A “Tee party” activity is planned in Surry County next weekend, but not of the type normally associated with such a name.
Instead, it will a special birthday celebration for a retired local teacher, Teresa “Tee” Gillespie, hence the Tee party reference.
Gillespie’s family members and friends are using the occasion of her 80th birthday to also hold a reunion for anyone who attended or worked at Beulah Elementary School on N.C. 89 west of Mount Airy.
It will be held next Saturday in the old school gym from 2 to 5 p.m., to include refreshments, music by acclaimed local singer Melva Houston and fellowship among those sharing the common bond revolving around the small country school.
“Everybody has a bucket list and this was the only thing on my bucket list,’ Gillespie explained Friday.
Next Saturday’s event also will celebrate her 28 years of retirement from Beulah Elementary, where Gillespie spent 19 years of a long teaching career.
She added that the gathering additionally will promote the “pay it forward” philosophy: “Take time to remember and recognize those who have influenced your life in a significant and/or positive manner.”
Gillespie added Friday that the idea for the Tee party sprang from a similar event in the area.
“I saw in the paper or on the news one — it’s been about five or six years ago — where a teacher in Winston-Salem had done this,” she recalled.
That involved a big event in a “fancy” hotel, Gillespie said. “And I thought I would like to do something like that, but that’s not us,” she said of the hotel venue.
“I wanted to do it somewhere where everybody would feel comfortable,” Gillespie said of the location for her party, and what better choice than a campus that has been a focal point of the Beulah community. Casual dress is encouraged, she said.
The Tee party name for the event was coined by Gillespie’s son Mark and one of his neighbors.
Although Gillespie’s late husband Leroy was from Surry County and graduated from the old Beulah High School — in the days before consolidation — she hailed from South Carolina.
But after moving here with her husband, the longtime educator said the Beulah community embraced her as one of its own.
“It was just the most wonderful experience,” Gillespie said of her time at Beulah Elementary, saying the educational profession can be rewarding but was particularly so there. She made special mention of the four principals who served during her tenure: Fred Goins, Glenn Robertson, Benny Martin and Harold Flippin.
The list of students whose lives she touched numbers in the hundreds, according to Gillespie, who said her class averaged about 25 pupils each year during her 19 years at Beulah. She mostly taught those in fourth grade, but also some in the third grade and second grade.
Along with those students, all others who attended Beulah Elementary are invited to the party, as are any other teachers, colleagues and “old friends” of the school who desire to get together and share good memories.
“It’s going to be a fun afternoon,” Gillespie said.
Tom Joyce may be reached at 336-415-4693 or on Twitter @Me_Reporter.