About Florence

Age: 95Occupation: Retired teacher.Community: Mount Pleasant.People will remember: Her devotion to teaching and her quiet and cordial manner.Affiliations: Olive Branch AME Church; East Cooper Chapter No. 365, Order of the Eastern Star; and Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority. Survivors: Daughter Rosalind Rivers; granddaughters, Faith Rivers James (Perry) and Angel Payton-Harmon; great-grandchildren, Haley and Terence Harmon, Jr.; and sister-in-law, Mary Alice Bostic.

There they were, more than two hours past the time allotted for their shopping odyssey, on a corner in Vienna, Austria. There was no sign of the tour group they had been traveling with. Each direction they could choose to walk looked pretty much as unfamiliar as the others.

The two women, who met as teachers four decades before at Jennie Moore Elementary School, stood baffled. They found the police and attempted to share their plight, but the officers couldn’t speak English.

Later, a woman who spoke English encountered them and directed them back to their hotel. There they reconnected with the Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority group they were traveling with. That and other details are part of a wonderful story, a memorial to the friendship between Florence Bostic Brown and Ruth Singleton Middleton, begun in the 1950s when they taught at Jennie Moore.

Brown, who was born Dec. 11, 1917, and died Dec. 16, would sit during breaks at school and share her strategies for reaching the first-graders she was so dedicated to starting out on a firm educational foundation.

An awesome teacher

Middleton describes her as an “awesome” teacher. “You did not come to her class and say you did not bring your homework,” Middleton says. “If it happened once, it would not happen a second time. She worked with her students one-on-one and kept in touch with their parents. She would make sure parents knew what was going on. There were phone calls and conferences with parents. They would come by after school and to the PTA meetings.”

Others who knew Brown agree that she was quite a teacher. Quite a person, too.

“She was a very good teacher, very poised, kind and quiet, but no foolishness,” says Amelia Taylor of West Ashley. “We went to Jennie Moore when the school first opened. She was a lovely person, always cordial. But when she came to school, she came to work.”

Words like “charming, quiet and ladylike” come to mind when Cynthia McCottry-Smith hears Brown’s name.

After Brown graduated from Laing High School in Mount Pleasant, she joined McCottry-Smith and others at the Avery Normal Institute for teacher training before going on to earn her bachelor’s degree at Allen University. “She was always just a nice, nice, caring person, quiet and ladylike.”

“Reading was her baby,” says daughter Rosalind Rivers. “But she was also was very strict on handwriting and letter formation. They don’t do that any more.”

After teaching 42 years in the Charleston County School District (Santee, St. Stephen and Mount Pleasant), Brown retired in 1983. In addition, she taught Sunday school at Olive Branch AME Church on U.S. Highway 17, where she was a lifelong member.

During retirement, Brown taught adult education classes at Wando High School and tutored children in the community. She also tutored two members of her own family for years, until she was 93.

Other interests

Those privileged to know her outside the classroom learned other things about her as well.

The small-framed woman loved the small pillbox hats, a style made famous by Jacqueline Kennedy, says Rivers. She also loved feathered hats, especially a beige one featuring lavender flowers and feathers. A couple of her hats are completely feathered.

Brown experimented with growing all types of flowers, including tulips, daffodils and roses, Rivers says.

She’ll long be remembered for driving friends and neighbors on errands around Mount Pleasant in her late 1990s Mazda until she was 93, says Rivers. Many of the 35,000 miles on the car when Brown decided to give up driving were added doing things to help others.

She was strict about academics, but interested in seeing the whole child develop as well, says Rivers. That’s why she would get so excited about May Day celebrations where the students would help to plait the Maypole each spring.

“She was awesome,” Middleton says. “She always wanted the best. She was driven in that direction. She carried herself that way.”

Reach Wevonneda Minis at 937-5705.