Dicy McCullough: Retiring music teacher leaves decades of legacy
It’s been almost a year since writing a column about my friend and colleague, Rose Julian.
Retiring as an elementary music teacher in the Rowan-Salisbury Schools, Rose also taught chorus at Erwin, East and Salisbury High earlier in her career. Since she is well-known in the community, the response to her story was no surprise, with calls coming from as far as Arizona.
Also known for her outgoing personality, Rose never meets a stranger. In her words, she “likes to talk,” and “enjoys a good conversation.”
She is so well liked, two students in her eighth-grade English class from 52 years ago, Shannon Ade and Larry Childers, have been looking for her.
Rose graduated from East Carolina University with a music education degree. When she first started teaching Gypsum Elementary School in Kansas, she taught not only music for kindergarten through eighth grade, but also seventh- and eighth-grade English.
Rose had no idea Shannon and Larry had been looking for her and was totally shocked when they made a connection this past spring. One might say luck had something to do with it, or perhaps it was fate.
Shannon and Larry had been sweethearts in high school, but that romance ended when Larry moved. Going their separate ways, they didn’t reconnect until 2011 when Larry called Shannon, inviting her to a class reunion. In Shannon’s words, “That’s when the sparks began to fly all over again.”
With Shannon living in Arizona and Larry living in Arkansas, theirs has been a long distance romance. Originally Larry had the idea to look for Rose. Since Shannon is more technology savvy, she was given the job of searching online.
Having contacted every Rose they thought could be their teacher — including one in Louisiana who said although she was a teacher, she never taught in Kansas — Shannon was ready to give up. Encouraged by Larry to try one more time, Shannon googled Rose’s name and found my column from the Salisbury Post. Here’s how Shannon tells the story,
“Then came the day in April 2013 when I typed “Rose Julian” into my Bing browser once again and up popped an online article from the Salisbury Post in Salisbury, NC. The article, written by one Dicy McCullough, was about a former colleague who was a retired music teacher in the town. Posted to the Internet on Friday, March 1, 2013, the article was just sitting there waiting for me to find it.
“Deciding it was a good enough lead to warrant a phone call to the Salisbury Post, I called. They wouldn’t give me Dicy’s phone number, but did direct me to her website where I found the number posted for all the world to see. A phone call to Dicy ensued. Although I know she thought I was some crazy stalker, after I explained the whole story of Larry and I becoming re-acquainted and falling in love all over again, I think a chord was struck between us.
“Before we hung up, she promised she’d contact Rose to see if there was any possibility of her friend being ‘our Mrs. Julian.’
“A couple of days later, Dicy called back to say indeed we had found Rose. I couldn’t wait to call Larry and give him the good news. In his excitement, Larry wanted to immediately start calling all former classmates to take up a collection and fly Mrs. Julian to Kansas for the annual alumni banquet. Believing no one would be willing to fly half-way across the country to see a bunch of strangers, I suggested it might be best if we made the trip to visit her, instead.”
After several phone calls to Rose, Shannon and Larry began planning a summer trip to Matthews (where Rose now lives) to visit her. Excited to see each other, after catching up, the three vacationed in Charleston, S.C. Before flying back to their respective homes, Shannon and Larry invited me, along with Rose, to meet them for lunch at Panera Bread in Concord.
From the very first introduction, it seemed like I had known Shannon and Larry forever. Helping reunite them with their beloved teacher, I felt like we had formed a bond even before meeting in person. It was obvious this was a special time not only for them, but also for Rose, as she was beaming from ear to ear.
A few months later Rose called, sharing the news that Larry and Shannon had made a memory book for her. Rose and I met at Olive Garden in Salisbury, along with two mutual friends, Connie Burleson and Martha Smith.
Enjoying each other’s company, we also enjoyed Rose’s stories about Shannon and Larry and were amazed at the detail and length of the book. About 50 pages long, it included pictures and memories of when Mrs. Julian had been a teacher in Kansas, as well as pictures and memories of the recent trip to Charleston.
On the first page was a photo taken on a bright, sunny day with Shannon, Larry and Rose standing on a small wooden bridge side by side. Rose had not only a flower in her hair, but also a beautiful smile on her face. Written below the photo was this tribute to Rose,
“There is a time for everything, and everything on earth has its special season … there is a time to look for something and a time to stop looking for it. Larry and I first met you in a time when it was still good to be young and the bond forged between us then has brought us to where we are today. You were a part of our memories of that season of plenty and we weren’t willing to let you go. You awakened a love of music in Larry that lives on even today. And while I can’t remember a single line of our School Fight Song, I can nonetheless sing every word of our class song, ‘Inchworm, inchworm, measuring the marigolds …’ Thanks to technology, our paths have been rejoined; and while it probably seemed very strange to have two people search you out after so many years, we hope that our reunion brought you the same amount of joy that it brought to us.
“This project was a labor of love. We hope you enjoy this book as much as we enjoyed our visit with you.”
The last few years for Rose have included health problems, with this past year bringing even more pain from the unexpected death of a dear friend. Just when things look the darkest, often a glimmer of light shines through. For Rose, Shannon and Larry have been that light.
As we travel in this world, we may never know the lives we touch in a special way, but it’s nice, once in a while, like Rose, to get a glimpse of a few of those. Rose, you indeed are one lucky lady to have two wonderful people like Shannon and Larry care enough to keep searching until they found you. To borrow from the title of your memory book, they indeed found their “Rose in Carolina.”
Dicy McCullough’s books are available in local bookstores, Amazon.com and Barnes and Noble. Contact her at 704-278-4377.