bush cannot help but feel sad that she has crossed the bar.

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