Cumbie celebrates 89th birthday

Published 6:44 pm Friday, January 27, 2017

Bobby Cumbie, with the aid of her great granddaughter, Edith Gardner, opens a plethora of birthday gifts.

Bobby Cumbie, with the aid of her great granddaughter, Edith Gardner, opens a plethora of birthday gifts.

Bobby Cumbie is about to celebrate her 89th birthday. It’s been a fulfilling life centered around family, faith and serving the needs of her community. She taught in no less than four different schools for nearly 40 years in the classroom in her native Butler County. By the time she retired in 2000, this dedicated educator was teaching some of the grandchildren of her original students.

Raised in the Bolling community, the Huntingdon College graduate wed her fellow Greenville High School graduate, Kenneth, and started out her professional career as a social worker in Butler County.

“She told us wonderful stories about her adventures with fellow social workers like Laine Reynolds, Roberta Gamble and Martha Claire Wall,” says granddaughter Mary Catherine Gaston.

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After a few years in social work, Cumbie was offered a teaching position at a one-room school in Chapman. Later, she taught sixth grade at W. O. Parmer Elementary School, eventually moving on to Greenville Academy. She spent most of her teaching career with fourth grade students at Fort Dale Academy.

During her years as a teacher, Cumbie was also raising three children with Kenneth, daughters Mollie and Susan and son Kenny. Both Mollie and Susan followed in their mother’s footsteps and became teachers, as did her granddaughter, Abbie.

“My grandmother actually got to teach all seven of her grandchildren before she retired,” says Gaston.

According to her granddaughter, Cumbie has had a life-long love of history, and not surprisingly, it was her favorite subject to teach.

“She is well known for her interest in and teaching about Alabama history–particularly Alabama’s native peoples–and WWII,” Gaston explains. 

Each year Cumbie’s students completed in-depth projects related to both these topics, including fascinating field trips to Greenville’s cemeteries to learn about some of the area’s earliest residents, such as Captain William Butler, and interviews with WWII veterans. “Many of those veterans visited her classes throughout the years and spoke to the children about their experiences in the war. Mr. Jack Williamson was a frequent and very welcome guest speaker,” Gaston says.

These days, Bobby Cumbie lives just a stone’s throw from where she was raised.  She is still active in Rhodes Chapel Methodist Church, where she serves as pianist. And she enjoys time spent with friends and family, which now includes no less than12 great-grandchildren with two more on the way.

Recently, her extended family gathered for an early celebration of her birthday, which actually falls on January 31. It was an opportunity to share with this birthday girl some of the many notes and cards requested by her family, and sent in by former students, fellow church members, teachers and others in honor of this occasion.

And Mrs. Cumbie’s family would like to invite you to keep those notes, messages and memories coming for the rest of this special lady’s year.

“She had such a wonderful time reading the notes and cards that have already arrived. We know she would be tickled pink to hear from more folks out there,” says Gaston. “It will mean the world to her.”

You can go to the Facebook page “Celebrate Mrs. Cumbie,” to extend birthday greetings or share a special memory online. If you would like to mail in your salutations or recollections, please send them to: Mary Catherine Gaston, 5535 Lee Rd. 66, Auburn, AL 36832. You can also drop them off at Abbie Gardner Ballew’s State Farm Insurance Agency on Fort Dale Road.

“Whether you’re a church friend, former classmate, fellow teacher, social worker or student, take a few minutes to let Mrs. Cumbie know you’re thinking of her,” says Gaston. “Help us celebrate her legacy.”