Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Remembering teachers past

MARGO MEANS McCAWLEY was among the most respected teachers over the years at Chadron High School and Chadron State College.

She was born in Hemingford in 1907, the only child of Fred and Alice Melick. Her father was reportedly the first postmaster of Hemingford. According to the book Hemingford 1886-1985, compiled by Edna Clark, Melick had served as postmaster of Carlyle, which was just east of present day Hemingford. In December 1885, he made application to change the name of the post office location from Carlyle to Hemingford. It was approved, and he became the first postmaster of the new community of Hemingford.

Young Marguerite was reportedly active in a local chapter of Camp Fire Girls and excelled in the classroom, receiving her high school diploma when she was just 15.

After graduating from the University of Nebraska, she worked for about a decade in private business and government before taking a teaching job at Neligh High School for nine years. She came to Chadron in 1957, teaching a variety of “commercial” classes at Chadron High in the basement of what is now the Chadron Middle School. “Mrs. Means” served as sponsor to several groups, including Pep Club and the Cardinal Yearbook Staff.

In 1961, she moved across town to the Nebraska State Teacher’s College and taught business courses for 11 years. She married the college Business Manger Paul McCawley in 1964. Much as she had done at Chadron High, Mrs. McCawley became a favorite with students and staff alike. In 1971, she was named Nebraska Business Teacher of the Year; the following year she was elected to the Chadron Board of Education by what her obituary described as “a landslide.”

Margo and Paul McCawley traveled extensively during their years together. Alas, she also was to wage a lengthy battle against leukemia. She retired from Chadron State College in 1972. Good friend Con Marshall, who has chronicled so much history of Chadron State College and the community, wrote about Margo in 1972 that she was “…an accomplished musician, although she no longer gives lessons and says she now plays only for her own ‘amazement,’ once held a pilot’s license, can read 10 languages, was twice named one of the most popular speakers at Nebraska Girls State, was the first master’s degree recipient at Chadron State to receive all A’s, and has waged a successful battle with leukemia for the past eight years.”

When students from Chadron High School classes of 1958 and 1959 congregated for a reunion last year, no teacher was mentioned more often – or with greater admiration and fondness – than Margo Means McCawley. And as 1960 and 1961 graduates from CHS prepare for their reunion this summer, it seems clear from comments sent to us that Margo was a perennial favorite of students from across the years.

Margo McCawley died in December 1977 in Chadron following a lengthy illness. She was 70 years old.