Helen Wishon blew out 93 candles on her last birthday cake on May 8.
This lifelong resident has had an effect on the lives of hundreds of Yadkin County residents from her time serving as a teacher at West Yadkin and Starmount High School for 40 years.
“I would tell my new classes each year that they were everything that I wanted them to be until they proved to me that they were not,” Wishon said. “That’s the way I treated them, and that’s the way they treated me for the most part.”
Wishon grew up on a farm in Yadkin County. She was the oldest of three children. Her love for education started at an early age. She taught herself to read using books that she found around her parent’s farmhouse.
Wishon also taught herself French by reading French literature and looking up every word until she was fluent.
Another self-taught passion for Wishon was piano. Her mother had an old organ in their farmhouse that came with an instruction manual. Wishon studied the manual teaching herself to play note by note.
“I guess I had some talent to do it because I taught myself to do it,” Wishon said. “I learned to play the organ and transferred it to a piano. I was always interested in music and so I always sang in the choir and played piano for my church.”
Once she graduated from high school Wishon didn’t think that her family would be able to afford to send her to college. She was pleasantly surprised when she found out differently.
“There was a lady who came from Maryville College in Tennessee and told me that a lot of times you could go to Maryville with nothing, and they would see that you got your education if you would work,” Wishon said. “At that time the girls would make the uniforms that were worn in the PE classes and the boys would work on the farm.”
Wishon was not afraid to sweat a little for her education, so she went to Maryville to pursue a degree in education. This is a trait she tried to instill in her students once she became a teacher.
“I would always tell my students that they had to have curiosity because if they didn’t have that then I couldn’t tell them anything or help them because they didn’t want to learn anything,” Wishon said.
In 1945 she would meet her husband, Clyde, when he was staying with the family of one of Wishon’s friends.
“He was friends with a group of friends that I would visit with, and many a time we would go for a ride on Sunday afternoon. He would do the driving. One time they asked him who he wanted to sit in the front with him, and he chose me,” Wishon said. “That began the relationship.”
The couple would marry in 1945 and Clyde would serve in the military during World War II. Once the war was over the couple would take a trip each year to countries, including England, France, Switzerland and Scotland.
Wishon said that although she had enjoyed traveling to these places she always knew that Yadkin County was her home.
“Yadkin County is good to me,” Wishon said. “It’s been home to me and I’ve always enjoyed being here.”
Seven years after they married, the Wishons had their first child, Lisa.
Lisa would go on to follow in her mother’s footsteps, obtaining a teaching degree at Maryville College and teaching for 12 years before becoming a minister in Thomasville.
The couple’s second child was their son Tracy. He currently lives and works in Yadkin County.
Helen and Clyde were married for 45 years when Clyde passed away in 1990.
After 40 years of teaching Wishon retired and would spent a good portion of her time reading. Each year Wishon would read upwards of 200 books, but after a fall that did damage to the left side of her brain she found it difficult to retain the information in a novel.
Now she is an avid reader of Time Magazine, Reader’s Digest, Guideposts and her devotionals.
Wishon also dove into genealogy, researching her own family and the family’s of her fellow church members at Center Methodist Church.
“I was working on ancestry research before computers so I had to investigate by looking it up somewhere,” Wishon said. “I didn’t know how to use the methods they have today to look things up so what I have today is what I found out the hard way.”
Wishon went on to publish a book about the church’s history.
Wishon said that throughout all of her accomplishments it has never been her goal to gain recognition. She said she has always just been happy to be in Yadkin County teaching and living her life with her family.
“I feel like I’ve had a very good life,” Wishon said. “I’ve enjoyed it a great deal and I’m fortunate that I’ve lived this long and had my experiences.”
Reach Lindsay Craven at 679-2341 or at email@example.com.