Mary Hartsock, a Norman resident and retired educator of over 30 years, turned 100 on Tuesday, and not even the COVID-19 pandemic could stop some of her many past students from coming out to celebrate with her.
Hartsock was born in Oklahoma City but moved to Norman with her family, where she attended Norman High School and, later, the University of Oklahoma. She worked her way through school, taking half-day shifts at the Cleveland County Courthouse working with mortgages and deeds.
After college, she briefly taught in Moore, started a family with her husband, who she met at a dance in the OU Memorial Union Ballroom, and went to work at her high school alma mater for over 30 years. She started out as a secretary, then became an instructor in the business department, mainly teaching English and typing until she retired in 1986.
“I loved teaching, loved people and I just loved trying to teach people new things,” Hartsock said. “So many of these 50 cards are former students who say I was the best teacher they ever had, and that makes me feel good.”
Hartsock’s oldest daughter, Bette Scott, said her mother wore many hats at NHS. She said Hartsock served as the junior or senior class sponsor, helped with prom and pep clubs and sold athletic event tickets.
“Everyone knew who she was there,” Scott said. “Mainly, she was the favorite teacher and was so much fun.”
Scott said she remembers her mom saying she never wanted to go to the teacher lounge because teachers often talked about students who they had trouble with.
“She would say, ‘I never wanted to hear anything about these kids, and I want to form my own opinion about them when they come to class,’” Scott said. “I remember her telling me that a lot over the years, and I don’t think she had a kid that she didn’t like. She touched so many lives.”
Scott said members of the NHS class of ‘74 and ‘75 participated in a drive-by celebration for her mother’s birthday. One of them jumped out of their car to give Hartsock a large bundle of balloons.
Scott said the woman told Hartsock she was her favorite teacher and helped pave the road for her future by teaching her how to type, providing her with a skill to work her way through college.
“There was another girl who, along with her three sisters, gave [Hartsock] cards talking about how important learning that skill was; one of them was a lawyer,” Scott said. “Another card said, 'Your former students have gone on to be doctors, lawyers, engineers, mothers, fathers and one of the things we all had in common was we all had you.'”
Anne Nappa, who graduated from NHS in 1975, took typing from Hartsock her senior year. On the first day of class, she told Hartsock she had yet to learn how to type.
Hartsock assured her that she would be able to type by the end of the semester. Nappa believed her and worked as hard as possible in Hartsock’s class eventually making that promise a reality.
“Typing was critical as I wrote my papers in college,” Nappa said. “As computers moved into home and office, typing became a lifesaver in my work in teaching, business and the government.”
Nappa recalls Hartsock being an upbeat and happy teacher who was always providing positive encouragement to her students.
“I am so thankful she was my teacher,” Nappa said. “Clearly, God has blessed her with a long life.”
Follow me @JeffElkins12