Longtime Hall Countians are remembering three former Gainesville educators who died within the last few days: Louise Platt Bloom, Bertha Turner and Brownie Flournoy.
Mrs. Bloom's father was J.C. Platt, who moved his family to Gainesville when he became manager of Chicopee's Hall County mill. She graduated from Gainesville High School in 1940 and became involved in theater after completing college. She returned to teach at Candler Street Elementary School for six years.
She and her husband, John Bloom, had three children in El Paso, Texas, before settling in northern Virginia. She never lost touch with her Gainesville friends.
Her daughter, Susan Marie, characterized her mother as an adventurer. It was such a spirit that carried her to New York City after college to pursue her dream as an actress. Marie said she followed in her mother's footsteps to New York herself shortly after college.
She also recalled her mother maintaining her Gainesville connections on an annual trip from Virginia to Georgia, packing the children and luggage in a Volkswagen without air-conditioning.
When Mrs. Bloom moved back to Gainesville six years ago, she picked right up on her old connections, living among some of them in Lanier Village Estates, where she was a charter resident. Her son, John, said his mother agonized over leaving her Virginia home, but over time felt it was the best decision she ever made.
"It was gratifying to the family," he said, "that she lived a full life and enjoyed her last six years here. She outlived all her doctors' predictions."
Her children recalled a story about their mother working at a Gainesville radio station and having to run it single-handedly when weather prevented the rest of the staff from coming in. Her sister, Elizabeth Johnson, was 5 years older and described Louise as a sparkly, beautiful, big-brown-eyed girl.
In her earlier Gainesville days, Mrs. Bloom was part of what some called the four musketeers, said Happy Kirkpatrick, one of her admirers while attending Candler Street. The other three were Susan Pearce Beatty, Millicent Hosch and O.P. McKeever. They were her and her sister Joan's idols and influenced their interest in theater.
Mrs. Beatty, Mrs. McKeever and Mrs. Bloom took off for California after high school to see Hollywood. Gladys Garner, Mrs. Kirkpatrick's mother, was their mentor and Sunday school teacher at First Methodist Church.
Sarah Cooper, another of Mrs. Bloom's students, said she was her role model. "Louise was a woman ahead of her time," she said. "While she was gracious and well-mannered as women were expected to be ... she also was courageous, tough when she had to be and skilled at instilling in her students ... the gift of loving to learn."
When Sarah saw her for the first time in more than 50 years after Mrs. Bloom returned to Gainesville, "I recognized her immediately. She was still beautiful, witty, gracious and kind."
Bertha Turner likewise left a lasting impression on her English students at Gainesville High School, where she began her teaching career in 1925. She died New Year's Day at age 104 in a home near downtown McDonough her family had lived in since she was 16 years old.
Miss Turner continued to drive her car until she was 99 when the family asked for her keys. Until the few days before her death, she had had few major health problems. She had lens replacement at age 102 so she could better read the newspaper and spent most of her time reading books.
Services were Saturday at Cannon-Cleveland Funeral Home, McDonough. An obituary can be found at cannoncleveland funerals.com.
Brownie Flournoy, who died Dec. 28 after battling cancer, will be remembered as a short, stocky ex-Marine with a Charles Atlas physique and a heart to match it. He taught and helped coach football at Gainesville High School during the 1950s. He was as gung-ho as a coach as he was as a Marine.
Coach Flournoy could do twice as many one-arm push-ups as his players could do using both arms.
Some elementary and high school teachers are a distant blur after so many years. But some are engraved as sharply into your memory as if they were still up there writing words of wisdom on a blackboard. These three were among the latter category and continue to inspire cherished recollections.
Johnny Vardeman is retired editor of The Times. His column appears Sundays and on gainesvilletimes.com. First published Jan. 6, 2008.