Our dear, longtime friend Milbrey Mahan died two years ago on this day. She was 94 years old.
She was born Milbrey Green in a farm house up the road from us. She was a slight, delicate, elfin woman, with swept silver hair, bright blue eyes, and a lovely smile that charmed everyone she met. Simply said, she was beautiful.
For fifty-five consecutive years, she taught first grade at the old Hillsboro School. She taught many of the people who live here in town, most of them middle-aged by now, and they all describe her as a strict and loving teacher who gave special attention to the many poor and troubled children in her classes. Often she bought proper clothes for the poorest children, and comforted them in the problems they faced in their often dysfunctional and poverty-stricken homes. She followed their lives closely as they grew, and they revered her in return.
She herself had been homeless for a time. When she was still a little girl, her father, Otto, tried to burn a nest of wasps out from under the eaves of the house and set the whole building ablaze. The Greens were left with nothing, but there were generous neighbors nearby who sustained them as they recovered. Milbrey passed that on down the line.
I remember a time while we were sitting on a bench in front of the antique store and a county prison truck passed by taking convicts to clean up trash on the side of the road. Milbrey grew pensive and sighed and said it distressed her to see the inmate work crews: “I taught an awful lot of those boys,” she said, “and it just breaks my heart to see them that way. They were such sweet boys.” That’s just the way she was.
It rained at her funeral, so a graveside service was held under a crowded tent. After Pastor Betty had completed the service and the final prayers had been said, we stepped out from under the tent and everyone looked up at the sky as the sun broke through the clouds with a rainbow completely encircling it. It seemed too good to be true, but that’s what happened.
The old Leiper’s Fork lost a big part of its heart with Milbrey’s passing, but we will never forget her.