Lessons learned from Maddie D. Vann

Published 12:00 am Monday, March 14, 2005

Maddie Vann’s dedication involves more than teaching.

Many of us who completed our elementary and high school education in Suffolk remember Maddie Deloise Vann as one of those special teachers who stood out among others.

But few know her as a person who is devoted to her church and family.

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Vann is my aunt, the youngest and only survivor of five siblings born to the late Armstead and Vinnie Beverly Vann. In 1939, she graduated from the former Booker T. Washington High School as valedictorian of her class. She then attended Virginia State (College) University in Petersburg, majored in English and in 1943 graduated cum laude.

Also in 1943, she began her career as an English teacher in Waverly. Two years later, she began teaching English and literature in the Suffolk Public School System.

She retired in 1980 from Suffolk High School after 36 years of service. Over the years, she attended other institutions to enhance her career, including the National Council of English Teachers’ summer conferences at the University of Iowa and Purdue University.

Vann has been a member of East End Baptist Church for over 60 years and served in many organizations. On Sunday, Feb. 27, the church celebrated Emeritus Appreciation Day and she was recognized and named Deaconess Emeritus along with Mildred Freeman after 22 years of service. Freeman served 20 years.

As a deaconess, Vann served bread and wine to the congregation on the second Sunday of every month and accommodated female candidates for baptism to the pool when they were to be baptized.

On Sunday, March 20, Vann will be recognized with four other honorees by the Epsilon Zeta Theta Chapter of the Zeta Phi Beta Sorority Inc. at Temple Beth El on Bridge Road. The event is part of the sorority’s

annual Finer Womanhood Celebration Program.

This organization has also made a big impact on my life because it was the first one to honor me in March 1994. For me, many other honors and recognitions followed and I always visualized her name beside mine on the plaques and certificates because she has been a constant help in proofreading my columns since I began writing in 1985.

At the Emeritus Appreciation Day Service, my niece Charlene Banks presented Vann with roses and Dr. Dorothy Jones presented her with an appreciation plaque. Banks told the congregation how Vann took her to Canada and other states when she was only 8.

However, Vann did the same for other family members. In the 1960s, she took my sister Shirley and me to the World’s Fair in Philadelphia and took my son, Mark, to the World’s Fair in Knoxville, Tenn., and to visit other states when he was only 10.

Vann has only owned two cars in her entire life – a blue and silver 1959 Ford Fairlane 500 and a turquoise 1966 Ford Galaxie 500. Banks told the congregation how Vann often came to pick her up in the turquoise taxi to transport her to Sunday school and church. Well, that same car was driven by Vann on July 12, 1971, to Obici Hospital on the day I went into labor to give birth to my son.

Vann had always lived next door to my mother, who babysat Mark when I worked. When he started to school, Vann tutored him in reading and other subjects. This resulted in his being an honor graduate in the class of 1989 at the former John F. Kennedy High School

and getting a scholarship to the College of

William and Mary. In 1993, after he earned a psychology degree, Vann gave him his first car as a graduation gift. He later took graphic art courses at Norfolk State and is now doing work for a NASA contractor in Newport News, Crewe Stone Technology.

Now she is working on the third generation of nieces and nephews. Cory Banks, Charlene’s son, frequently went to Vann’s home for tutoring after school. He graduated as an honor student from Lakeland High School last summer and made the dean’s list during his first semester at Virginia State.

He will be taking his second semester exams next week.

Vann is a member of our Booker T. Washington Alumni Association and serves on its Scholarship Committee. Even though my siblings and I are all senior citizens now, she sometimes talks to us like we are still students in her English class so that we won’t forget from whence we came.

This small frame of a woman has touched so many lives and displayed her love in so many ways.

Luckily, she still has plenty to look forward to. After all, Cory is still in college; his sister, Charnelle, is a freshman at King’s Fork High School; and I am still writing a weekly column.

Evelyn Wall is a regular columnist for the Suffolk News-Herald. She can

be reached at 934-9615.