Once upon a time, in a land not so far away, there was a music teacher who loved her class. And the class loved her back, in a way that time could not touch.
That teacher was Marion native Maurine Hawbecker, later Maurine Hawbecker Sloan Graham, who died Jan. 5 at the age of 97.
She taught in many towns — Winfield, Atwood, Centralia, to name a few — but in the 1940s, Hawbecker was vocal and instrumental music teacher at Marion High School.
She taught many classes over several years, but for the Class of 1948, she was also their sponsor.
Forrest Kelsey of Marion was president of that class. He and other class members decided Graham’s legacy should be honored at MHS.
“We thought we might be able to do something for the high school music department,” Kelsey said.
Kelsey was in both choir and band with Graham, who made him drum major.
“She was always very well dressed and very kind,” he said. “She had quite a philosophy about life, ‘Never let it get you down.’ She was 97, so she never let it get her down.”
Kelsey recalled a tiny hamburger joint, tacked onto the east side of what today is the County Seat, run by Graham’s parents, Emory and Hazel Hawbecker.
“It looked more like a box car,” Kelsey said. “Emory made hamburgers, and he gave you a baker’s dozen. They were 13 for a dollar when I was a kid.”
Loyette Hollar Swanson was secretary/treasurer of the Class of 1948. She’s also a retired music teacher, having taught vocal music in Marion for three years before eventually ending up in Springfield, Missouri, where she retired after 25 years of teaching.
“I am a music teacher because of Maureen,” Swanson said. “You know how some people inspire you and she inspired me. Maureen was a very special lady. Marion was her hometown and she was a local teacher.”
Swanson said a number of her classmates were talented musicians and were thinking about continuing with music in college. Graham persuaded school administrators to let her teach a music theory class, Swanson said, because she knew how important it would be to them.
“We didn’t know a flat from a sharp,” Swanson said. “She taught us to compose and how to interpret music the way composers wanted it done. When I got to college, I skipped a whole year because Maureen taught us what we needed to know.”
Swanson said Graham treated students “like her own” and was strict but fair.
“She loves us and we knew it,” she said.
Proof of that came with Graham’s regular attendance at class reunions. Kelsey said she came to every one.
Kelsey said he hopes everyone who had Graham as a teacher will donate to the cause.
“We at first thought about doing this strictly as the class, but Loyette suggested because of the other people who were involved with music that we open it up to more people.”
Swanson reaffirmed that sentiment, noting that includes those from other towns where she taught.
“We want to open it up to anybody who remembers her as a teacher,” she said.
Marion-Florence superintendent Lee Leiker said he was gratified to learn of the memorial.
“What a great thing that she made an impact on so many lives back when she was a teacher that all these years later her students want to remember her,” he said. “The impact of music in this district signifies what we’ve known all along, that performing arts are critical to a well-rounded education. I take great pride that this district continues to see that as part of a quality education.”
Those interested in learning more about the memorial can call Kelsey at (620) 382-2517. Donations should be sent by March 31 to Forrest Kelsey, 1518 Victory Ln., Marion KS 66861.