A Life Lived: Carolyn Pless devoted her life to teaching young children

Published 12:26 pm Wednesday, June 29, 2022

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Carolyn Pless was a teacher of young children for 30 years, teaching first at Duffield School, then East Side, and later at Lynn Avenue and Harold McCormick School.
Lilo Duncan, Carolyn’s best friend and a lifelong friend, recalls that Carolyn had not yet graduated from college, when T.A. Dugger, Jr., then superintendent of schools, hired her to fill in for a teacher at Duffield School, who was taking a leave of absence. “That summer she went back to school and got her teaching degree, and the next year she was given a position at East Side School. She had 43 first-graders!,” said Lilo. She then taught at Lynn Avenue until it closed, and finished her career up at Harold McCormick.
Bill Myers was in that first grade class at East Side, and on the funeral home tribute page he noted that he “fell in love” with Miss Burrell (she was not married at the time), and would often commit just enough misbehavior so that he had to sit at the desk next to the teacher’s desk just so he could be near Miss Burrell. “It was considered ‘punishment.’ But I loved the pretty dark-haired Carolyn Rose Burrell. And she had such nice perfume! She got me on a path of loving school and learning new things. She was a wonderful person,” wrote Myers.
Lilo said Carolyn must have taught half of Elizabethton’s children at the time she was teaching.
Carolyn, an only child, would later marry Paul Pless and they would have two children — Susan and Marilynn. Marilynn, who was married to Richard Barker, preceded her mother in death. Susan is married to Kevin Hodge and they live in Centennial, Colo.
Carolyn enjoyed traveling and she and her husband once the school year was over would travel near and far. One year they they took a “wild west trip” — taking three weeks to travel all the way to the west coast and back. However, Myrtle Beach was their favorite vacation spot.
Richard Barker, Carolyn’s son-in-law, said she and Paul also enjoyed gardening. “She enjoyed canning and preserving food. They also had blackberry briars, apple trees. They were both big on gardening. He enjoyed fishing, and if he got a big catch, they usually hosted a fish fry,” shared Richard.
In addition to gardening, Carolyn enjoyed reading. “Once she made Sycamore Springs her home, she read a lot. She stayed up on current events. She always read the newspaper and a lot of magazines,” said Richard.
“Carolyn was very close to her family and stayed in touch with several of her cousins. She stayed in constant contact with her family,” Richard shared.
Lilo said Carolyn enjoyed eating out, and as long as she was able, Lilo said they would go and take her out to eat. “She enjoyed being with friends and just talking and having coffee. She enjoyed visiting around the table,” said Lilo.
“Carolyn was a wonderful person and friend, but she was a straight talker and told it like it was. She didn’t mince words,” added Lilo.
Richard added that his mother-in-law was a very kind and sweet person.
Both, Lilo and Richard, noted that Carolyn was a good housekeeper and kept her house “guest ready.”
Carolyn was a long-timer of First Christian Church of Elizabethton.
Her favorite color was red, and those attending her funeral were asked to wear red. At her funeral, two of her former students — Richard Culver and Dr. David Mills — shared thoughts and memories of Mrs. Pless.
“I was blessed to have a lifelong friendship with Carolyn. We went through high school and college together, and enjoyed so many good times together. We understood each other,” said Lilo.
Carolyn died June 7 at Ivy Hall Nursing Home after suffering a stroke.
It’s been said, “A truly special teacher is very wise and sees tomorrow in every child’s eyes.” Carolyn Pless saw the potential in each student and sought to prepare them for their tomorrows. She will be remembered not only as a good teacher, but as a mentor, friend, and nurturer.

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