Longtime teacher, coach remembered fondly by many

Published 10:31 am Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Mildred Renfroe once said that there are two things in this world that really matter — love and people.

And, it was her love of people that made her so special to her family, her friends, the knobby-kneed little boys she coached, the children she taught and the hundreds she cheered on at the ball fields of Pike County.

Mrs. Renfroe’s death on Sunday, Sept. 7, 2008, brought sadness to Pike County. Those who knew her will remember her with a heavy but cheerful heart.

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Wilda Steele taught with Mrs. Renfroe at Banks School from 1960-80 and said one memory stands clear.

“Mildred never said one negative thing about a single soul,” Steele said. “She was one of the kindest, most caring people that I have ever known. She was just a good, good person and she was an outstanding teacher and role model.

“She was not a dictatorial type person. She didn’t yell and scream but she didn’t have to. All of the students had a lot of respect for her. She was a fine person and I’ve never known anyone like her. She was one of a kind.”

Mrs. Renfroe taught science and boys’ physical education at Banks and also coached the boys’ basketball and baseball teams and her teams won a lot of trophies for the small county school.

Mallory Slaughter of Brundidge was one of the Banks boys who had the good fortune to play for Mrs. Renfroe.

“She was my favorite teacher and she knew how to get along with young boys,” he said. “I remember she said that to teach boys you have to learn not to hear everything that is said. She knew what to hear and what not to hear and we all got along fine.”

Slaughter said some of the boys wondered about having a woman for a coach but they didn’t wonder long.

“Mrs. Renfroe was very knowledgeable about basketball and she was a good coach,” Slaughter said. “Back then, we dressed in a classroom and she would go out while we dressed. Then she would come back in and talk to us. She was real even tempered and never got upset.”

Mrs. Renfroe was an inventive motivator.

“Sometimes she would pay us for every free shot that we made,” Slaughter said and added laughing. “One game, Dewey Botts won the game for us on free shots that she paid for.”

Slaughter said some of his fondest memories are of the wonderfully sweet and wise woman who hauled a bunch of country boys around to ball games on her 52 Ford.

“She cared about us and we knew it,” he said. “And, her caring didn’t stop when she left the classroom. When my son, Anthony, played basketball at Pike Liberal Arts, she came to see all his home games. She said he was like a grandson and she wanted to support him.”

And, it’s for her commitment to young people and to sports that Mildred Renfroe will be remembered by so many and so lovingly and so fondly by her family.

“Mildred was the best sister-in-law that anyone could ever have,” said Betty Hixon. “She loved her family and she supported us in every way. Her children, her grandchildren and great-grandchildren were her heart. She was there for every birthday and every special occasion and for every ballgame any of them played.

“In June, she was at the ballpark for a tee ball game some of her great-grandchildren were playing in. She sat in a wheelchair to watch. It was one of the last games she saw.”

Dan Smith, Troy Parks and Recreation director, said he has never known anyone to be more supportive of their family and of young people.

“Many people have laid a foundation for the quality of life in Troy and Pike County and Mrs. Renfroe was certainly one of them,” Smith said. “She and her family have been involved our sports programs for many years. They put their hearts into sports have helped make our sports programs what they are today.”

Smith said Mrs. Renfroe was a fixture at the Sportsplex in support of her grandchildren and great-grandchildren and all of the young people.

“I hope that many people will remember her and look to her as an example of how we should be there for our families and support the young people of our community,” he said.

Mildred Renfroe’s love of family was evident in all that she did and her commitment to all of those whose lives touched her was evident in the way she cared about others, her granddaughter Shannon Hudson said.

Speaking for all the family, Hudson said there are no words that can adequately express what Mildred Renfroe meant to each and every one of them.

“She was the best grandmother in the world,” she said. “She was a great, great lady and we loved her so much. If I can be just half the lady that she was, I’ll be doing good.”