Retired Springfield teacher celebrates 100th birthday with family, friends, ex-students

Alice Marshall talks with former neighbors Nina and Max St. Luce during Marshall's 100th birthday celebration on Dec. 4 at the Simon Kenton Inn. Marshall, a retired Springfield City Schools teacher, has stayed active in the community and still going strong. More than 100 attended the event. Photo by Brett Turner

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Alice Marshall talks with former neighbors Nina and Max St. Luce during Marshall's 100th birthday celebration on Dec. 4 at the Simon Kenton Inn. Marshall, a retired Springfield City Schools teacher, has stayed active in the community and still going strong. More than 100 attended the event. Photo by Brett Turner

It wasn’t until earlier this year that Alice Marshall realized her next birthday would be her 100th. Such anniversaries become just another day when you stay active and busy.

On Dec. 4, the day of that landmark birthday, more than 100 people didn’t let the retired Springfield City Schools educator and Springfield resident let it pass that simply, celebrating her life at the Simon Kenton Inn with dinner, honors, music and fellowship with family, friends, former students and colleagues.

“This is such a surprise. I am blessed to have family and friends at my age that have helped me and a lot is from my dedication to the Lord,” Marshall said before the festivities.

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Marshall faced challenges from the very beginning in West Virginia. She weighed just three pounds, four ounces and lost her twin at birth, but with doctors’ help, she survived, an indicator of her fighting spirit.

Her parents were educators and taught Marshall and her siblings to be competitive and value education, so she became a teacher. In 1965, Marshall was a single mother of two boys, Reggie and Mike, and took a chance on a new life and better pay by accepting a teaching job in Springfield.

She longed to teach in a high school, but the position she wanted wasn’t available, so she worked at the former Keifer Junior High School. In 1970, Alice got her dream job, becoming South High School’s vocal music instructor, guiding multiple choirs until her retirement in 1987.

She recounted a story about a student in West Virginia who feared his destiny was working in a coal mine. With her encouragement, he became a doctor and has stayed in touch with her over the years.

“I always talked to my students to better themselves, to try to go to college if they could,” Marshall said.

Keith Echols, a 1981 South graduate, recalled her tough, but caring approach.

“She was very hard on me, but at that time I didn’t realize what she was doing. We just kind of connected,” he said. “She was very supportive of me, even after I graduated. At Central State, she would show up at my choir shows.”

Echols laughed and said immature was her favorite word for him. He was touched Marshall mentioned she thought perhaps he would be her replacement as vocal teacher, but he still sings, performing locally in a gospel group called Connected.

Former colleague Sonya Ryhal recalled Marshall’s spunk.

“She came up (to Springfield) without knowing a soul here and just made such a dent in the community, working with four different choirs and had more energy than Carter has pills,” Ryhal said, referring to an old commercial.

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Marshall retired in 1987 and earned Springfield City Schools’ Exemplary Teacher Award and West Virginia Hall of Fame Teachers Award and could’ve easily stayed content on her teaching accomplishments.

But retirement only opened up new opportunities to become involved in the Springfield community and at Covenant Presbyterian Church. Her drive and passion for the community earned her accolades such as the Community Service Award from Springfield Urban League, 2014 Extraordinary Women Award from the Women’s partnership of the Springfield Foundation, 2016 Music Legacy Award, and 2017 African American Community Fund Award from the Springfield Foundation.

Reggie and Mike Marshall went on to successful lives and credit their mom with that direction, living in Chicago and Dayton, respectively. Reggie said it’s her positive mindset that’s kept her going along with her exercise and diet habits, while Mike mentioned they can never repay all she’s done for them.

Marshall is proud to point out she resides in independent living at Oakwood Village and only just gave up driving a couple months ago She exercises three times a week to stay fit and anything else she can do.

Always a sports fan supporting the South High teams during her time there and afterward, the Springfield High football team’s season was another reason to keep her smiling and involved.

“It’s been wonderful. Congratulations to them and their coach,” Marshall said. “It’s been good for the city.”

As for further birthdays, Marshall said she’s more focused on her faith, friendships, family and former students since that’s what’s helped get her to 100.

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