Ernie Blankenship still calls her “Teach.” And Marie Colvin still accepts her former student’s term of endearment with a sweet smile and a side glance, watching, it seems, to see what Ernie will be up to next.
Marie Colvin stood straight with a teacher’s presence Saturday as friends, family, former students and a U.S. senator came to wish her well as she celebrated her 90th birthday with a reception at Fairview United Methodist Church.
The reception was hosted by her godchildren, Bill Steppe and wife, Susan, of Memphis, Donna Steppe Millard and husband, Joe, of Colorado Springs, and Jane Steppe Chastain and husband, Roger, of Aguanga, Calif.
Marie Colvin is a “double preacher’s kid,” said her uncle, Maurice Steppe. Both mother and father were Methodist ministers. She is the daughter of the late Rev. M.F. Goss and the late Rev. Nancy Patterson Goss. She was married to the late Tyson Colvin.
Marie Colvin’s loves, she said, were teaching and music. She taught fifth and sixth grades for 42 years, 38 years at Westside and Sam Houston, Maryville, and four years in Roane and Knox counties.
She was the organist and pianist for the early-morning worship service at First United Methodist Church for six years. She has played for the weddings of hundreds of Blount County residents, often traveling to neighboring states for the ceremonies. After she retired from playing for morning worship, she was called back into service by the Shields Sunday School Class at First United Methodist, where she is active in the seniors ministry and the women’s fellowship.
One of her former students is U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander, who stopped by to wish her a Happy Birthday and shared a few memories of his time in her class. Colvin said she remembered Sen. Alexander as being a “bright boy,” but that he was also, “all boy.”
The Senator said he was grateful that Mrs. Colvin ran a tight ship.
“The year before, I had 69 black marks for what we used to call ‘deportment,’” Alexander said. “I didn’t have that problem in Mrs. Colvin’s room because she kept us well in-hand.”
Other friends shared stories of picking blackberries, attending Marie’s wedding, enjoying stories of Marie and Tyson’s many travels and the excellence of her skills at the piano and organ.
“She has always been a goodwill ambassador for this town that she loves,” said her godchild, Jane Chastain.