Hometown Heroes: ‘I was born to be a teacher’

ELWOOD — A crinkled piece of scrap paper reveals a lot about Kay Marcuson’s life in retirement.

On it are written times and places she needs to be. Most days, it’s filled with appointments and activities from morning until evening.

“I’m thankful that I have good health and that I can do a lot of these things that I couldn’t do when I was teaching,” Marcuson says as she sits at a table at St. John Lutheran Church, taking a break from cataloging the contents of the church’s pantry. The shelves were sparsely populated a few days after the community’s end-of-the-month meal, a project she has coordinated for nearly 30 years.

Marcuson retired from Elwood Community Schools after 41 years teaching mostly elementary and middle school math. Born and raised in Randolph County, she and her husband, Les, moved to the area after college. She went to work at Elwood with her degree from Ball State almost immediately.

“I was born to be a teacher,” she said. But, she added, retirement has afforded her the chance to branch out and discover new ways she can help people. In addition to the end-of-the-month meal, she also volunteers at Community Parkview Care Center, where she visits her mother each day; organizes and cultivates the community garden at St. John, and offers tutoring services for middle school students as well as inmates at the Pendleton Correctional Facility.

Marcuson also became a master gardener in 2012 and soon began volunteering at the prison, helping inmates raise crops that would be donated to several area food pantries. Last year, the project yielded 6,000 pounds of fresh produce that went to Madison County food pantries and Madison County soup kitchens.

Although the list of groups and project she’s involved with is impressive, tutoring remains close to her heart, as it provides opportunities to mentor students one-on-one, something that was rarely possible when she was teaching.

The Herald Bulletin chatted recently with Marcuson to find out more about her volunteer activities and how she manages to balance her busy schedule.

THB: Why stay so busy in retirement?

KM: “When I worked full time, it was hard to really devote much time to volunteer efforts, except the meal ministry, which began in 1982. I was a volunteer with it, and then eventually became the coordinator of it. But once I retired, I found that there were a lot of opportunities where I could use the skills I had to really benefit others.”

THB: What is it about teaching that draws you toward helping others?

KM: “Many people do have a heart for helping others. That isn’t a necessary requirement of being a teacher, but I find that a lot of teachers have that heart. There are also wonderful people in all walks of life. A lot of times in our jobs, we only see people who are like us, and we think nobody’s like us. That really is not true. The more I branched out, the more I found there are people who really care about our community in every walk of life.”

THB: Do you have a favorite volunteer activity that you look forward to?

KM: “Each thing is its own unique service to the community. My time is valuable, I’m 70 years old. I know that I’ve got a limited time not only physically here on this earth, but also, I’m a cancer survivor, and I’ve had a few other health problems that might prevent me from working at full capacity. So, I realize my time is very valuable. I like helping individuals, so in that respect, my tutoring is something that I really treasure and value. When you’re a teacher, you’re talking to a whole class, and you think, oh, he’s not getting it, but I have to go on, I’m required to move on. If only I could spend a little more time going over this with him or her. When you’re a tutor, that’s what you’re doing. You’re taking each person where they’re at and moving them forward according to their own way of learning, and that’s very exciting to me.”