Earlier this summer, Scotland County lost one of our most precious treasures when Ms Nancy Shelley passed away. It is safe to say that very few positively touched more lives than “Ms. Shelley” as she was often and affectionately called.. I could use the remaining space in this article listing her accomplishments and roles in civic and volunteer positions, but instead will only list a few highlights.
Her credits include: 48 years as a teacher in Scotland County; twelve years as a county commissioner – including being the first women elected as the county chair; endless roles as a volunteer and board member including serving as vice-chair for the Scotland County Tourism Development Authority (which provided me the opportunity to call her mentor and friend); and countless hours serving the Lord and others in the churches she called home – all the while raising a wonderful family with her husband Marvin.
At the center of Nancy Shelley’s core was a love and appreciation for Laurinburg and Scotland County. “She loved the area like no other,” says David Burns, who served on the county commissioners with Ms. Shelley. “She always wanted to do what was right and good for Scotland County.”
He was also struck by how diligent and prepared she was. “Every meeting I went to she was well prepared. She had always studied and given the subject thought. And when she said something you knew that was the way it was going to be, because she had always thought through things so thoroughly.”
Nancy’s commitment to studying and preparation is not a surprise to any of the students and teachers she touched during her almost five decades of teaching. It is also not surprising that she won countless “Teacher of the Year” awards.
Upon her passing, students (and parents) recollected how she not only helped the student get through a course, but also prepared young people for their futures and their success in life. She had an amazing ability to teach the material, but instill a confidence in her students that carried well beyond the hallways.
Betty Barnett, who taught in the math department at Scotland High School with Ms. Shelley, recalls her sense of humor helped her connect with students. “She would joke and kid the students all of the time,” Says Barnett. “The kids would always know that was, “just Ms. Shelley being Ms. Shelley.” The other striking quality was her boundless energy.
“I used to call her the Energizer Bunny,” says Ms. Barnett. “For years she ran the Prom by herself. Students would be in her room in the morning and then again after school preparing, painting and getting things ready. And Nancy would be right there with them.”
She also used that energy to teach. “Her enthusiasm and passion were infectious,” says Elizabeth Williams who taught alongside Nancy for years. “From creating a lesson to the tune (and dance moves) of the Macarena, to dancing with students in the hall, she was always connecting with students.”
While she loved every student who walked the halls, she held a special place in her heart for the Fighting Scots. Perhaps it was born out of her being the cheerleading advisor for so many years, but her presence and spirit at sporting events was common and contagious.
“She loved everyone…until the game started,” says Williams who took in most home games and many road games with her dear friend. “Then she would stand up and yell, “hit ‘em in the mouth!” for all to hear. She was also as passionate for the band, always standing and clapping for Scotland the Brave.”
While teaching filled her day, the Lord filled her heart and soul. As would be expected, she was a constant presence as both a volunteer and worshipper at the two churches attended: Laurel Hill Methodist and First United Methodist Church of Laurinburg.
“She was a wonderful, faith filled shepherd,” says Terry McCallum, administrative assistant at First United Methodist Church of Laurinburg. “If you needed anything along the way, she was always there.”
Others talked about her as a dedicated volunteer at the church where her greetings could brighten anyone’s day. “She never met a stranger” – “she made you feel so good with her smile and hugs.”
No program embraced Nancy Shelley more than the “Side by Side” program she and her husband Marvin championed. Three days a week, Nancy and Marvin would serve the Lord and the youth of the community. Nancy would tutor the students in their studies, and Marvin would prepare dinner for all involved.
Always putting others first, always reaching out, always making time for others. I would ask if she would be able to make our TDA meetings, and she would respond, “God willing and the creek don’t rise.”
It is because of people like Nancy Shelley that Laurinburg and Scotland County continue to be home and a special place to so many. Therefore, in memory of Nancy, we would like to present to Nancy and her husband Marvin, “The Honour of the Long Leaf Pine for Distinguished Service.”
This award is in recognition of the efforts she provided, but also the love she gave the community. It is this bond to the community that makes Laurinburg/Scotland County a better place to live, work, and play.
Someone once said that volunteers are not paid – not because they are worthless, but because they are priceless. With the loss of Ms. Nancy Shelley we are all poorer, but having the honor of knowing her and sharing the community with her, we will forever be richer. God be with you Ms. Shelley.
Cory Hughes, executive director of the Scotland County Tourism Development Authority, wrote this week’s Focus on Scotland, an effort by community leaders on making Laurinburg/Scotland County a better place to work, live, and play.